Coronavirus in Michigan: Day Nine

More cases identified in Mid-Michigan as statewide death toll tallies three

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(This story was updated with additional details at 4:40 p.m.)

FRIDAY, March 20 — As Sparrow Hospital in Lansing announces same-day testing for coronavirus, at least 549 cases have been identified in Michigan, including at least 10 cases in Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties.

State officials today announced 225 more cases of COVID-19 as daily results continue to expand to include samples tested at commercial and clinical labs including LabCorp, Quest Diagnostics, Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Beaumont Hospital Network, Henry Ford Health System and MDHHS Bureau of Laboratories.

Sparrow can process up to 60 COVID-19 specimens with a “significantly quicker” turnaround than state labs, an indication that testing results will likely continue to climb rapidly as additional testing facilities go online. 

The death toll remained at three, including cases from Wayne and Oakland counties. Two of the deaths reportedly involved people in their 50s with underlying health conditions, according to media reports.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer passed out food and school supplies earlier today at J.W. Sexton High School to help keep students learning during the COVID-19 outbreak as the number of cases in Michigan continues to rise. The district has distributed up to 8,000 food packages daily to Lansing families since schools were closed. 

By executive order, she also suspended all evictions until April 17, allowing tenants and mobile home owners to remain in their homes during the pandemic even if they are unable to stay current on their rent. The order relieves courts from certain statuatory restrictions to enable them to stay eviction proceeds. 

“Families across the state are facing a number of uncertainties, from concerns about their health and well-being and that of their loved ones to when their next paycheck will arrive," Whitmer said in a statement. "Worrying about whether they’ll be evicted from their home, apartment or mobile home should not be on this list. This executive order will ease a burden on families struggling to make ends meet and allow them to focus on what’s most important — staying safe and healthy.” 

Non-essential medical and dental procedures — including routine checkups — have also been postponed statewide until at least March 21 by another an executive order from Whitmer's office earlier today. It mostly limits hospitals, dental offices and other health care facilities to only essential procedures. 

The Capital Area Transportation Authority’s regular-route buses are being suspended starting on Monday and continuing through at least April 5. CATA will only offer free, on-demand response service for the community's most vulnerable populations, as well as its essential workforce, key government employees and those who support the region's "critical infrastructure." Call 517-999-2549 with questions or ride requests. 

Four of this week’s cases also involved students at Michigan State University with a history of international travel, according to a statement. The University of Michigan also confirmed a case, The Detroit News reports.

Hospitals in Greater Lansing have not added more beds, but are prepared to expand should they see a surge in coronavirus patients, reports the Lansing State Journal. Meanwhile, homeless shelters in the Lansing area are nearly full as advocates work around the clock with limited quantities of supplies, other reports stated.

The Lansing State Journal reports 73 inmates were released from Ingham County’s jail between Monday and earlier today amid efforts to reduce the risk of COVID-19 in jails. Low-level offenders and those who already served a significant amount of their sentence were among those released, Sheriff Scott Wrigglesworth told the Lansing State Journal. Others were those sentenced to serve weekends in jail and those on work release.

In addition to turning down plans for the redevelopment of Lansing’s former Red Cedar Golf Course, the Michigan Strategic Fund yesterday approved emergency aid for small businesses, including $20 million to be divided up to businesses struggling with revenue losses and other hardships during the global pandemic.

The Detroit Free Press reports that grant funding will be provided to nonprofit economic development organizations for up to $10,000 each to support businesses. Loans can run from $50,000 to $200,000.

Crain’s Detroit Business reports new unemployment claims surged yesterday by 70,000 nationwide, with a spike in Michigan after Whitmer moved to expand unemployment benefits in response to COVID-19.

Whitmer also asked U.S. President Donald Trump for federal funding to dedicate the Michigan National Guard to run mobile screening facilities, distributing food and medical supplies, ensuring resilient supply lines, disinfecting public spaces and supporting public safety, according to reports in the Detroit Free Press.

She’s also actively tamped down widespread “rumors” today that she’s planning to order Michigan residents to shelter in place in their homes to help stop the spread of coronavirus, reports Crain’s Detroit Business. Though, the Detroit Free Press reports that she sounded open to the idea on national news outlets. 

Attorney General Dana Nessel has fielded more than 800 reports of price gouging and other scams related to the COVID-19 pandemic in the last five days, up from 572 complaints Tuesday, the Detroit News reports. At least four sellers received cease-and-desist letters, including Menard’s, which since publicly apologized.

Nessel warns that  phone numbers of at least one local health department were spoofed in a recent scam. Residents should also be advised of scams with bogus products and false information on COVID-19, she said.

And bad news for high school students: Those attending online classes during the coronavirus shutdown won’t be able to count it toward their required annual instruction hours. The Department of Education also said it has no plans to reduce the number of hours that kids need this year, reports the Detroit Free Press.

The border between the U.S. and Canada closes to non-essential traffic at midnight tonight, reports the Detroit Free Press. The announcement was made at noon today and is expected to remain in place for 30 days. A similar closure is being imposed along the southern border, according to the U.S. officials. 

Whitmer also gave licensed distilleries permission to produce hand sanitzer to meet increased demand. She also brought coaches together from both MSU and U-M to produce a new public service announcement. 

All trial courts in Michigan were limited yesterday to conduct only essential functions, reports the Free Press.

Meijer also announced is closing stores overnight from 10 p.m. to 8 am. Stores will also open exclusively for senior citizens and those with chronic health conditions from 7-8 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursday and for service workers and Meijer employees from 7-8 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. Gas stations are 24/7.

Meijer, Walmart, Sam’s Club and Kroger are hiring during the pandemic, reports the Lansing State Journal.

Tonight, from 5-6 p.m. on News 10, WILX will host a special, commercial-free Q&A with local experts and medical professionals regarding the coronavirus. Questions can still be submitted on WILX’s Facebook page.

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

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