Coronavirus in Michigan: Day 55

Whitmer creates COVID-19 Accountability Office  

Four new coronavirus cases tracked in Greater Lansing

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MONDAY, May 4 — A new state office will help to track and oversee all governmental spending earmarked to both help protect workers and combat the COVID-19 pandemic across Michigan.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced today the creation of the Michigan COVID-19 Office of Accountability within the state’s Budget Office. It’s designed to provide oversight of all spending to address the crisis and will provide regular reports to Whitmer and the state budget director. 

In combating the pandemic, state officials have acquired various types of funding from the state treasury, philanthropic sources and the federal government. The new office will watch over it all. 

“Michiganders have the right to expect that state government will be responsible stewards of their resources, especially in a time of crisis,” Whitmer said, noting she will ensure resources are “spent wisely, in compliance with the law and in a transparent and accountable manner.”

All departments, agencies, committees, commissioners and officers must provide the new office with any assistance they require — including free access to any books, records or documents. A chief COVID-19 accountability officer will also be designated to lead the accountability office. 

Across Michigan…

A battle over statewide emergency authority between Whitmer and the State Legislature continues this week. The Detroit Free Press reports that Republican lawmakers are looking at another way to push for a greater role in state decision-making: Control of the purse strings.

About $50 million that lawmakers held back from a $150 million supplemental appropriation bill to fight the coronavirus could be the first potential flashpoint. Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden Twp.,sued Whitmer in federal court, alleging that she violated the Constitution in her management of the coronavirus pandemic, according to recent reports in the Detroit Free Press.

The Detroit News reports that Whitmer, as expected and as she previously vowed, vetoed the Republican plan for a more aggressive reopening of the state’s economy earlier this afternoon.

The Free Press also reports that Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey won’t put people at risk by recommending they ignore Whitmer’s stay-at-home order but believes the “No. 1 priority” for Michigan should be a veto-proof citizens’ initiative to repeal her statutory emergency powers.

He also said he expects the Legislature to file a lawsuit against Whitmer as early as next week.

Whitmer clarified today that nonessential medical and dental procedures can continue, but only on a case-by-case basis and within facilities that limit in-person contact as much as possible. Each practice maintains discretion to prioritize vulnerable residents only for necessary services while ensuring protective supplies stay stocked in the event of another surge of serious cases.

Officials said it’s important that residents not delay important medical care — especially emergency care. Anyone having signs of potentially life-threatening diseases, like heart attacks or strokes, should not delay testing or treatment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Whitmer also signed an executive order extending until May 31 the rules regarding entry to care facilities designed to protect vulnerable populations and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. It also requires employees of those facilities to wear face covering while working inside them. 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also issued an emergency order today that shortens the timeframe required for hospitals and funeral directors to make arrangements for the dead and to contact state officials over the disposition of dead bodies. 

The order provides those facilities 24 hours to attempt to contact people with authority — like family members — over how to dispose of dead bodies. That starts a 48-hour window to make a decision and complete arrangements regarding disposition or they otherwise forfeit that right. 

If nobody of authority can be located, that duty falls to a county medical examiner. The order also further relaxes some licensing provisions for funeral directors, allows funeral directors and medical examiners to authorize embalming and allows for temporary storage of dead bodies.

Whitmer expressed concern today about a lack of social distancing at Belle Isle over the weekend and suggested state parks might see restrictions, reports the Detroit Free Press. Belle Isle was closed off to new traffic at least twice on Sunday after crowds swarmed the island.

More than $3.3 million in financial relief is on its way to at least 657 bar and restaurant owners statewide — a financial lifeline averaging more than $5,000 for each business — as part of the state’s recent booze buyback program for shuttered businesses, Whitmer announced today.

Licensees actually keep possession of the products while receiving a 100% refund. Bars and restaurants have 90 days after the emergency declaration is lifted to repurchase the inventory by selling it when they’re back open for business and paying the state back without any interest.

The Free Press reports that grocery stores across the country — including Kroger, Meijer and Costco — are putting limitations on meat purchases as processing facilities either suspend or slow down operations to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among thousands of employees.

The Detroit News reports that a security guard at Family Dollar was killed after turning away a customer that wasn’t wearing a face mask. The Holly Police Department is also searching for another maskless dollar store shopper that wiped his face on store staff, reports the Free Press.

Despite the governor’s orders that prohibit casinos from opening until at least May 28, at least one tribal casino in the Upper Peninsula is hashing plans to reopen next week, MLive reports.

In Greater Lansing...

The Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency will distribute care packages to Lansing-area veterans and National Guard and Reserve members as a symbol of appreciation and support amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And they’ll include gift cards, snacks and handwritten notes.

“These care packages do not necessarily carry a significant monetary value, but the value of interaction and an expression of thanks can be priceless, even if it is done while following social distancing guidelines,” Veterans Affairs Agency Director Zaneta Adams said in a press release.

The gift packages will be distributed at a drive-thru event on Wednesday in Lansing. Supplies are limited and registration is required at Eventbrite. Partners include Lansing Community College, Lansing Area Veterans Coalition Region 7 VCAT and other local community organizations. 

Downtown Lansing Inc. has developed a public-private partnership to support local businesses. The “Lansing has Heart” crowdfunding campaign aims to raise funds for $3,000 mortgage and rent grants, business “Safe Starter Trust Kits” and support for overall downtown recovery efforts.

The Patronicity platform will double all donations to expand the new recovery fund. More than 30 donors have helped raise half of the $30,000 crowdfunding goal but another $15,000 is sought before May 11. Visit the campaign onlinefor more information or to make a donation. 

In the numbers...

Due to a technological glitch at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, today’s daily update is not necessarily representative of the full data reported since yesterday.

The backlog will take more time to process with additional cases to be reported tomorrow.

Still, Greater Lansing reported at least four new cases today but no new deaths. Statewide, the case count climbed to nearly 44,000 with another 86 deaths, bringing the death toll to 4,135.

Here are the latest statistics available for Greater Lansing, Michigan and the country:

Ingham County                          

Cases — 508 (+2)   

Recoveries — 170              

Recovery Rate — 33.5%       

Deaths — 13   

Fatality Rate — 2.6%             

Zip code 48911 tracks 121-130 cases. Zip code 48910 tracks 61-70 cases. Zip code 48823 tracks 51-60 cases. Zip codes 48854 and 48864 each track 41-50 cases. Zip codes 48842 and 48906 each track 31-40 cases. Zip codes 48912 and 48915 each track 21-30 cases. Zip code 48917 tracks between 11-20 cases. Zip codes 48840, 48895, 48285, 48819, 48827, 48892, 48909, 48933, 49251, 49264 and 49285 each track 1-10 cases. This data is updated daily.        

Eaton County                       

Cases — 137 (+1)

Recoveries — 93              

Recovery Rate — 67.9%            

Deaths — 6                   

Fatality Rate — 4.4%               

Clinton County                          

Cases — 119 (+1)            

Deaths — 10    

Fatality Rate — 8.4%                      

The Mid-Michigan County Health Department does not report recovery statistics.                  

Michigan                          

Cases — 43,950 (+196)

Recoveries — 15,659 (as of 5/1/20)               

Recovery Rate — 35.6%          

Deaths — 4,135 (+86)

Fatality Rate — 9.4%            

State reports show that at least 70% of cases (and 81% of deaths) are reported from Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, including the city of Detroit. Other hotspots include Kent County with 4.2% of cases, Genesee County with 3.7% of cases, Washtenaw County with 2.5% of cases, Saginaw County with 1.7% of cases, Ingham County with 1.1% of cases and Kalamazoo County with 1.1% of cases statewide. At least 4.3% of cases, or 1,870 cases (and 45 deaths) have also been reported among state prisoners at the Michigan Department of Corrections.

Caucasians account for 34% of cases and 48% of deaths. Despite accounting for a smaller segment of the population, African Americans account for 32% of cases and 41% of deaths.          

U.S.                        

Cases — 1,178,906

Deaths — 68,689

Fatality Rate — 5.8%       

Source: CNN                   

As of this afternoon, Michigan still has reported the seventh most cases in the country, behind New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Michigan also ranks third in most virus-related deaths, behind only the states of New York and New Jersey.

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