LANSING — Conservative YouTube personality Steven Crowder drew hundreds of people to a rally Friday,  where he criticized Democratic Michigan Gov. Whitmer over COVID-19 policies in nursing homes and argued the state’s death toll at senior facilities has been underreported. 

Attendees, some masked and some unmasked, gathered outside on the state Capitol lawn for the event which was affiliated with the Michigan Conservative Coalition.

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National media personality, Steven Crowder left, makes his way to the Capitol steps to greet a crowd of around 1000 people Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (Photo: Robert Killips | Lansing State Journal)

Whitmer’s latest rules have established “care and recovery centers” where residents with COVID-19 can stay if they don’t require hospitalization and if their nursing home lacks a dedicated COVID-19 unit.

She’s been criticized by Republicans and others since the start of the outbreak for allowing nursing homes to accept residents who are COVID-19 positive and for not mandating the use of separate buildings for people with the novel coronavirus. 

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Other than Trump 2020 signs, this sign was most prevalent at the Steven Crowder rally at the Michigan Capitol Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (Photo: Robert Killips | Lansing State Journal)

More: Trump, Melania test positive for coronavirus, president vows to begin quarantine ‘immediately’

Crowder: Michigan has been under ‘perpetual lockdown’

Crowder, a Michigan native, said it was illogical for Whitmer to subject nursing home patients to dangers when the rest of Michigan is under what he described as a “perpetual lockdown.”

“You don’t quarantine the healthy and shut down businesses,” Crowder said. “You protect the sick.”

Whitmer has extended Michigan’s state of emergency through Oct. 27, allowing her to exercise expanded powers in response to the coronavirus. Whitmer lifted a stay-at-home order on June 1 and most types of businesses have been allowed to reopen although, under executive orders, many still face restrictions such as limited capacity and mandated mask-wearing.

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Close to 1.000 people attend a Steven Crowder rally to the Michigan State Capitol Friday, Oct. 2. (Photo: Robert Killips | Lansing State Journal)

More: Gov. Whitmer revises rules on nursing homes with coronavirus patients

More than 2,150 Michigan nursing home residents have died of COVID-19, according to numbers submitted by skilled nursing facilities to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Thursday. That’s more than a third of the state’s confirmed COVID-19 deaths, but it does not include deaths from assisted living facilities, homes for the aged, or adult group homes 

Whitmer needs to give a fuller accounting, Crowder said, as he led the crowd in chants of “release the numbers” and urged them to Tweet “#WhitmerDeathToll.”

Related: GOP lawmakers grill Whitmer on Michigan nursing home deaths at U.S. House hearing

“You have been at worst deliberately misled about those numbers,” Crowder said. 

Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice requested data on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes from Michigan and three other states. Whitmer said she would provide the data, but called the request a political stunt aimed at helping Republican President Donald Trump’s re-election.

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Kathy Paul of the Clarkston area said she’s concerned about COVID-19 at nursing homes in Michigan. Paul attended a rally in Lansing at the Michigan Capitol Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (Photo: Robert Killips | Lansing State Journal)

More: Michigan is not the only state allowing nursing homes to accept COVID-19 positive residents

Kathy Paul of the Clarkston area said she came to Lansing for Friday’s rally in part because she worries about her sister, who is in a nursing home. Because of restrictions on visitation, Paul’s had to jump through hoops to visit her sister and she said Whitmer’s inconsistency on nursing home protections has been “disgusting.”

Another attendee, Valen Gow of Wyandotte, said Whitmer needlessly restricted personal freedoms in her response to the virus. 

Feds to Whitmer: Turn over COVID-19, nursing home data. She blasts back response.

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Hundreds of people attend a Steven Crowder rally to the Michigan State Capitol Friday, Oct. 2, 2020. (Photo: Robert Killips | Lansing State Journal)

“I think she overreacted,” Gow said. “I think she’s continued to overreact. I think small businesses have continued to suffer because of her.”

Crowder, a former Fox News contributor, went viral when people created a meme riffing on a photo where he sat next to a sign that said “Male privilege is a myth. Change my Mind.”

Contact reporter Sarah Lehr at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @SarahGLehr. 

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