LANSING — Governor Whitmer gave a further COVID-19 related update this week from her offices in the state’s capital, this time focusing on the urgent need for equipment for healthcare staff currently fighting the pandemic.
Grim statistics of the virus’ exponential spread set the tone of her serious address on late Thursday morning. As of 2 p.m. Thursday, there were 2,856 confirmed cases in the state, with 60 deaths. Whitmer said that Wayne County had the seventh highest number of confirmed cases in the U.S., as of Tuesday. Michigan is currently ranked the fifth in the nation for documented cases.
“The only tool that we have to fight this, and to support our healthcare system, is to stay home,” Whitmer said. “When we do, we save lives. That is how we will start to slow the spread of COVID-19. That’s how we shorten the time that we’ll be fighting this crisis. Stopping the spread is really the only tool we have, right now, to keep our communities safe.”
Whitmer elaborated on some of the executive orders she signed earlier this week in the wake of the intensifying outbreak in Michigan, which has wreaked havoc on the state’s economy, healthcare system, cultural institutions and way of life.
Out of these, Executive Order 2020-24 clarifies how the expansion of unemployment benefits will work and 2020-25 allows pharmacists to issue refills for up to 60 days, and requires insurance companies to cover this medicine. Further details on all of Whitmer’s COVID-19 related executive order can be found on Michigan.gov/coronavirus.
So far the federal allotment for personal protection items has not been enough to cover an entire shift at one Michigan hospital. The state has instead turned to businesses and private partners to procure these items, including 13 million N95 masks. The state is requesting procurements for testing supplies from the federal government and is urging Michigan businesses to donate gowns, masks, ventilators, hand sanitizers, no-touch thermometers and gloves.
State requests federal disaster programs
On Thursday, Governor Whitmer sent a letter to President Trump, requesting a major disaster declaration during the COVID-19 pandemic. If granted in full, among other things, a major disaster declaration would help the state provide meals to those who need them and provide rental assistance and temporary housing to families.
The state said this declaration would also allow the state to provide counseling and therapy for Michigan residents whose mental health is affected by COVID-19, whether they or a loved one gets sick or hospitalized. Additionally, the declaration would provide much-needed additional capacity and funding to the state in the event Michigan needs to quickly set up field hospitals or other facilities.
The programs the governor requested to assist Michiganders during this time include programs like Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Disaster Crisis Counseling, Disaster Case Management, Individuals and Households Program, Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Disaster Survivor Assistance, Disaster Legal Services, and Voluntary Agency Coordination. If approved, these programs would provide direct assistance to Michiganders through state, tribal, and local partnerships with FEMA other agencies.
Health department alleviates overwhelmed emergency rooms
Whitmer was once again joined by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, who said hospitals in the state, particularly in southeast Michigan, are now at or near full capacity, with full ICUs and overloaded emergency rooms.
“The only way we’re going to be able to effectively handle this outbreak is by coming together and coordinating our healthcare resources as state,” Khaldun said. “We have thus started implementation of the COVID-19, state-wide, load-balancing plan for our hospitals.”
Through this plan, hospitals outside of southeast Michigan are being asked to serve as relief hospitals, offering 10 percent of their usual bed capacity to accept patients from other hospitals that are currently overwhelmed with critically ill COVID-19 patients. The state is also looking towards other sites, outside of the traditional hospital system, to offset some of the load, details of which are forthcoming.