News Story

400,000+ COVID Cases, But Michigan Officials Tracked Giuliani’s Like Bloodhounds

Trump’s lawyer a key figure at state House Republican hearing

As of the second day of December, 403,864 individuals in the state of Michigan had contracted COVID-19. This refers to the number who have been given a COVID-19 test with a “positive” indication.

On that day, there were still 227,775 active cases in Michigan, based on a very broad definition of how many persons may still have an active virus in their system. Neither of these figures include the far larger number of those who likely contracted the virus but were never tested because they had few or no symptoms.

Although state officials have engaged in some discussions about contact tracing, most positive test results never trigger an investigation by the state. According to recent state of Michigan data, when state investigators make an effort, they estimate they are able to complete just 23% of the contact tracing of all the COVID-19 cases.

Yet, there was one confirmed positive COVID case involving a non-resident that triggered an investigation by the state’s highest authorities. They included Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive; and top staffers at a large county government.

That case was that of President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani. Trump’s attorney came to Michigan on Dec. 2 to speak at a meeting of the state House Oversight Committee and urge the Republican majority to overturn tallies giving the state’s popular presidential election vote to Joe Biden. Four days after this appearance, Giuliani was in a hospital with COVID-19.

Two weeks earlier, on Nov. 16, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said her office had not been making the virus political.

“This is about Michigan versus COVID-19. Governor Whitmer doesn't care if you’re a Trump Republican or a Biden Democrat. We are all in this together,” Whitmer’s office stated.

But official interest in the status of Giuliani, as revealed by emails sent by Ingham County Health Department officials, suggests that politics wasn’t completely out of the picture.

After Giuliani contracted COVID-19 — after meeting with state Republicans — other officials, including those in the Ingham County Health Department, engaged in email exchanges and an investigation. State health department director Khaldun was also involved.

With the state reporting more than 227,000 active cases, county and state officials focused their efforts on Giuliani and Laura Cox, chairwoman of the state Republican party.

On Dec. 6, the Ingham County Health Department received an email from someone named Michael McCarthy, with a subject line that read: “Laura Cox must be quarantined. Testing is not enough.”

An attachment to the email showed a Dec. 2 tweet in which Cox said she spent the day hosting Giuliani. The email writer then threatened to sue the county and state if Cox wasn’t quarantined. This threat apparently triggered discussions and emails from and between various Michigan officials.

Emails received in response to an open records law request show that Sara Lyon-Callo, director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and Population Health at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, discussed the McCarthy email with top officials at the Ingham County Health Department.

Lyon-Callo also took steps to contact the state of New York to get more information on Giuliani.

On Dec. 6, Lyon-Callo emailed Debra Blog, the director of the Division of Epidemiology at the New York State Department of Health, asking for a case file on Giuliani.

Lyon-Callo asked Blog to let Dr. Linda Vail of the Ingham County Health Department know when the onset date of Giuliani’s infection would be available. Blog responded, saying her office had nothing in its records indicating Giuliani was tested in New York.

Vail then sent an email to Lyon-Callo, saying that Dr. Adenike Shoyinka of the Henry Ford Health System had tracked down Giuliani as a patient at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

Lyon-Callo then contacted Andrew Hennenfent, a physician who works for the District of Columbia Department of Health. Lyon-Callo asked for Giuliani’s case file.

On Dec. 7, Vail sent an email to Amanda Darche, the public information officer at the Ingham County Health Department and added Shoyinka and Adrienne DeFord, the environmental justice coordinator for Ingham County, to the email. Vail said she told the person who threatened to sue the state and Ingham County that Cox lived in Wayne County, not Ingham County.

Vail also said she would find out what legislative committee Cox and Giuliani were at and get the names of the people in that committee. Vail said her office would have to send out a general public notice that anyone who attended the event would have to quarantine.

Vail confirmed that Cox was a Wayne County resident, adding, “Wayne County needs to handle it.”

In an Dec. 7 email chain, Darche asked if the others had any luck finding a testing date or symptom onset date for Giuliani. She asked if they were just “notifying via press release or are we writing an order too?” Vail responded in a Dec. 7 email: “We are issuing individual letters, not orders.”

Then Vail offered a theory on when Giuliani would have had COVID-19.

“But someone who was hospitalized on Sunday is not likely to have been without symptoms and negative on Friday,” Vail wrote in an email. “Only if he became symptomatic on Saturday or tested on Saturday and had been negative before (he gets tested a lot). So in absence of a onset, and knowing he’s already in the hospital, it’s unlikely that he was not positive on Friday.”

Vail wrote in a Dec. 7 email chain: “Calls are flying at me fast as well as demand for action. So let’s move quickly.” She then wrote she had a list of committee members and the name of the committee clerk. She also mentioned that Khaldun had called her, and Khaldun would get questions at a press briefing that would happen that day.

“So if I could tell her that we already did something by then ... that would be great,” Vail wrote.

Darche sent an email to DeFord and Shoyinka, alerting them to a statement by Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield, published in a Detroit Free Press story. In the statement, Chatfield said that Giuliani didn’t have COVID-19 while in Michigan. He also said that the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention did not recommend quarantine.

Vail’s email response to the email about Chatfield stated, “He (Chatfield) doesn’t actually say that the CDC weighed in on this case. Also, he (Giuliani) may not have been sick, but he is contagious 48 hours prior to onset.”

She added in another email: “I’m also tracking down who I need to notify about quarantine due to the committee meeting with Mr. Giuliani.”

On Dec. 7, Vail sent an email to the Ingham County commissioners. In that email, she laid out how she determined that Giuliani’s appearance in Michigan was an “exposure event” despite not knowing the date of his illness.

Vail said she consulted with Shoyinka, Khaldun “and also others at the state.” She concluded that “absent direct information about onset date or positive test date, the science really points to a highly unlikely scenario that Mr. Giuliani could have been without symptoms and without a positive test result on Saturday and then suddenly ill enough to be hospitalized by Sunday.”

Vail said that she considered Giuliani to be contagious.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.