If there is one thing we know about coronavirus it's that it disproportionately affects the aged. The average victim of the new virus is older than the American life expectancy. It should stand to reason, then, that the majority of our efforts ought to be directed at protecting the elderly who are the most vulnerable.
Even before the pandemic it was clear that nursing homes were hellish dens of illness and filth. These institutions, the vast majority of which are run on a for-profit basis, are not a fit place for anyone. Which is why it is almost unbelievable that in some states patients with active cases of COVID-19 are still being moved from hospitals to elder care facilities.
The results have been predictable. Nursing homes, which have been the focal point of the epidemic in this country since March, are responsible for at least 40 percent of all deaths attributed to the coronavirus. Governors in vast majority of states decided some time ago that no one infected with the virus should be sent to a nursing home and that every other imaginable precaution should be taken to ensure that the disease is not introduced to places in which it is guaranteed to spread like wildfire. Among them, after a long delay, was the Democratic governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, who has otherwise distinguished himself during the present crisis mostly for a series of obnoxious CNN appearances with his brother, Chris.
This has not been the case in my home state of Michigan. Two weeks ago, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Cuomo's fellow Democrat, vetoed a piece of legislation that would have prevented patients with active COVID-19 infections from being placed in nursing homes. Instead, the legislation would have required these individuals to be treated in entirely separate, otherwise empty facilities reserved exclusively for those who have already contracted the disease.
It is impossible to mount a scientific justification for Whitmer's veto. It was an act of pure spite, a move that signaled nothing save her unlimited contempt for the Republican-controlled state legislature. Her feeble defense — that not placing virus patients in nursing homes where their chances of infecting their fellow occupants are all but guaranteed would have violated their medical rights and privacy rights — is risible on its face. Where were the supposed rights of the same individuals when they were moved from hospitals to nursing homes, ostensibly in accordance with guidelines from the CDC? Where were the rights of those who would be exposed to this lethal disease? Only three days after the first case of the virus was confirmed in Michigan, the head of the Healthcare Association of Michigan proposed treating coronavirus patients in vacant facilities in a widely shared letter. This idea, which would almost certainly have saved hundreds and perhaps even thousands of lives, was imperiously dismissed out of hand by Whitmer.
Why should anyone be surprised, though? This is the same governor who decreed that it was illegal to visit one's own private vacation home and to purchase garden gnomes in stores that were otherwise open, who decided to open the northern half of the state for the explicit purpose of visiting Traverse City, where days later a patriotic marina owner refused to allow Whitmer's husband to launch his expensive boat ahead of others who had been waiting longer. Whitmer is everything critics accuse President Trump of being: venal, narcissistic, hypocritical, obtuse, willfully ignorant, and totally indifferent to human life.
I can think of no greater or more obvious indictment of our national media than the fact that America's most incompetent public servant was feted as a plausible choice for the Democratic Party's vice presidential nomination. Republican governors can be accused, with varying degrees of accuracy, of making light of the current pandemic.
Whitmer stands alone in her positive insistence upon maximizing the death toll by the only surefire means known to science.