By DAVID EGGERT, Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Auditors in Michigan have discovered nearly 2,400 additional COVID-19 deaths linked to long-term care facilities over an 18-month period, both in places that report deaths by coronavirus to the state and in homes that don’t.
The figure was disclosed in a study obtained by The Associated Press on Friday ahead of its release by the Auditor General on Monday. Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s administration challenged the report’s methodology and conclusions.
Auditors reported 8,061 confirmed or positive COVID-19 deaths linked to nursing homes, homes for the aged and adult foster homes as of early July. The difference between that number and what the state health department had reported — 5,675 — is nearly 30 percent.
The Auditor General, at the request of a Republican lawmaker, included in his review thousands of small adult placement facilities and also senior living homes that do not have to report coronavirus deaths to the health department of the state – adding 923 deaths.
The office identified 1,335 additional deaths linked to facilities that are required to report. The facility type for another 128 deaths was undetermined because the facilities share the same name or address.
State Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel wrote a letter to Auditor General Doug Ringler this week raising “serious concerns.” Her objections include comparing self-reported data from facilities to death certificate data from a disease surveillance system she has is not designed for death investigation and adding deaths that occurred in facilities that do not have to report.
She cited inaccurate addresses associated with cases, address matching issues and how a care home can share an address with a hospice or assisted living facility.
Whitmer spokesman Bobby Leddy said the review confirmed that Michigan “accurately reported numbers provided by nursing homes and long-term care facilities.”
In a letter to House Oversight Committee Chairman Steve Johnson, Ringler said the health department disagreed with 1,511 deaths in the tally because he questioned the reliability of the field. address in the disease notification system. He said it was reliable and auditors corroborated at least 85% of the 1,511 addresses using other information.
GOP lawmakers slammed the Democratic governor for allowing virus-infected hospital patients no longer in need of acute care, but still in quarantine, to return to designated nursing home units, as some hospitals did faced with an increase in cases at the start of the pandemic.
Whitmer said the policy was in line with federal guidelines, although critics questioned whether it helped spread the virus to vulnerable people. State health officials and the long-term care industry have said spread outside the community, including from infected workers, is the best predictor of cases inside facilities. .
A year ago in New York, then governor. Andrew Cuomo’s administration was forced to acknowledge a major undercount of deceased nursing home residents because it counted only those who died on the grounds of the facility, not later in the hospital. Michigan includes both in its tally.
Long-term care facilities have reported the deaths of 6,216 infected residents and 93 staff members during the pandemic. They make up 22% of Michigan’s more than 28,400 confirmed deaths.
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