By Jessica Mathews/

A local lawmaker is voicing support for an inquiry into whether state orders led to COVID-19 nursing home deaths – an inquiry those being targeted say is politically motivated.

The Justice Department sent letters to governors of four Democratic-led states seeking data on whether they violated federal law by ordering public nursing homes to accept recovering COVID-19 patients from hospitals. Those actions have been criticized for potentially fueling the spread of the virus. Prosecutors said their fact-finding letters sent to Michigan, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were aimed at determining whether the orders may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents.

Republican State Senator Lana Theis of Brighton Township issued the following statement in a press release: “The decision to place COVID-19 patients into our state’s nursing homes was a horrible policy from the start, and I called on the governor to stop it back in April after it became clear that healthy residents were getting infected. Despite the fact that over a third of all COVID-19 deaths in Michigan occurred among nursing home patients — a figure that is likely much higher when factoring in all similar facilities — the Whitmer administration has continued the practice in the face of the objections of health care professionals and bipartisan legislation that would have banned it. Unlike other states, the residents of Michigan still do not have access to all the data surrounding COVID-19 deaths. Whitmer’s administration continues to refuse to release the data on COVID-19 deaths that occurred in long-term care facilities such as adult foster care, homes for the aged and unlicensed assisted-living centers. Experts have said cases in those facilities may exceed the cases already reported from nursing homes. The governor may claim that Michigan’s nursing homes statistics reflect similar case totals to those from other states; however, it is clear that by only releasing portions of the data she is skewing the numbers. Blaming others for her own bad strategy is not an excuse, and the governor could have changed her policy at any time, but to date she has not. I appreciate that the Department of Justice is scrutinizing the data on this matter and I encourage federal officials to not rest until they get the requested information for all the state’s elder care facilities. The families of those who have perished deserve answers.”

Whitmer's Press Secretary Tiffany Brown issued the following statement: "Protecting the health, safety, and wellbeing of our seniors and most vulnerable residents has been a top priority throughout this crisis. The fact that this letter was sent during the middle of the Republican National Convention week to four Democratic governors should make it crystal clear that this is nothing more than election year politics by an administration that is more concerned with the president's re-election campaign than protecting Michigan seniors. We will review this letter and respond as appropriate, however, Americans would all be better served if the Trump administration stopped the partisan games and focused on delivering a real plan to defeat COVID-19."

The Justice Department wants Michigan to provide the information within 14 days.