Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Could Be Charged in COVID Nursing Home Deaths, Prosecutor Says

A state prosecutor may be preparing to charge Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer with criminal counts over her administration's treatment of COVID-19 patients in nursing homes.

"If we find there's been willful neglect of office, if we find there's been reckless endangerment of a person's life by bringing them in [to the homes], then we would move forward with charges against the governor. Of course, we would. Nobody's above the law in this state," Former state Senator and Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido told WXYZ Detroit.

Lucido is asking the public to help him build his case against Whitmer. He has reportedly asked family members of nursing home patients or employees who died of COVID-19 to file a wrongful-death report with local police. That way, Lucido can compile public evidence for the investigation without violating the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. He will then look to process and verify the data with local law enforcement before making a final case.

Democrat Gretchen Whitmer is engaged in a Cuomo-style cover up of her own.

She spent hours on TV using COVID to audition for VP, but now she is refusing to release data about how her nursing home orders led to unnecessary deaths. (1/2)

— Ronna McDaniel (@GOPChairwoman) March 2, 2021
Gov. Whitmer
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a drive-in campaign rally with presidential nominee Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama in Detroit on October 31, 2020. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Lucido's investigation involves the Whitmer administration's centralization of COVID-19 care among a select number of nursing home facilities. When the coronavirus broke out last year, her administration developed a "network" of regional nursing home facilities known as "hubs," each equipped with isolation units and personal protective equipment (PPE) to combat the virus's spread in nursing homes, according to a statement she provided to WXYZ Detroit.

In August, Michigan Radio reported that the state selected four skilled nursing facilities to be hubs that had recently broken infection control guidelines, according to data from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The total 21 regional hubs' average consumer satisfaction rating was 2.8 out of 5, with an average of 16 health citations in 2019.

Lucido began investigating Whitmer's creation of the hubs last year, WXYZ Detroit reported.

"Why did my mom or why did my dad, brother, sister or aunt die? Was it because of the policy [of] bringing in COVID-infected patients that spread to my mom that killed my mother?" Lucido said.

The possibility of criminal charges against Whitmer comes on the heels of accusations against another Democratic governor, New York's Andrew Cuomo. His administration reportedly concealed the number of COVID-19-related deaths in state nursing homes. Michigan and New York are reportedly two states out of five that allowed people who were potentially infected with the virus to enter nursing homes.

"Mr. Lucido's comments are shameful political attacks based in neither fact nor reality," Whitmer said in a statement to Newsweek. "Even his former colleague, Republican Senator Ed McBroom, has said they 'have not seen any evidence or testimony that says that a nursing home was forced to take someone against their will.' And there's a reason why Mr. Lucido's colleagues have publicly rebuked this politically motivated waste of taxpayer dollars. Michiganders are tired of these petty partisan games, and we won't be distracted by them either."

In her statement, Whitmer also cited the "praise" of Eric Schneidewind, former president of the AARP Michigan, which represents people 50 or older. In an August article for the Lansing State Journal, Schneidewind said that he was "proud" of Whitmer and that the state tested 35,600 nursing home residents starting as early as April. He said deaths in nursing homes could have been avoided if the Trump administration had recognized early-warning signs and supported the need for PPE and tests.

State Republicans were further concerned about Whitmer's administration after a Detroit News report that Whitmer paid a separation sum to a former state health department director, Robert Gordon, under a strict confidentially agreement not to reveal the terms of Gordon's sudden resignation in January. The News said the administration deferred to Gordon for coronavirus safety recommendations after the state Supreme Court ruled that Whitmer's issuing of executive orders without lawmakers' approval was unconstitutional.

According to a March 8 state report, Michigan has had 5,537 nursing home residents die, along with 69 members of facility staff.

A spokesperson for Whitmer cited to Newsweek a study by the University of Michigan's Center for Health and Transformation, published last fall, that praised the state's response to containing the virus among vulnerable nursing home populations. The spokesperson maintained that her administration's actions have been about combating the virus: "Our top priority from the start has been protecting Michiganders."

Newsweek reached out to Lucido for comment about potential charges against Whitmer but did not hear back before publication.