LANSING, Mich. (AP) — At least 1,216 residents of nursing homes in Michigan have died from the new coronavirus, accounting for nearly a quarter of all COVID-19 deaths, the state health department said.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon said at a legislative hearing Wednesday that the number is incomplete because 65, or 13%, of facilities are not reporting to the state, including homes in the hard-hit metro Detroit area.
Gordon said health departments in Wayne and Oakland counties that are receiving coronavirus death data from more nursing homes show 400 additional deaths not reflected in the state’s information. That could mean nursing home residents account for at least a third of the state’s 5,372 deaths related to COVID-19.
“We’re going to find out about more deaths,” Gordon told the Senate Oversight Committee on Wednesday.
The state on Thursday reported 38 more coronavirus deaths overall, though 17 likely occurred days or weeks earlier. It recorded 406 additional cases, bringing the total number of people infected to slightly more than 56,000.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, last week lifted requirements that nursing homes establish special coronavirus units and admit from the hospital patients recovering from COVID-19, giving the facilities more flexibility to decide if they can safely isolate people who are infected.
The new order came after her administration had faced questions from lawmakers in both parties who expressed concerns that residents who have not tested positive are being put at risk. At the time of the initial order, Gordon said, hospitals were at capacity, with some unable to treat all the coronavirus patients in need of acute care because their beds were occupied.
“Today, hospitals have capacity,” he said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.