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As U.S. passes China and Italy in number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, lieutenant governor explains state plan of action

Photo: Garlin Gilchrist, lieutenant governor of Michigan.

By Tanya Terry

UPDATE: On March 27, The House of Representatives approved a $2.2 trillion stimulus package that passed the Senate earlier in the week. The bill must go to President Donald Trump for his signature

The U.S. now has the most confirmed cases of coronavirus in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University, with 85,991 as of 4 a.m. March 27. The number of confirmed cases in the U.S. recently passed both China and Italy. Meanwhile, there were 2,856 confirmed cases in Michigan, with 63 of those being in Genesee County as of 2 p.m. March 26.

The primary responsibility at this time of the state is to protect the public health and public safety of Michigan residents, according to Garlin Gilchrist, lieutenant governor of Michigan. By far, what state officials are hearing most from public health professionals around the state, country and world is everything must be done possible to get out ahead of the spread of the coronavirus in the community without overwhelming the healthcare system.

“If our healthcare system reaches capacity and gets overwhelmed we will see the virus take a deadly toll. That is why we issued an emergency order asking people to stay home and stay safe for three weeks,” Gilchrist said.

The stay-at-home order says as many people as possible need to stay home and limit their activity for three weeks.

“If you are a worker working on essential services: utilities, at a grocery store or pharmacy or a medical first responder you can still work. But, we’re asking everyone else to stay home. That’s important because the virus spreads most effectively through human contact, especially in close proximity,” Gilchrist said.

He advises even when walking outdoors Michigan residents keep a distance of six feet away from other people. Gilchrist said as more tests are being done for the coronavirus and more people are passing away, the spread is becoming closer to more people’s lives.

“I know a friend of mine who passed away due to it, and another friend of mine has the virus right now and is in the hospital. More people are going to experience this. We are doing everything we can to ensure that our safety net can cover people affected by this virus-whether it is gaining access to unemployment insurance, ensuring people can get their prescription drugs for up to 90 days instead of just 30 days so people can limit their trips to the pharmacies or making sure they have access to food from grocery stores or carry out.”

A mechanism was set up to support small businesses. There is a hotline for small business owners to get resources from the state and federal government including direct support programs and low interest to no interest loans, which Gilchrist has been working to make sure are available.

The small business hotline phone number is 888-522-0103.The hotline was set up by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)  to ensure economic support is available to Michigan businesses to overcome anticipated loss of revenue as a result of the COVID-19 virus.

The attorney general’s consumer protection intake team will continue to receive consumer reports of price-gouging and scams. Those can be made online or by calling the office’s tip line at 877-765-8388. For other violations of the governor’s executive orders, please contact the law enforcement agency where you reside.

“I think we need to think of what the consequences are a little differently than we do in other circumstances. The consequences for not being mindful and not abiding by these orders that we are issuing is not about a fine. It’s not about jail time, although there are mechanisms to make sure people are abiding by the orders. Law enforcement is working to ensure that people abide by the orders. But, this is about people getting sick and people dying, which I think is much more serious. Limiting the trips is a way to keep you and your family safe, healthy and alive. This is about our collective survival in a literal sense.”

The question of whether students will be required to work into to the summer if they return to classrooms at all this year is one the Michigan legislature must resolve, as well. The question has not yet been addressed. Gilchrist said action was taken with the health of the children and education professionals in mind.

The Senate unanimously passed a $2.2 trillion economic rescue bill on March 25 which includes stimulus payments to individuals, expanded unemployment coverage and student loan changes, among other components. The stimulus bill would send $1,200 checks to most Americans, plus an extra $500 for each child. The House of Representatives was expected to vote on the bill on March 27.

In an executive order signed by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer expedited provisional licenses were offered to childcare centers to expand childcare services for essential workforce.

“We recognize it’s a different time. So, the licensure process has been expedited. Those licenses are able to be approved more quickly and there may be a different standard. The ratio may be different than a childcare center under a traditional setting. But, it’s set up as an emergency because we want to make sure our first responders and medical professionals who are on the frontlines have a safe place where they can have their children.”

Gilchrist said the state of Michigan was doing all that could be done to secure all the personal protective equipment it could from anywhere in the world. The big three automakers have said they would manufacture protective equipment in Michigan so public health professionals do not get unnecessarily sick while they are doing their job to save people.

Gilchrist said people should check on their family members and friends by calling them on the telephone.

“This is a moment for our county and community to come together because perhaps like nothing else in our lifetimes this virus makes it clear that the actions we take as individuals have a direct impact on our collective community. We have to be mindful so we can get through this together. We have to ban together, perhaps in a way we never have. We will get through this as a community. ”

 

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