Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

Separating Fact From Fiction Regarding Gov. Whitmer’s Nursing Home Policies During Pandemic

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Image credit: Jake Neher/WDET

Marianne Udow-Phillips says research shows the state’s policies were not responsible for the high rate of deaths in nursing homes.

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One of the toughest issues to make sense of during the pandemic in Michigan is the death rates in nursing homes. As of late last year, a third of Michigan’s COVID-19 deaths happened inside nursing homes. 

I’m hoping we can get away from the politicization of this issue and talk about how we can better support seniors as they age. I am hopeful.” —Marianne Udow-Phillips, Founding Executive Director of the Center for Health Research Transformation at the University of Michigan

Political opponents of Whitmer have been trying to pin the entire situation on her individually. But research from the University of Michigan suggests the state’s policies in regard to nursing homes has been appropriate going back to the beginning of the pandemic.

Listen: Marianne Udow-Phillips talks about what her research revealed about the governor’s response to managing the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes.


Marianne Udow-Phillips is the founding executive director of the Center for Health Research Transformation (CHRT) at the University of Michigan. She’s the former director of the Michigan Department of Human Services. Phillips addresses why the rate of COVID-19 infections became so high in nursing homes. 

One of our findings was that high rates [of COVID] in nursing homes was due to the population’s vulnerability and staff coming into facilities with cases from the community,” she says.

Udow-Phillips also talks about the need to make sure older people are receiving the care they should. ”I’m hoping we can get away from the politicization of this issue and talk about how we can better support seniors as they age. I am hopeful.”

She says vaccination efforts have helped nursing homes. “We’ve seen a huge drop in the death rates in nursing homes since January, since nursing home residents and staff started getting vaccinated. A drop of more than 80%,” she says. 

Web story written by Allise Hurd

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