[Madison, WI] – Republicans are demanding answers as to why the Evers administration undercounted nearly 1,000 COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities. State legislators Sen. Patrick Testin and Sen. Alberta Darling, in addition to Wisconsin’s Republican congressional delegation, are asking Gov. Evers to explain why it took months to update this data — “[obscuring] the truly dire situation in Wisconsin’s long-term care facilities.”
Unfortunately, the Evers administration refuses to take Republicans’ legitimate concerns seriously. Most of the country is reporting deaths in a timely fashion, and governors in struggling states like West Virginia are investigating what caused delays in their states.
Additionally, Wisconsin Republicans in Congress previously expressed concern that Wisconsin was dead last nationally in vaccinating seniors in assisted living homes. Nonetheless, Gov. Evers said that even if he knew that seniors in long-term care facilities accounted for nearly half of COVID-19 deaths in the state, “it wouldn’t have made any difference in [his] outreach.” Evers’ comments reveal a gross disregard for the lives of Wisconsin seniors and most vulnerable citizens.
Read more from CBS 58 here or find excerpts below.
Gov. Evers defends reclassification of COVID-19 deaths to long-term care facilities; GOP lawmakers call for an investigation
March 22, 2021
Governor Tony Evers is defending his administration after state health officials linked nearly 1,000 COVID-19 deaths to long-term care facilities, a process some Republican lawmakers say shouldn’t have taken months.
Last week, state health officials reclassified hundreds of COVID-19 deaths from an “unknown” category to long-term care facilities, which resulted in the state reporting an uptick from 26% to 45% of all deaths occurring at these centers.
Two Republican senators, Alberta Darling (R-River Falls) and Patrick Testin (R-Stevens Point), are asking the Legislative Audit Committee to launch an investigation to determine what caused a shortfall in reporting COVID-19 deaths.
“Apparently no one at DHS has heard of Google Maps, it should not take a year to figure out where an individual lives. That’s what’s concerning to me,” said Testin.
“An investigation is needed because DHS undercounted 1,000 COVID-19 deaths in long-term care facilities for months. The public deserves to know how inaccurate reporting affected the Governor’s response,” Darling wrote in a statement provided to CBS 58.
State health officials said changing COVID-19 data is part of their process. Evers also believes even if the state had the location of each death, it wouldn’t have changed his administration’s actions when responding to outbreaks at these facilities, providing PPE and vaccines.
“To me it’s important to have the right data, but if we had that and we knew exactly who was where, it wouldn’t have made any difference in our outreach,” said Evers.
While the updated data provides a more accurate outlook at the extent of the pandemic in long-term care facilities, it’s still unknown exactly how many died in these centers.
More than 1,700 COVID-19 deaths remain in the unknown category and DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk said she doesn’t anticipate they’ll be able to determine what type of group housing those deaths happened in.
Members of Wisconsin’s Congressional Delegation are also demanding answers from the Evers administration as to what caused a delay in reporting COVID-19 deaths at long-term care facilities.
Republican congressmen Scott Fitzgerald (WI-05), Glenn Grothman (WI-06), Mike Gallagher (WI-08), Bryan Steil (WI-01) and Tom Tiffany (WI-07) signed onto a letter to Evers stating they are concerned Wisconsin’s reputation as a leader in vaccine distribution is now “diminished.”
“Failing to provide accurate data obfuscates the true scope of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin,” the letter states. “The failure to accurately classify these deaths obscured the truly dire situation in Wisconsin’s long-term care facilities.”