Death toll climbs to 184 with nearly 6.5K COVID-19 cases in Michigan

Coronavirus in Michigan: Day 20

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(This story was updated at 3:10 p.m.)

MONDAY, March 30 — At least 184 have died from coronavirus in Michigan as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide jumped more than 1,000 to nearly 6,500 earlier today.

According to today’s latest state reports, Michigan is now tracking a total of 6,498 confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide, with reports of at least 184 deaths. About 85% of those dead (and about 81% of cases) are from Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, including Detroit.

At least 107 cases have been identified in Ingham, Clinton and Eaton counties to date.

Greater Lansing has yet to track a single coronavirus-related death, though at least 73 cases have been found in Ingham County. State data incorrectly reflected a death in Ingham County last week. At least 30 more confirmed cases were reported in Ingham County in the last 24 hours.

Among the recent dead: State Rep. Isaac Robinson, a Detroit Democrat who died yesterday at Detroit Receiving Hospital from a suspected coronavirus infection, hours after being transported to the hospital for breathing problems, according to Crain's Detroit Business.

A 25-year-old Western Michigan University student from Detroit also died over the weekend. He reportedly was turned down several times for the coronavirus test in the Kalamazoo area despite having fever, fatigue and shortness of breath, the Detroit News reported yesterday.

At this rate, assuming the growth rate doesn’t slow and the state is able to test enough people accurately to assess the caseload, Michigan could reach a total 10,000 confirmed coronavirus cases by Wednesday, and surpass 25,000 cases by Sunday, reports the Detroit Free Press.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of this afternoon, list a total of 140,904 cases of COVID-19 and 2,405 deaths in the U.S. The New York Times database, also as of this afternoon, lists at least 144,732 confirmed cases and at least 2,527 deaths nationwide.

Millions more in the U.S. will be infected and 100,000 to 200,000 are expected to die during the pandemic, according to yesterday’s latest predictions from top government officials.

Michigan’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, today said the state is still “several weeks” away from its peak level of COVID-19 cases, though estimates are difficult to determine as the infection continues to spread across the country and much of the globe.

“If we do the right thing and we do it now, we’ll be able to keep people from getting sick and save lives,” Khaldun said, noting hospitals in the state remain overly full and underprepared.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer today announced that she signed two supplemental budget appropriations that provide another $150 million in state funding to respond to COVID-19.

And that’ll add to the more than $130 million already spent to secure medical supplies after the number of coronavirus cases in Michigan surged again yesterday to 5,483 cases and 132 deaths.

“Getting through this crisis requires all hands on deck. We’re working together in an unprecedented way to fight this unprecedented enemy, COVID-19,” Whitmer said today. “The coming days will be unlike any challenge we’ve ever had before, and will require fortitude, strength and grace. Our frontline care workers? They’ll need more support.”

The supplemental state appropriations announced today include nearly $80 million in vetoed expenditures from the state’s general fund, reprioritizing expenses for COVID-19 response. The goal: Buy more medical supplies and ensure physicians have the resources they need.

To date, Michigan has already secured contracts for more than 20 million masks, more than 2,000 ventilators, nearly 9 million ounces of hand sanitizer, more than 255,000 boxes of gloves, 2.4 million gowns, more than 2,000 additional hospital beds, among other testing equipment.

Whitmer said large companies like Steelcase and DOW Chemical are assisting in production.

“It’s too early to determine the exact impact on state revenue, but we know there is a potential for a significant loss in revenue,” Whitmer said at this morning’s press conference. “We’re working together in an unprecedented way to fight this unprecedented enemy, COVID-19.”

Whitmer this week also signed more executive orders and directives to curb the virus’ spread.

One signed yesterday relaxes some scope of practice laws for hospitals and health-care facilities, giving added flexibility to deploy qualified physician assistants, nurses and other health care providers to combat COVID-19. It also protects hospitals from liability during the emergency.

Whitmer also announced new programs to expand unemployment benefits to those who do not already qualify for expanded state benefits, to now include those who are self-employed, independent contracts and other low-wage workers who can no longer work in Michigan.

All unemployed workers will have benefits extended by $600 weekly for up to four months, under the new directive. It also extended benefit payments from 26 weeks to up to 39 weeks. Visit michigan.gov/UIA for more details or to submit an unemployment benefits application.

Additionally, Whitmer signed an executive directive to suspend discretionary spending by state departments, also freezing hiring leaving vacancies unfilled in Michigan’s executive branch. The new restrictions cover non-essential contracts, purchases, travel, staff training and more.

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association also announced a partnership that will enable restaurants to sell food and pantry items, which currently can only be sold by grocery and retail stores. The goal: Keep the supply chain moving and expand options for residents.

With a stay-home order in effect until at least April 13, the state of Michigan, like much of the nation, is in for several more quiet weeks ahead. President Donald Trump yesterday also extended a voluntary national shutdown until April 30, reversing his prior plans to rescind all federal social distancing recommendations by Easter Sunday, reports the Associated Press.

The U.S. Army yesterday announced it has received a mission assignment from FEMA to construct a large alternate care facility in downtown Detroit to help relieve overcrowded hospitals in the region. The first move: Convert the TCF Center in Detroit into a hospital.

Crain’s Detroit Business reports that the downtown convention center, which was planned as the venue for the North American International Auto Show before it was canceled, will be converted into a 900-bed hospital specifically to handle the rising number of coronavirus cases.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Michigan prisons spiked this weekend to at least 58, plus one parolee, with four Michigan prisons emerging as hot spots, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Whitmer signed an executive order last night to enhance screening procedures and restrict visits at county jails, local lockups and juvenile facilities, mirroring the same enhanced standards put into place for state prisons. For now, transfers both in and out of state facilities are suspended.

According to a press release, all non-attorney visits are to be suspended until further notice. Enhanced screening protocols are also being put into place, with additional protective equipment for staff. And pregnant women, those with chronic health conditions, inmates nearing their release date, and those jailed over a failure to pay a traffic ticket may be released.

Whitmer also directed some shuttered K-12 school buildings and closed private child care facilities to reopen this week exclusively for use by essential workers, reports the Detroit News.

Attorney General Dana Nessel is also working to ensure that natural gas used for heating homes and other businesses remains affordable for Michigan ratepayers. She filed testimony last week that argued that DTE Energy’s proposed $204 million rate increase — an 8-percent rate hike for residential consumers — was both excessive and unreasonable amid the pandemic.

The Michigan National Guard today received a request to aid food banks in four communities across the state — including Ann Arbor, Comstock Park, Flint and Pontiac. Approximately 10 Michigan National Guard members will be serving at each site through at least mid-April.

A Michigan man was arrested inside a Kroger in Genesee Township after “pushing around shopping carts while stating” that he had the coronavirus, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Michigan also launched a new volunteer website — michigan.gov/fightcovid19 — where trained medical professionals can register to assist hospitals. Other residents can also find resources about how to give blood, donate money or supplies or assist in tracking infections.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at michigan.gov/coronavirus and cdc.gov/coronavirus.

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