Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has vetoed a bill that would have barred patients who test positive for the coronavirus from being sent to nursing homes in her state.
The Detroit News reported that Whitmer, a Democrat, refused to sign legislation Friday that would have directed patients diagnosed with the infection to facilities specifically designed to isolate them from long-term-care facilities with vulnerable residents.
The legislation, known as SB 956, was sponsored by Michigan state Republican Sen. Peter Lucido and was a challenge to Whitmer’s previous order to send coronavirus-positive patients into nursing homes.
In a statement explaining the veto, Whitmer said her state’s existing system adequately protects nursing home residents.
“SB 956 is based on the false premise that isolation units created within existing facilities are somehow insufficient to protect seniors—a claim unsupported by the data and refuted by the nation’s highest authorities on infectious disease,” Whitmer wrote.
“Instead of protecting seniors, this bill would require the state to create COVID-19-only facilities, forcing hospitals and many nursing homes to send COVID-19-positive patients to such facilities without any requirement for consent, doctor approval, or notification to the patient or their family.
“The legislation fails to explain how such facilities would be staffed or paid for, or how frail residents would be protected during the potentially traumatic transfer from one facility to another,” she also wrote.
Whitmer noted in her statement, “I look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders and legislators on the task force to develop real solutions that make sense for Michigan seniors and their families,” but the governor stated she would not sign the bill into law.
“Because this legislation fails to protect them, I am vetoing it,” she concluded.
Should governors who endanger nursing home residents be held accountable?
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Lucido said he would push for a veto override to protect the state’s vulnerable seniors.
“I am very disappointed and saddened that the governor vetoed this extremely important and commonsense legislation,” he said in a statement.
“Politics should not prevail over the health and safety of our seniors and health care workers, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate and House to consider passing a veto override. We owe this to our citizens, especially the seniors and vulnerable members of our communities who cannot speak for themselves.”
Michigan is one of several states, all of which are led by Democrats, that have decided to send people hospitalized with the coronavirus into nursing homes, where many elderly residents suffer from health conditions that could make them vulnerable to complications from the coronavirus.
The other states that forced such long-term-care facilities to accept COVID patients have since reversed their decisions, The Detroit News reported.
The outlet noted that roughly 33 percent of Michigan’s reported coronavirus deaths have been linked to nursing home residents or employees.
Bridge Magazine reported that as of Wednesday, 7,582 Michigan nursing home residents had tested positive for the coronavirus, and 1,986 had died since March, when the state began loading the facilities with coronavirus-positive patients.
Michigan joined New York, New Jersey, California and Pennsylvania as states that sent COVID patients to nursing homes.
U.S. House Republicans last month demanded answers from the governors of those states over their decisions to potentially endanger the lives of their state’s most vulnerable citizens.
“The decision of several governors to ignore federal protocols and instead mandate COVID positive patients be forced back to their nursing homes ended up being a death sentence for tens of thousands of our nation’s most vulnerable citizens,” Republican Whip Steve Scalise said.
Scalise, of Louisiana, added that while nursing home residents make up only 0.6 percent of the U.S. population, they have accounted for 42 percent of nationwide COVID-19 deaths.
“The American people have decided it is time to safely reopen & get back to work so they can rebuild & reopen.”
“It is time for us to stand together for justice and equality. To do this requires we protect those most vulnerable to this virus”
— Select Committee Republicans (@SelectGOP) June 11, 2020
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is perhaps the most criticized of the Democrat governors to require nursing homes to accept COVID patients.
As Scalise noted, “New York has suffered 6,318 deaths in nursing homes.”
Scalise also pointed out that New Jersey lost 6,327 nursing home residents to the coronavirus after Gov. Phil Murphy packed the state’s care facilities with coronavirus patients.
“Compare that to Florida – a retirement state – 1,454. On a per-capita basis, nursing homes deaths in New York are 500% higher than Florida, and New Jersey is 1,120% higher than Florida,” he said.
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