Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was grilled on her state’s deadly nursing home policy Tuesday during testimony before the U.S. House subcommittee on energy and commerce.
According to Axios on Monday, Michigan remained one of three states in the country that had yet to release its official data on nursing home deaths from the novel Wuhan coronavirus alongside Missouri and South Dakota. The federal government however, has publicly kept track, finding more than 1,600 deaths from the deadly virus, according to data released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That’s more than 200 higher than the 1,400 reported in preliminary data from state officials up to Sunday, making it the 5th in the nation for number of coronavirus fatalities in state nursing homes, reported the Detroit Free Press.
Republican lawmakers on Tuesday grilled Whitmer on her tragic nursing home policy where the governor directed nursing homes on May 20 to “make all reasonable efforts” to create special units for coronavirus-stricken patients and to not accept new infected residents unless they were sent to units specifically for those with COVID-19.
“Why did it take you so long to change the policy… of putting COVID patients back in nursing homes?” inquired Michigan Republican Rep. Tim Walberg.
Whitmer said she was crafting her policies around the guidance of medical experts and conceded that errors were made in the speed of decision-making.
“We recognize that of course, in retrospect, probably a number of decisions we would have made some adjustment in,” Whitmer said.
But, she added, “we were working with the best counsel of our medical experts.”
West Virginia Republican Rep. David McKinley mentioned Michigan’s astronomical death rates in its elder care facilities and pressed the governor why she didn’t mandate testing of residents and employees like other states.
Whitmer explained that the high death rates were a result of discrepancies in reporting, where some states recorded pneumonia on certificates.
The Midwestern governor’s testimony alongside Colorado Democratic Gov. Jared Polis and Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson comes as Whitmer is a top contender in the vice presidential veepstates this fall having captured nationwide attention for implementing the strictest pandemic lockdowns in the country. Whitmer currently co-chairs former Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign and has publicly traded barbs with President Donald Trump amid the ongoing public health crisis.
While Biden has pledged to put a woman on the ticket, the present circumstances surrounding race make it increasingly likely that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee will select a woman of color. Several candidates include California Sen. Kamala Harris who chided Biden as a racist for his opposition to busing in a prime time debate last summer, failed Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, and Florida Democratic Congresswoman Val Demmings.