Senator Jim Runestad

LANSING, Mich.Sen. Jim Runestad on Thursday commended Michigan Auditor General Doug Ringler upon news his office would investigate the state’s COVID-19 nursing home policies.

The Office of the Auditor General announced this week it would conduct a “comprehensive study of reported and unreported deaths” in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Whitmer administration’s COVID-19 policy put COVID-positive patients into the same nursing homes as our most vulnerable,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “Families lost loved ones, and they deserve to know how and why this was allowed to happen. They deserve to know the truth.”

Michigan, like New York, was one of five states to put COVID-19-infected patients into the same nursing home facilities with uninfected residents. After it was revealed that the Cuomo administration in New York had been underreporting COVID-19 deaths, Runestad called on Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to investigate the nursing home policies and reporting of COVID-19 deaths. In March, Attorney General Nessel refused to investigate the matter.

“In New York, their attorney general did the right thing and investigated on behalf of those seniors who were put in danger,” Runestad said. “It took an honest investigation for over 6,000 families to learn the truth about how their loved ones died. Michigan families still need those answers. Since our attorney general refuses to investigate, it’s about time the auditor general get those real answers for grieving families. I welcome this investigation and the chance to shine some light on this entire tragedy.”

The OAG investigation comes after Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff’s report into the matter found a strong possibility that the state could be underreporting nursing home COVID-19 deaths. Additionally, during a state House Oversight Committee hearing last week, the director of the Department of Health and Human Services admitted that the number of reported COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities may be low.

“Our most vulnerable nursing home residents were put in harm’s way because of policies from this administration,” Runestad said. “And it’s been a year-and-a-half of stonewalling ever since. It is long past time that we get some real answers for those families who lost a loved one. It’s long past time we get the truth.”

The Michigan Constitution gives the auditor general authority to conduct performance and financial reviews of all state departments. Ringler was unanimously approved to the position in 2014 by the Legislature.

According to the OAG, its report is expected to be completed around September or October.

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