Michigan requires tests, says 32% of deaths from nursing homes

Nursing home in Michigan

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan's health department on Monday mandated coronavirus testing of all nursing home residents and staff after reporting the deaths of nearly 2,000 residents tied to the facilities — about a third of all COVID-19 deaths across the state.

Director Robert Gordon's order requires initial universal testing. Also, all new or returning residents have to be tested, and there must be weekly testing of all residents and staff in a home with any cases until 14 days after the last positive result.

The state for the first time released a firm overall death count for nursing home residents — 1,947, which is more than 400 more than previously estimated — and listed them by facility. Places with the deadliest outbreaks are largely located in the Detroit area, Michigan's epicenter of the virus.

“We are not in a position to vouch for data from other states, but such a figure is generally consistent with the figures we have seen elsewhere,” said Gordon, who announced penalties for nursing homes that do not comply with reporting requirements.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has faced criticism from Republicans and some Democrats for letting recovering COVID-19 patients go to dedicated virus units in their nursing home or to a “hub” nursing home as long as they are isolated from non-infected residents, extended the policy through July 12. It had been set to expire on Wednesday. Some of the hubs will be decommissioned due to reduced demand.

Michigan on Monday reported 74 additional coronavirus cases overall and just two more deaths, bringing the respective totals to roughly 66,000 and 6,000.

While many nursing homes have been testing residents and staff to adhere to clear federal guidance, Gordon said, the state held off on requiring it because “we wanted to wait until we had adequate supply and adequate ability to ensure access to that.”

There have been 7,163 COVID-19 cases among nursing home residents — 11% of all confirmed and probable cases — and 3,133 among staff, including 20 staff deaths. About one in five of all 32,000-plus nursing home residents have tested positive.

Regional hubs, designated to care for long-term care residents affected by the virus, account for 200 — or 10% — of resident deaths.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said it will help send nurses, nursing assistants and personal care aides to long-term care facilities facing urgent staff shortages due to COVID-19.

It also announced additional efforts to improve infection prevention and control inside the homes.

The health department said it did not know how many of the dead had been permanent residents of nursing homes vs. new residents who had been discharged to the homes to recover after being hospitalized.

A nursing home industry group said the average resident is 82 years old and often has multiple medical issues.

“While the numbers presented by the state today show Michigan is still below the national average for COVID-19 deaths in nursing facilities, too many of Michigan’s seniors have paid the ultimate price,” said Melissa Samuel, president and CEO of the Health Care Association of Michigan. She reiterated what she told lawmakers last week — that universal testing is the most effective way to prevent spread in facilities.

“None of us created this pandemic or chose to have it come upon us,” she said. "This isn’t the time for blame or finger pointing. Now is the time for analysis with a vision for the future.”

Nationwide, more than 45,500 residents and staff have died from coronavirus outbreaks at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities — about 40% of total deaths — according to a running count by The Associated Press. Michigan’s tally of nursing home deaths does not include people in homes for the aged, adult foster care facilities and assisted-living facilities.