LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s health director on Thursday ordered nursing homes to offer on-site reminders to residents who are not up to date on the COVID-19 vaccine in a lagging state compared to others in vaccinating people in long-term care settings.
Facilities must comply within 30 days.
Nearly 75% of eligible nursing home residents received a booster dose. In December, Governor Gretchen Whitmer set a goal of getting a recall of 95% of eligible nursing home residents by the end of January.
The average percentages of fully immunized residents and staff among Michigan nursing homes reporting are around 85% and 70%, the 13th and fifth lowest averages in the United States, according to the federal government. The number of vaccinated healthcare workers in nursing homes may soon increase due to a federal mandate – upheld by the Supreme Court – requiring vaccinations for most US healthcare workers.
The deadlines for the first and second shots are January 27 and February 28.
Elizabeth Hertel, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said vaccinations are even more important because the fast-spreading omicron variant can more easily evade people’s immunity to past vaccines and infections. .
“We want to make sure our most vulnerable Michiganders are protected from the virus,” she said in a written statement.
The ordinance does not require nursing home residents to be vaccinated.
It’s the same day that Republican-led legislative committees held a joint hearing to consider the state’s recent auditors’ report that found nearly 2,400 more COVID-19 deaths linked to healthcare facilities. longer than the 5,675 reported by the state in July, including 1,335 tied to facilities that must report such deaths. GOP lawmakers cited the numbers while again criticizing the Democratic governor’s orders, which his administration says have not been enforced, requiring nursing homes to admit or readmit recovering coronavirus patients. at the start of the pandemic. Democrats have accused Republicans of making partisan attacks.
Hertel, as she has done before, disputed the accuracy of the review — saying she believed the facilities were accurately reporting deaths to the state because they could otherwise lose their license.
“Without someone coming in and doing a standardized facility audit, I’m afraid we can’t rely on the numbers you rely on,” he added. said Sen. Ed McBroom, a Vulcan Republican who chairs the Senate Oversight Committee.
Hertel questioned the auditors’ use of a disease surveillance system to tally deaths, saying the addresses are unreliable.
“We need…additional information on most of these cases to verify the claim the Auditor General is making with their numbers,” she said.
But the auditors defended their work and agreed when lawmakers asked if they could share the audit information with the health department. They said they corroborated the addresses by also cross-checking them with Medicaid registration and payment systems confirming that the deceased were living in the facilities.
“It was tied to a long-term care facility,” said Auditor General Doug Ringler, whose review revealed some limitations to the data analysis.
Auditors did not say the health department underreported deaths, he said, because his office’s review also included thousands of small adult placement facilities and nursing homes. elderly who were not required to report to the state. This added 923 deaths. The facility type for another 128 deaths was undetermined because the facilities share the same name or address.
In July, auditors identified 8,061 total deaths in long-term care facilities since the start of the pandemic.