Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a bill Friday that would have moved elderly people infected by the coronavirus away from nursing homes into separate facilities.
The Democrat argued that the bill, sent to her by the Republican-controlled legislature, was based on the “false premise that isolation units created within existing facilities are somehow insufficient to protect seniors,” according to The Detroit News.
“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,” Whitmer added in a letter explaining her decision. “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.”
State Sen. Peter Lucido, one of the sponsors of the bill, said he was “disappointed” in Whitmer’s decision and urged his Republican colleagues to consider a veto override vote.
“I am very disappointed and saddened that the governor vetoed this extremely important and commonsense legislation,” Lucido said in a statement. “Politics should not prevail over the health and safety of our seniors and healthcare 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.”
Whitmer has been widely criticized by Republicans for her response to the virus, most recently over her handling of nursing homes. State data show that roughly 33% of coronavirus deaths in the state were nursing home residents or employees. Coronavirus deaths in nursing homes account for a major share of the overall death toll in the United States.
A Detroit News investigation in early June showed that out of 45 nursing homes with the most virus deaths in the state, almost half of them had been cited in the past several months for failing to follow infection control guidelines. In April, Whitmer designated 21 nursing homes as regional hubs capable of receiving stable coronavirus patients, but Republicans have argued that the move has facilitated the spread of the virus.
Lucido also made the argument that the Whitmer administration’s decision to pay regional hubs $5,000 per bed and $200 per day for occupied beds is “incentivizing bringing COVID patients into nursing homes.”