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Michigan Health and Human Services Director testifies on nursing home deaths report

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel testified before the House Oversight Committee Thursday, and debunked a report funded by the conservative Mackinac Center Legal Foundation.

At issue is the number of people who have died of COVID-19 in the state’s nursing homes.

A report by the conservative Mackinac Center Legal Foundation and journalist Charlie LeDuff alleges the number of residents who died of COVID-19 in nursing homes could be double what the state says it is.

Republican Steven Johnson is the House Oversight Chair.  He accused the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Thursday of not reporting accurate data.

“I don't think anyone is suggesting that we are going to have the exact right number to the individual.," Johnson said. "But we do know for a fact that the number has been under counted and there are ways to get closer".

Hertel told the committee that the number of deaths reported by nursing homes is accurate. She explained the report cited by GOP lawmakers was double counting the number of deaths in those facilities.

“If it is identified in the death certificates as a nursing home death, it would have been reported by the nursing homes as a nursing home death as well so you can't add them together," Hertel said.

For months Michigan Republicans have alleged the Whitmer Administration’s policies for nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic led to more deaths, and that the state health department is intentionally undercounting the true death toll in those facilities. Thus far GOP lawmakers have not produced any evidence of either.