Coronavirus in Michigan: Day 13 

COVID-19 case count rises to 1,800 amid statewide lockdown 

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(This story was updated at 3:15 p.m.)

TUESDAY, March 24 — At least nine more are dead from COVID-19 in Michigan, bringing the total to 24, and 463 new reported cases pushed the statewide tally to 1,791 today, with at least 23 in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties. 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed a total of 44,183 cases of COVID-19 and 544 deaths as of earlier this afternoon. The New York Times database, as of this afternoon, lists at least 49,619 confirmed cases and at least 615 deaths nationwide. Reports are generated as frequently as possible based on new tests.    

And without more aggressive transmission control in Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer warns the pandemic could spread, citing projections yesterday that indicate up to 70% of the population — nearly 7 million Michiganders — could contract the disease in coming weeks, much like the trajectory witnessed in Italy. 

“Of that projected, about a million would need to be hospitalized,” Whitmer added.   

Much of the state remains on pause this afternoon after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a sweeping executive order yesterday that mandates all non-essential employees stay home except for in very limited circumstances.  

The order halts most commercial development, encourages many businesses to temporarily close their doors and includes a mandate that all residents largely stay inside their homes unless employed in a limited, “critical infrastructure workplace.” Businesses that attempt to skirt the rules could face consequences, officials said. 

Other businesses — like gyms, spas, theaters, hair and nail salons, tattoo shops and other retailers — have already been shuttered under an executive order from last week. Gatherings of more than 50 people are largely restricted, except for church crowds, with many switching to virtual services. All employees are able to work remotely.  

Officials advise that certain outdoor activities, like exercise, and tasks necessary for health and safety — like a trip to the hospital or grocery store — are still permissible. When residents leave their homes, they’re also required under executive order to maintain a six-foot distance from other people outside of their immediate households.  

The Detroit Free Press reports residents can expect to see more closures at professional firms, such as lawyers offices, real estate companies, accounting organizations and other services as the pandemic continues to spread.  

And while the restrictions still allow for carryout and delivery from Michigan restaurants, Whitmer said her ongoing shutdown mandate on schools and restaurant dining rooms will also continue until at least April 13.   

“This is not a recommendation. This is an order,” Whitmer said. “For any businesses that don’t heed this order, anticipate there will be fines and they will be shut down. We have a moment to stem the crisis that’s unfolding.”   

With only about 25,000 acute care beds currently available in hospitals across the state of Michigan, the lockdown order — much like others implemented in states like Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, California and New York — should help “buy some time” for the state’s health care workers as they face a possible overload, she said.   

“This disease can’t spread from person to person if we’re not out there,” Whitmer announced at a press conference yesterday.  “Right now, too many people are still out and about unnecessarily, so we must do more.” 

The Detroit News reports that a “willful” or deliberate violation of the executive order could lead to fines of up to $500 and up to 90 days in jail, though police have cautioned residents not to dial 911 to report any violations.  

Donations still needed   

Whitmer said hospitals — in addition to a looming shortage of patient beds — are also facing a dearth of medical equipment like face masks, gowns and ventilators as legislators push for more federal supply funding. Top officials also said “dozens” of patients remain under intensive care after recently contracting COVID-19.   

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, called last week for donations of unused gloves, masks, gowns and other protective equipment, noting some frontline health care employees in her district — which includes hospitals in Greater Lansing —  are “deeply concerned” about their ability to safely care for patients without equipment.  

Tina Ray, president of the Professional Employees Council at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, represents a group of more than 2,200 employees across 51 separate disciplines. Today, she told City Pulse that although no employees have complained about a lack of supplies, an expected influx of patients calls for proactive measures. 

“There’s just a spirit of teamwork,” Ray said. “Everyone is collaborating to do what they can to help. In the units that are taking care of the COVID-19 patients, there’s just this amazing spirit of teamwork. The nurses and other health professionals are working together to care for those patients. Together, it’s just a great team.” 

Specifically, Sparrow Hospital in Lansing is seeking disposable face masks, N95 respirators, eye protection like face shields and safety goggles, disposable gowns, disposable non-latex gloves, surgical caps, disposable foot covers, bleach, sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer, nasal flock swabs and hand-sewn reusable masks, Slotkin said.   

Those looking to donate cash to the Sparrow Foundation’s response fund can do so online. Medical goods and equipment can be donated at a new drop-off site at the old Eastern High School, weekdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.   

McLaren Greater Lansing yesterday announced that although it has the equipment needed to protect staff as they care for patients with COVID-19, it’s still accepting donated supplies at its administrative offices weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 517-975-7100 for more information or to arrange a dropoff donation.   

Visit mclaren.org/lansingfoundation to donate cash to McLaren Greater Lansing for COVID-19 supplies.  

The city of Lansing has also opened drop-off locations for homemade masks, unopened packages of gloves, cleaning supplies, N95 respirators and other protective gear to help alleviate an ongoing equipment shortage for first responders, health care workers, homeless shelters and others that work with vulnerable populations.   

Those items can be dropped off anytime at either the Fire Department Station #8 at 815 Marshall St., the Lansing Police Department’s downtown headquarters or its local operations center at 5815 S. Wise Road.   

In other news:  

Retail associations are advising Michigan stores to no longer accept empty containers of beer, wine and soda following Whitmer’s stay-at-home order amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, reports the Detroit Free Press.  

Michigan is allowing both medical and recreational marijuana sales to continue under the governor’s recent order, though sales are limited to delivery and curbside pickup. All in-store retail operations should’ve closed this morning, according to a statement from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.   

State officials today released reports of increased revenue at medical and recreational pot shops in the days surrounding the primary election and Whitmer’s announcement that COVID-19 was detected in Michigan. 

Though the executive order has halted most commercial development, developers of the former Red Cedar Golf Course in Lansing have announced plans to push forward with construction as soon as the order has been lifted. 

The city of Detroit has spent about $11 million over the last month responding to the COVID-19 outbreak, Mayor Mike Duggan estimated during a news conference yesterday, reports Crain’s Detroit Business 

Lansing Mayor Andy Schor — as required by city charter — released a budget proposal for next fiscal year yesterday afternoon, though warning that “significant revisions” may still be required in order to respond to the rapidly changing circumstances surrounding the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases throughout Michigan.   

Roads and freeways will be open. There will be no checkpoints and Michigan State Police troopers won’t be asking for your papers, according to Detroit Free Press reports. “This isn’t martial law,” authorities explained.   

Attorney General Dana Nessel yesterday assigned a team of special agents to assist her attorneys with an increasing number of price-gouging complaints amid the pandemic. And today, it issued cease-and-desist letters to two businesses in Rockford for allegedly ripping off customers with a $50 “Coronavirus Defender Patch.” 

Nearly 1,600 price-gouging complaints related to COVID-19 have been filed with Nessel’s office to date. 

Following a new policy to release some low-level offenders to curb the spread of COVID-19, former Michigan State University dean William Strampel was released two weeks earlier than expected last week from Ingham County’s jail, reports the Lansing State JournalDozens of other inmates have since been released from jail.   

Amid the crisis, an anonymous good Samaritan donated another $1,000 to a Mason area grocery store yesterday after he handed staff another $1,000 to distribute to its employees last week, reports the Lansing State Journal. 

Oakland County today ordered businesses that remain open — including a variety of retail stores, restaurants and doctor’s offices — to conduct daily screenings of employees, according to reports in the Detroit News.  

A Detroit Police call taker is dead from the coronavirus as at least 282 police department employees remain in quarantine — with at least nine testing positive for COVID-19 — this afternoon, reports the Detroit News

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

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