Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed concerns over the need to support health care systems with the COVID-19 ramping up exponentially.
Whitmer was joined by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, or MDHHS, chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.
As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 2,294 cases confirmed in Michigan and at least 43 deaths. As of Tuesday, Wayne county had the seventh highest number of cases in the U.S. and Michigan is currently ranked fifth in the nation.
Whitmer signed a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order into action Monday, closing all non-essential businesses to keep Michigan residents home. She called this an aggressive order that will save lives if everyone does their part.
Over the week, Whitmer has signed four additional executive orders. These include calls for for an extended deadline to complete the canvas of the March 10 primary to April 24, allowing administrative hearings to be held over video or phone and temporarily allowing e-signatures on relative documents, clarifying how expansion of unemployment eligibility will work during the pandemic and allowing pharmacists to dispense emergency refills of prescription drugs for up to 60 days-worth of supply and requiring insurers to cover them.
Today, Whitmer sent a request to the president for a major disaster declaration. If granted in full, this will help provide meals to families in need, rental assistance and temporary housing to families, counseling and therapy to residents whose mental health has been impacted by the crisis and much needed additional capacity in the state in the event that its needed.
“I’m hopeful that the president will grant my request for major disaster declaration in full and within a matter of days so we can provide more services to Michiganders who need them, and I’m working to secure medical supplies and personal protective equipment for our state,” Whitmer said.
The current allotment of personal protection equipment, or PPE, for one Michigan hospital is not enough to cover a full shift, let alone a full day, Whitmer said. So far, the state has secured 13 million N-95 masks, 35,000 hospital gowns, more than 4 million gloves, nearly 100,000 face shields, 250 beds and thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer.
“This week I called on Michiganders and businesses to donate any needed items that they might have to their local hospitals and medical providers. Right now, medical professionals across the state have no choice but to reuse face masks. This increases the risk of spreading COVID-19 during the time where we should be doing everything we can to mitigate it,” Whitmer said.
Khaldun said they have started implementation for the COVID-19 state-wide load balancing plan for hospitals. With this, hospitals outside of southeast Michigan are being asked to serve as relief hospitals, offering 10% of their usual bed capacity to accept from other hospitals currently overwhelmed with critical COVID-19 patients.
“We’re still in the upslope when it comes to the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan. We are doing everything we can to make sure people stay at home as much as possible, that our hospitals get the resources that they need, and that we — most importantly — protect our most vulnerable from becoming ill,” Khaldun said.
In order to reach a point where the disease begins to level off, Whitmer said everyone needs to do their part.
“This is a public health crisis that we have, the more porous the policy, the longer we’re going to be doing this, the more people are going to die and the more likely our heart care system cannot meet the needs of people,” Whitmer said.
This will impact not only COVID-19 patients, but anyone who may require access to a hospital in the future.
Items needed most during this time are hospital gowns, ventilators, sanitizer, gloves, surgical masks and no-touch thermometers. Donations can be made to the Michigan Community Service Commission at email@example.com or by phone at 517-335-4295.
Additionally, Whitmer encouraged residents to donate food and water to local food banks or blood to the Red Cross if possible.
“As I’ve said before, tough times don’t last, but tough people do. Michiganders are tough. We have grit and have been through hard times together. We take care of each other, it’s the greatest thing about the state and the people who call it home,” Whitmer said.