Coronavirus in Michigan: Day 15

Michigan COVID-19 death tolls rises to 60 with nearly 3,000 cases 

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(This story was updated at 2:25 p.m.) 

THURSDAY, March 26 — More than 500 new cases of COVID-19 and 17 deaths reported in Michigan brought the statewide death toll to 60 today, with almost 3,000 cases across the state. 

Statistics released by state officials this afternoon identified 564 new reported cases of COVID-19 in Michigan, edging the statewide tally to up to 2,856 with 33 cases in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties. Officials estimate the actual number of cases to be much higher as more tests are processed on a daily basis. No deaths have been reported near Greater Lansing.   

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of this afternoon, listed a total of 68,440 cases of COVID-19 and 994 deaths in the U.S. The New York Times database, also as of this afternoon, listed at least 75,178 confirmed cases and at least 1,069 deaths nationwide.   

New statistical reports are generated every afternoon by the state based on new test results. Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail told MLive yesterday afternoon attributed the increased caseload to more tests going online and then “getting dumped into the system.”  

At least 52 of the 60 deaths reported in Michigan yesterday were from Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties, including Detroit. Among other counties: The first death in Livingston was reported yesterday. One recently died in Kent County; Three have died in Washtenaw County.  

Tuscola, Mecosta and Genesee counties also each reported their first COVID-19 death today. 

Meanwhile, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hopes a major disaster declaration in Michigan will ramp up federal funding and help provide assistance to local residents as the virus spreads statewide. 

In a live address this morning, Whitmer urged the federal government to bolster supplies of medical equipment and to help provide other types of assistance for struggling Michiganders.   

“We must all be smart for our families, for our neighbors and for ourselves,” Whitmer said in a live broadcast from Lansing earlier this morning. “If we don’t all do our part, more people are going to get sick and more people are going to die and this will go on longer than it needs to.”  

A federal major disaster declaration — like in other states — would help Michigan provide meals, rental assistance, therapy and other resources while enabling hospitals to expand capacity to temporary “field hospitals” and other COVID-19 treatment facilities, she said.   

Michigan — unlike other states like Texas, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, New York, California and Washington — hadn’t requested that federal declaration before today, reports the Detroit Free Press. If approved, the federal designation will bring funding and other emergency assistance.  

Hospitals are getting crowded.    

Some of Michigan’s southeastern hospitals, the state’s COVID-19 epicenter, are admitting 100 coronavirus patients daily in what Beaumont Health President and CEO John Fox yesterday labeled as a “biological tsunami” and his “worst nightmare,” reports the Detroit Free Press.   

With only about 25,000 acute care beds statewide, as reported by state officials last week, many hospitals — including Beaumont Health — are nearing capacity with more than 500 patients. Crain’s Detroit Business reports hundreds of other patients at other hospitals near Detroit.   

Officials said that some medical facilities outside of southeast Michigan have been asked to serve as “relief hospitals” amid overloading emergency rooms and intensive care units. Sparrow Hospital in Lansing is “continually assessing” its capacity to meet those needs, officials said. 

Whitmer today suggested the apex of the COVID-19 pandemic is “probably a few weeks out” in Michigan, noting the level of transmission depends largely on whether residents stay home.  

She also said hospitals are also facing a dearth of medical equipment, calling on residents and businesses again today to donate unused medical equipment like masks, gloves and gowns.   

In response to the spread, the former Michigan State Fairgrounds, on the northern edge of Detroit, will open for large-scale, community-funded drive-thru coronavirus testing on Friday. The site will be able to run about 400 tests daily through May 8, reports the Detroit News.   

As Whitmer announced a statewide lockdown through her “Stay Safe, Stay Home” executive order, she warned that without more aggressive transmission control, up to 70% of Michigan — nearly 7 million people — could contract the disease in the coming weeks, much like Italy.   

That model warned that Michigan was on track to become like Italy, and that hospitals would be overloaded by April 4 with more than 200,000 deaths by that date. In a recent, no-action model, Michigan could eventually see nearly 460,000 deaths, reports Michigan Advance.   

Crain’s Detroit Business reports that Michigan, over the past week, has risen to become the state with the fifth-highest number of coronavirus cases in the nation, behind New York with more than 25,665 cases and 218 deaths, as well as New Jersey, California and Washington.   

Spectrum Health officials told MLive they’re confident its Grand Rapids hospitals could handle a surge in patients amid the rapidly evolving pandemic, should it spread further west.   

And as some hospitals, in preparation, have cleared out unused spaces to make room for more patients. It’s unclear exactly what is being done in Lansing; officials at McLaren Greater Lansing refused to provide details. Calls to Sparrow Hospital in Lansing were not returned.   

Details on available resources, capacities and patient data at McLaren will be reported directly to the state instead of media outlets to “avoid confusion and misinformation,” officials said.   

Tina Ray, president of the Professional Employees Council at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, this week told City Pulse that although no employees have complained about a lack of supplies, an expected influx of patients calls for proactive measures — like community donations.   

“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,” Ray said in an interview. “The nurses and other health professionals are working together to care for those patients.”   

The lockdown will continue.    

Outside of the medical world, much of Michigan remained in a virus-induced limbo.   

Many businesses are heeding a “Stay Safe, Stay Home” executive order from Whitmer that took effect on Tuesday. Until April 13, all nonessential employees have been ordered to stay home, except for in very limited circumstances. But some remain confused about what qualifies.   

Many entrepreneurs remain uncertain about which types of commercial enterprises are considered “critical” and can allow their “essential” employees to report to work, according to reports MLive and the Lansing State Journal. Officials are clarifying whenever possible online.   

But for the most part, residents are adjusting to a quieter life at home as most commercial development and construction projects cease and many businesses either close their doors or have their staff — aside from “critical infrastructure workplaces” — work from home.   

Whitmer was unable to provide details about enforcement efforts today, but suggested that most businesses are taking the order seriously. For the most part, businesses that do not sustain life are not essential and must close otherwise risk fines or their business licenses. 

“If you’re unsure, it’s probably safe to assume you’re not an essential business,” Whitmer added. “We want to encourage businesses not to play fast and loose with the rules.”  

Travel in Michigan has declined about 45 percent since the order took effect, reports MLive.   

Attorney General Dana Nessel yesterday offered clarification on the executive lockdown order, advising those looking to report any potential violations to local law enforcement while her office handles reports of price-gouging and other scams related to the COVID-19 pandemic.   

In other news ...    

The White House and Senate leaders of both major political parties announced agreement yesterday on unprecedented emergency legislation to rush sweeping aid to businesses, workers and a health care system slammed by the coronavirus pandemic, reports the Associated Press.   

Businesses in Lansing, specifically those in the retail, restaurant and child care, are in desperate need of immediate financial assistance if they are to have hope of an eventual return to normal operations, according to reports released yesterday by the Lansing Economic Area Partnership.    

LEAP was given $600,000 yesterday through Michigan's small business relief fund to make grants to businesses struggling due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. LEAP will administer a program to provide $10,000 grants to 60 businesses with 50 or fewer employees, said Bob Trezise, LEAP's president and CEO.  

“LEAP is doing everything we can to gain access to grant funding and we intend to get that money in the hands of business owners very quickly once the state gives the green light,” said Bob Trezise, president and CEO of LEAP, in a statement released yesterday afternoon.    

A recent LEAP survey indicated that businesses said grant funding was the most helpful type of assistance they could receive right now, followed by interest-free loans and rent assistance. Additional details about crisis information for small businesses is available at purelansing.com.   

The city of Lansing has temporarily changed its recycling and trash collection services. While trash and recycling carts will be picked up as normal, simple recycling collection in orange bags is temporarily suspended. Bulk item collection has also been suspended until at least March 23.  

Governor Gretchen Whitmer yesterday signed an executive which extends the statutory deadline to complete the canvass of the March 10 primary to April 24. This ensures that counties remain in the best position to complete the count, according to state officials.   

Reproductive health clinics in Michigan are still providing abortion services, citing an exemption for pregnancy-related visits and procedures, reports the Lansing State Journal. Meanwhile, reports state gun shops have gone dark in the wake of the statewide lockdown.   

Attorney General Dana Nessel today joined a group of attorneys in calling on Amazon and Whole Foods to provide paid sick and family leave to their employees during the pandemic.  

The Mackinac Conference has been postponed until August, reports the Detroit Free Press.   

Four Michigan prisoners tested positive for coronavirus, plus three state employees and a parolee. Dozens more are in quarantine after potential exposure, reports the Detroit Free Press.   

A millwright at a Fiat Chrysler Automobiles MOPAR parts distribution center in Center Line tested positive for the virus and remains in an induced coma, reports the Detroit Free Press.   

And Michigan’s PR arm, Pure Michigan, is going virtual — featuring live camera and virtual tours to help residents continue to explore the state on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.   

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

City Pulse also needs your support now more than ever. Advertising — almost all our revenue —  has fallen sharply because of closures due to the coronavirus. Our staff is working seven days a week to help keep you informed. Please do what you can at this time to contribute to the City Pulse Fund. All donations are tax-deductible.  

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