A lawsuit is being prepared against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for allegedly not releasing COVID-19 data on nursing home deaths after her policy sent COVID-19 positive patients into nursing homes.
State data says at least 36% of the state’s COVID-19 deaths, or 5,523 nursing home residents, have died of COVID-19, while 70 staff members died.
Mackinac Center for Public Policy spokesperson Holly Wetzel said The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation agreed to represent Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff in a case regarding the state of Michigan's refusal to release data on nursing home deaths.
“Mr. LeDuff approached us after being denied access to the records that underlie the data being reported by the state,” Wetzel wrote in an email. “We are seeking access to those records to be able to compare them to the numbers being reported by the state, and to gain a better understanding of COVID’s effect on Michigan.”
LeDuff tweeted: “We are preparing a lawsuit against Gov. Whitmer of Michigan. She refuses to turn over COVID death data and accurate nursing home numbers to the public. All the way to the Supreme Court, Madam. Thanks to the @MackinacCenter, who has agreed to take our case."
LeDuff's tweet continued: “#Whitmer copied most everything from #Cuomo on nursing homes. Except one HUGE difference. Cuomo stopped Covid(+) people from returning home back in May. Whitmer still allows it in MI, even vetoed bipartisan bill to ban it. Release the data Madam Governor.”
On July 31, Whitmer vetoed a bill aiming to stop housing COVID-19 patients with those most vulnerable to COVID-19. COVID-19 disproportionately killed older people, with those ages 60 and over comprising 90% of Michigan’s COVID-19 deaths.
At the time, state officials said they did the best they could with the information known about COVID-19.
The lawsuit follows breakingnews that former state health director Robert Gordon was given a $155,506 taxpayer-funded payout after he abruptly resigned in January.
The deal raised additional questions whether the payout bought Gordon’s silence about Whitmer’s COVID-19 nursing home policy of sending COVID-19 positive patients into nursing homes, Rep. Annette Glenn, R-Midland said.
“Now she’s doubling down on this troubling keep-taxpayers-in-the-dark mindset even more by forcing taxpayers to finance keeping state employees quiet after they’re no longer working for the state,” Glenn said in a statement. “Why these brazen, ongoing, escalating in-your-face schemes to keep people quiet at all costs, even if she has to use taxpayers’ money to do it? The people of Michigan have a right to know.”
In a Tuesday press conference, Whitmer cited her confidentiality agreement in not answering direct questions about the severance package but said she “bristles” at the characterization that the six-figure payout was “hush money.”