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COVID ‘hub’ system is a disaster waiting to happen

Fox guarding the henhouse.

Wolf in sheep’s clothing.

A disaster waiting to happen.

There are plenty of ways to accurately describe the plan that places Michigan’s nursing home residents in a position of unnecessary risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It doesn’t take much common sense to see the flaws in the State of Michigan’s plan to warehouse convalescing COVID-19 patients in nursing homes.

State health leaders and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer have received well deserved criticism over efforts to funnel COVID patients into regional “hub” facilities. The structure, outlined in Whitmer’s executive orders, effectively directs still-contagious patients to the same facilities that house the state’s most vulnerable residents.

It was a decision that didn’t make a lot of sense to us when we first broke news of the plans. It makes even less sense today as headlines nationwide continue to document outbreaks of COVID-19 running like wildfire through nursing homes, killing thousands of people who, because of age and underlying conditions are particularly susceptible to the disease.

Why would anyone hatch such a plan, especially as about 30 percent of deaths attributed to COVID-19 in the U.S. have occurred in nursing homes?

Sure, state officials contend there are plenty of regulations in place to ensure the sick are partitioned away from the well — either in separate wings or altogether separate buildings.

But two developments the Record-Eagle reported last week make us question the practice further.

One: top Michigan health officials admitted they don’t trust the data generated by a self-reporting system the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services installed to gather information about infections in Michigan’s long-term care facilities.

Two: state officials didn’t see fit to require extra inspections of nursing homes that signed on to receive COVID patients as regional “hub” facilities.

On its face, the idea of placing people infected with a pandemic disease within any proximity of those who are most likely to succumb to the illness is absurd. It’s flat reckless with the added context of poor state tracking of infections in nursing homes, and a gaping void where increased scrutiny should be situated.

There is no doubt, state planners are responsible for constructing and operating a network of facilities to receive and care for people infected with the disease that now has killed more than 80,000 people in the U.S. We simply can’t understand why the system designed in the midst of an outbreak would loop sick people back toward those who are most likely to be hurt.

It’s especially confusing as many hospitals — the facilities most prepared to control and treat infections — linger nearly empty.

Why take a chance?

It doesn’t take any expertise or advanced degrees to see the potential catastrophe here.

We just hope Whitmer and state health officials change course before colliding with such an obvious disaster.

— Traverse City Record-Eagle

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