Monday, September 27, 2021

Whitmer announces new services, funding to relieve hospital capacity

March 30, 2020
<p>Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer waves to the crowd during her second State of the State address at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on Jan. 29, 2020.</p>

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer waves to the crowd during her second State of the State address at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on Jan. 29, 2020.

Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

Governor Gretchen Whitmer addressed the need for continued and increased medical help, as the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise in Michigan.

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 Sunday afternoon, Michigan reached a total of 5,486 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 132 deaths. Whitmer said this number will continue to go up despite aggressive efforts, emphasizing the importance of everyone doing their part.

“Each of these 132 Michiganders who have lost their lives had stories, and families, and friends and loved ones," Whitmer said. "People that we need to think about — the real loss, as we are combating a pandemic that is hurting our state and our people. Can’t lose sight of that.”

Over the week, Whitmer said, she signed a number of executive orders. These include orders pushing all April 2020 state and city income tax filing deadlines to July 2020, an expansion of absentee voting in the May 5 election, a $2 million water restart grant program to restore service and access to clean water, protecting vulnerable populations in Michigan county jails and the relaxation of the scope of practice laws to give hospitals and health care facilities the flexibility to deploy medical assistance.

Whitmer also signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor to implement Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Compensation for grants to provide benefits to workers who do not already qualify for unemployment benefits under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, which passed last week.

This includes self-employed individuals, 1099-independent contractors and gig and low-wage workers who can no longer work due to the pandemic, according to a press release.

The agreement also increases weekly benefits for all unemployed workers by $600 a week for up to four months and extends benefit payments from 26 to 39 weeks, according to the release. 

MDHHS launched a new volunteer website over the weekend, where trained medical professionals can register to serve fellow Michiganders by assisting hospitals in fighting COVID-19. 

“Several of our hospitals in the state, particularly in southeast Michigan, are at capacity,” Khaldun said.

Last week, Michigan began implementing the hospital load balancing plan, where hospitals outside of Michigan may serve as relief hospitals to accept patients from other facilities overwhelmed with critical COVID-19 patients. 

Khaldun said many hospital leaders have since stepped up to offer support, but hospitals will need to utilize alternative non-traditional suites of care as cases continue to rise.

The TCF Center in Detroit has been identified as an alternative care site and Khaldun said plans are underway to build out at this facility.

“We will need additional medical professionals: doctors, nurses, physician assistants, respiratory therapists and others to respond to this crisis,” Khaldun said.

Khaldun said current models suggest we are likely several weeks away from the peak of cases. The current goal has been to slow the spread as much as possible and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

As of today, Whitmer said, the state will be committing $150 million dollars to combat COVID-19.

"To date, the state has already expended more than $80 million to begin securing more than 20 million masks, 2,000 ventilators, nearly 9 million ounces of hand sanitizer ... 2.4 million gowns, more than 2,000 beds, 210,000 testing kits," Whitmer said.

“The coming days will be unlike any challenge we’ve ever had before. It will require fortitude, strength and grace. Our front-line care workers, they need more support. Our sick will need more beds and care, our unemployed will need help, our businesses will need information,” Whitmer said. “But Michiganders are strong, smart and determined people. We’ve always looked to one another.”

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