Feds investigate ex-House Speaker Johnson for bribery in pot licensing

State Sen. Lucido seeks probes of Whitmer's nursing home pandemic orders

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect Peter Lucido is a state senator.

A Michigan lawmaker is calling for state and federal officials to investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's recent directive mandating some nursing homes to set space aside to treat residents with COVID-19. 

“Nursing homes are not hospitals, and no one expects them to be,” state Sen. Peter Lucido said in a statement Monday. “They’re not equipped or prepared to handle the type of work or administer the type of care that hospitals provide.

"They don’t have the physical systems, like proper HVAC facilities, nor the medications or the personnel to do the job of a hospital. That is why we have hospitals."

State Sen. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township, speaks after a news conference last year at the Capitol in Lansing.

The Shelby Township Republican sent a letter Monday to U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel seeking separate probes.

His request refers to an executive order Whitmer signed in mid-April that was extended through May 20. It states: "A nursing home with a census below 80% must create a unit dedicated to the care of COVID-19-affected residents (“dedicated unit”) and must provide appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment), as available, to direct-care employees who staff the dedicated unit. A nursing home provider that operates multiple facilities may create a dedicated unit by dedicating a facility for such a purpose."

The order also says that long-term care facilities without a dedicated unit or appropriate PPE must transfer COVID-19-affected resident to a regional "hub."

Lucido said the mandates are "exposing and endangering this vulnerable population and their caregivers to the very virus from which we had hoped to protect them. I believe that this reckless and negligent policy, which was instituted despite the written opposition of the Health Care Association of Michigan, has resulted in the illness and death of many of Michigan’s elderly and infirm residents, who otherwise would have been (protected) from exposure to the COVID-19 virus."

Whitmer's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday night.

A representative for Nessel could not immediately confirm the letter was received.

Gina Balaya, a spokeswoman for Schneider, said his office had not yet seen Lucido's letter.

Authorities recently tapped Schneider, the top law enforcement officer in Metro Detroit, to oversee a review of state and local orders in the country related to the pandemic.

Last week, the GOP-led Senate Oversight Committee pressed top state officials on virus cases in nursing homes, where senior citizens and those with serious health problems are among the most at risk, the Associated Press reported.

Republican lawmakers voiced concern during the hearing about the safety of nursing home residents in facilities that also care for people recovering from the coronavirus, according to the AP.

Nursing homes account for at least a third of the nation’s 76,000 Covid-19 fatalities, and in 14 states they’re more than half the total, according to Kaiser Family Foundation data this month, Bloomberg reported.

The number of COVID-positive individuals in Michigan's nursing homes has fallen over the past week and stands at about 2,670, state officials said Monday.

"We expect with targeted testing efforts that that number will be increasing, as we expect to find more cases," said Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. "This is important because testing will allow us to appropriately isolate residents and prevent the disease from spreading."

Michigan confirmed 24 deaths tied to the novel coronavirus on Monday, the ninth straight day with fewer than 100 new deaths from the illness reported in the state. It was also the fourth consecutive day that the state had fewer than 800 new cases of COVID-19, for a total of 51,915 known cases since reporting began, according to state data.