By Bria Brown

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A top health official on Wednesday defended Michigan’s handling of nursing home residents infected with the deadly coronavirus, contending its performance has been “strong” compared to other states and again dismissing Republicans’ call for facilities that house only COVID-19 patients.

Robert Gordon, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said just two states — Florida and Massachusetts — tried the approach and have since abandoned it. Majority GOP lawmakers and some Democrats have criticized letting recovering patients stay in or return to homes as long as they are isolated from uninfected residents.

“There are many complexities to standing up and creating entire facilities for only COVID-positive people,” he told a joint legislative oversight committee. “There are many risks around it.”

If existing facilities were used, uninfected people would have to be transferred out, he said. A new facility would have “limited utility” in a state as large as Michigan, he said, “and you still need to staff, provide equipment and license that facility.”

Gordon said he did not disagree with critics questioning the common sense of allowing positive patients to return to homes where they are isolated, but the “profoundly imperfect” strategy is “functioning reasonably well.”

He also said allegations that Michigan forced nursing homes to accept transfers are “false.”

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