Defeat is an orphan: Whitmer abandons COVID nursing home policy, truth

If Whitmer’s nursing home policies saved lives in 2020, why is she walking away from them now?

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the truth are often parted.

So it was last week when Whitmer sat down with Roop Raj of Fox 2 News and claimed she never forced nursing homes to take COVID-positive patients. She presented the idea as Republican propaganda, disinformation spread by her challenger, Tudor Dixon.

But it’s true. Not only did Whitmer order nursing homes to accept COVID-positive patients, she kept doing so months after other governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo, stopped the practice.

As Charlie LeDuff reported in Deadline Detroit:

Big Gretch is gaslighting the public. The sick were in fact commingled with the healthy. You might remember those nursing home hubs, those 21 hand-selected nursing homes of last resort in Michigan that accepted the Covid sick when there was no other place for them to go.

Those homes were supposed to be special places. Places that had separate nursing and janitorial staff, and separate and isolated wings following special protocols, to protect the healthy people living there. ....

Keep in mind the independent report from the state auditor general shows at least 2,400 more people died in the state’s collective nursing facilities than Whitmer health officials acknowledged in their limited count — a full 42 percent higher than the self-reported count by these facilities, placing Michigan well above the national average.

In her interview with Raj, Whitmer distanced herself from Cuomo, and said she worked more closely with the governors of Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin. She signed seven executive orders regarding long-term care in 2020.

“We saved thousands of lives with our policies,” Whitmer said. “If (challenger Tudor Dixon) had been governor during COVID, thousands more people would have died.”

But Michigan had higher death rates than its Midwestern neighbors, and it closed down more businesses. Our lockdowns lasted the longest. What worked, exactly?

On Oct. 25, there was an audible gasp across Michigan when Gov. Whitmer said students were only out of school “for three months.”

That claim has been fact-checked within an inch of its life. But Whitmer repeated it again to Raj.

“So under my order, schools were closed for three months, and then it largely went to local districts,” Whitmer said.

This ignores a three-week, state-ordered pause on high school and college in-person classes in November 2020. And it wasn’t until January 2021 that Whitmer more or less ordered school districts to return to in-person instruction in March.

While Whitmer was closing down high schools, she was putting high-risk people, the elderly, in the most high-risk circumstances.

CDC data show that 75% of COVID deaths are among the elderly, people 65 or older.

Whitmer was giving daily COVID press conferences at one point. Did the elderly ever merit 75% of her attention? Or 50%? Or was an outsize focus placed on taping up the seed section or demanding that people not travel between their own homes, lest they touch gas pumps and spread COVID?

Whitmer is minimizing school shutdowns and disavowing her nursing home policy. And she’s walking away from her defenders, in the media and the public, who insisted throughout that she was saving lives.

Raj asked Whitmer several questions from viewers. Mine was among them: If a governor can’t fix global inflation, did the public ask too much in expecting her to fix a global virus?

Whitmer answered: “We were all confronting a virus that was wreaking havoc on different parts of the country and different times. Detroit metropolitan hospitals were full in the early days. We had to move fast — faster than other states did — with lives on the line.”

At this late date, “We didn’t know what we didn’t know” is the best defense the governor can offer.

Michigan’s COVID policy failed. And defeat is an orphan.

James David Dickson is managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email him at

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.