(This story was updated at 3:30 p.m.)
THURSDAY, April 2 — More than 400 are dead from COVID-19 in Michigan, including three in Greater Lansing, as the number of confirmed cases statewide edged past 10,000 today.
Michigan charted another 1,457 new cases of COVID-19 and another 80 related deaths this afternoon. The statewide case total now rests at 10,791 with 417 deaths reported since the first two Michigan patients were identified on the night of the primary election on March 10.
Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties have each charted a coronavirus-related death.
The Eaton County Health Department reported today that a 71-year-old man died from COVID-19 on Tuesday. The Ingham County Health Department yesterday reported a homebound man in his 50s with underlying health conditions died this week at a hospital.
The Lansing State Journal reports that an elderly woman from Clinton County died yesterday at Sparrow Hospital. She, too, had serious underlying health issues, according to local officials.
“It’s a sobering reminder of why people must practice social distancing,” County Health Officer Linda Vail said in a statement sent out to local media outlets yesterday afternoon.
According to reports released today, about 89% of those dead (and about 80% of cases) are from Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, including the city of Detroit. At least 208 cases were reported from Ingham, Clinton and Eaton counties, with one death in each county.
The latest case spike puts Michigan within a few hundred confirmed cases of California, the state with the third most confirmed cases in the country behind New York and New Jersey.
Today, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed 213,144 cases of COVID-19 and 4,513 deaths in the U.S. The New York Times database, which is updated more frequently, listed 234,483 confirmed cases and 5,708 deaths nationwide as of this afternoon.
In local news...
Some patients, including one in Greater Lansing, have been forced to wait nearly two weeks for COVID-19 test results to be returned, according to recent reports in the Lansing State Journal.
To assist, Michigan State University opened drive-thru coronavirus testing yesterday for those with doctors’ order. The site is in front of Clinton County Medical Center Pharmacy on MSU’s campus, Parking Lot 100, 804 Service Rd. and open from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Sparrow Laboratories is also operating drive-thru testing sites for those assessed by medical providers. Those are at Sparrow's St. Lawrence Campus, 1210 W. Saginaw St., from 6 a.m. to midnight daily and Sparrow's PHP building, 1400 E. Michigan Ave. from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For those without an established relationship with a health care provider, virtual assessments and drive-thru COVID-19 testing are available through Ingham Community Health Centers. All patients will be accepted regardless of their insurance provider or their ability to pay.
MSU also sent three trucks of gloves, goggles, face shields, respirator masks, gowns, cleaners and other medical supplies to health care workers yesterday, reports the Lansing State Journal.
The Lansing Economic Area Partnership announced yesterday that it received 1,875 applications from businesses vying for a set of 60 individual $10,000 grants to assist those struggling amid the pandemic. Grantees will be notified April 6 and receive funding April 8.
Additionally, LEAP is accepting loan applications from businesses until midnight on April 7. While businesses cannot receive both loans and grants, locally owned small businesses with fewer than 100 employees (among other criteria) can apply for between 3-12 individual low-interest loans valued between $50,000 and $200,000 at purelansing.com/businessrelief.
Under an emergency order issued last week by the Ingham County Health Department, essential service providers and businesses within the county must conduct brief health screenings of workers and enact a social distancing plan to help curb the virus’ spread.
The Lansing State Journal also reports that as the pandemic continues, many local childcare centers are closing — leaving fewer and fewer options for residents near Greater Lansing.
Lansing City Councilman Brandon Betz is encouraging tenants in Lansing that are facing economic and health crises to join the newly formed Lansing Tenants Union. The goal: Build solidarity among residents and fight for stronger tenant protections in the city.
The cities of Lansing and East Lansing announced today that they will provide up to $30,000 in one-time funding to local charities and homeless shelters to help them purchase additional resources for those identified as homeless who cannot or do not want to be sheltered.
In statewide news…
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order this morning suspending all face-to-face learning at K-12 schools for the remainder of the school year as coronavirus cases skyrocket.
State officials remained hopeful that schools can reopen their doors by next school year in the fall, but exactly when in-person classes will resume, they don’t yet know. The COVID-19 apex is uncertain, and Michigan is preparing for a “tough three, four, five, six weeks,” Whitmer said.
“I know there’s a lot of anxiety about how we’re going to move forward to meet the needs of our kids,” Whitmer said. “This will be tough and it will require creativity, hard work and problem solving, but in my time in public service, I’ve met educators across our state that I know are eager to rise to this challenge. Our teachers are some of the hardest working people.”
School districts across the state are expected to develop plans to continue providing lessons remotely, including details of how teachers are expected to manage and monitor student progress. Those that rely on access to the internet must ensure all students can access lessons.
“No video chat or homework packet can replace the value of a highly trained, experienced teacher working with students in a classroom, but we must continue to provide equitable educational opportunities for students during this public health crisis,” Whitmer added.
High school seniors will still have an opportunity to graduate, Whitmer said. Additionally, all standardized testing — including the M-STEP and SAT — has been canceled this year. A date is set to be scheduled in October for seniors to take the SAT and for others to take the PSAT.
Under Whitmer’s order, school districts will also have added flexibility to adopt a “balanced calendar” to start classes before Labor Day. School employees will continue to be paid through the end of the year. And some requirements have been reduced to aid in teacher certification.
Schools will also continue to provide meals for families who need them and if any districts have unused personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies or other materials, they’re allowed and encouraged to donate them to organizations that could put them to use, officials said.
“What we want to make sure is that no student is penalized because of COVID-19,” Whitmer said, noting parents might be expected to return to work before classes resume. “We’re making decisions right here and now based on the best science and data that we can get our hands on.”
Yesterday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also declared a “state of disaster” in Michigan and moved to extend an existing state of emergency declaration by at least another 70 days — a possible indication that many sweeping, social distancing restrictions could remain in effect for months.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services requested yesterday federal approval to adjust the state’s Medicaid program. The request seeks to streamline enrollment, allow more telemedical services, waive quantity limits on medical equipment and supplies, and remove some limitations in order to allow more hospital workers to treat COVID-19 patients.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development reminded residents yesterday — National Census Day — of the importance of completing the 2020 U.S. Census. As of yesterday, residents can respond online or by phone or continue to use the traditional paper form. In May, census takers will follow up with households that don’t turn in a response.
Commercial and public TV stations in Detroit are teaming up to produce a live town hall meeting on the COVID-19 pandemic with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, reports the Detroit Free Press. It’ll broadcast tonight from 7-8 p.m. and give viewers a chance to ask questions.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun from MDHHS will also appear at 9:30 p.m. tonight on WKAR-TV for “COVID-19: Answers and Insight.” It’ll also be available to watch online at video.wkar.org.
Whitmer said about 20 members of the Michigan National Guard continued to assist FEMA with logistics support to establish a Federal Medical Station at the TCF Center yesterday.
She’s still asking doctors, nurses and other medical staff to go to the “front lines” of the coronavirus pandemic to staff the TCF Center, among other roles. Details can be found at michigan.gov/fightcovid19. The state is also seeking donations for more medical equipment.
The TCF Center could accept patients by April 9 and officials are looking at opening another field hospital at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, reports the Detroit Free Press.
Meanwhile, hospital systems in Western Michigan are overhiring as it prepares for a potential surge of coronavirus patients and the University of Michigan opened a residence hall to house medical professionals, should they need a place to sleep while working in Genesee County.
MLive reports that the majority of patients hospitalized at Henry Ford Health Systems in Detroit have been prescribed hydroxychloroquine during the last three weeks, which has shown some success in managing a virus like COVID-19 that currently has no remedy.
A Michigan Department of Corrections employee was reported to have died from coronavirus today. To date, 25 MDOC employees and 141 inmates have tested positive for the virus across nine of Michigan’s 29 prisons, with at least 59 cases in Jackson County alone, reports MLive.
The Detroit Free Press reports that an inmate at Macomb County’s jail also tested positive yesterday, in addition to four inmates in Oakland County’s jail that tested positive this week.
A citywide curfew has been announced in the city of Flint that will remain in effect from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. every night for the next 30 days beginning tomorrow. Those who don’t abide by the curfew could be punished with a 30-day misdemeanor and a $500 fine, reports MLive.
Whitmer said today she hasn’t discussed a statewide curfew but expects to consider the idea.
A national pro-life group, Susan B. Anthony List, slammed Whitmer today for requiring Michiganders to delay nonessential medical procedures except for abortions. The group is calling on Whitmer to take safety first and stop all elective abortions during the pandemic.
A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office said last week that state officials will not interfere with most medical practices, giving doctors broad discretion to continue abortions.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection would also like to remind all travelers that the border to Canada is open and fully operational, but to essential travel only. Medical professionals are allowed to travel, despite rumors circulating on social media that might suggest otherwise.
With alcohol consumption on the rise, the Michigan Liquor Commission also urged residents today to moderate their booze drinking as the pandemic continues to spread across the state. Nationally, alcoholic beverage sales spiked 55 percent late last month as COVID-19 took off.
In business news …
The Michigan Economic Development Corp. launched a new program yesterday to provide $1 million in grants to small manufacturers looking to retool and produce critical health and human service supplies. Grants range between $10,000 and $150,000 and will be given to companies that can quickly and effectively manufacture supplies for hospitals.
A survey released today shows Michigan restaurants have lost at least $491 million in sales and 72,000 jobs in the first 22 days of March alone, according to reports in the Detroit Free Press.
Attorney General Dana Nessel yesterday sent a warning letter to Menards following reports that the company has been unnecessarily endangering customers with marketing and sales practices that had been designed to draw more customers out of their homes and into stores.
The letter demands Menards cease activities that run “contrary to the spirit and intent” of the “Stay Safe, Stay Home” executive order. Under the order, home improvement stores — like Menards — can only supply goods “necessary to maintain and improve safety, sanitation and essential operations” of a home, and should have as few people staffed as possible, Nessel said.
“The current climate should not be viewed through the lens of business opportunism where dollars drive decisions over the good of the public’s health,” Nessel said in a recent statement.
This is the second time Menards has been called out by Nessel’s team for potential violations of Whitmer’s executive orders. The AG’s Consumer Protection team sent an earlier cease and desist letter to Menards on March 17 warning them against price-gouging practices in stores.
Many Consumers Energy personnel have been sequestered in campers and hotels for the next several days to protect them from contracting COVID-19, reports the Detroit Free Press.
Amazon workers at a distribution center in Romulus walked off the job yesterday in response to the company’s failure to protect the health of its employees, reports the Detroit Free Press.
The Detroit News reports that many hotels are going dark across Michigan and that a quarter to a third of the hotels and restaurants in the state will never be able to reopen their doors.
And with Karex Bhd — the producer of one in every five condoms globally — ceasing production amid the pandemic, the world could face a global condom shortage, MLive reports.
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