Coronavirus in Michigan: Day 48

‘Cautiously optimistic’ Whitmer targets construction projects for reopening soon

Ingham and Eaton counties each track another COVID-19 death


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MONDAY, April 27 — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced plans today to allow “outdoor enterprises,” like commercial and residential construction, to resume in the next two weeks.

At a press conference this afternoon, Whitmer rolled out preliminary details to slowly reengage segments of Michigan’s economy. And while nothing is changing just yet, she indicated that builders are expected to be among the first to get back to work as the COVID-19 curve flattens.

“We’re not out of the woods, but seeing signs that give us a reason to be optimistic,” she said. “Cautiously optimistic, but optimistic nonetheless. We should all take a moment to be proud.”

Whitmer said social distancing measures have helped keep the number of hospitalized patients below 3,000 despite prior estimates that predicted Michigan could’ve seen as many as 220,000.

“We’ll never know how many lives we saved,” Whitmer explained. “I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but we really have to be smart about this. We have to get this right. None of us want to see a second wave and we can’t risk that happening.”

With few exceptions, construction has been deemed nonessential under Whitmer’s orders, bringing most state projects — including those in Greater Lansing — to a halt while only a handful of road construction projects have been able to continue. And that’s going to change.

Whitmer said today that only business enterprises that pose the lowest risk of transmitting the virus will be able to resume under her extended lockdown order. That list is still being compiled, but it’ll likely include construction and a number of other unnamed industrial jobs, she noted.

“If we see a second wave coming, we are going to step back,” Whitmer explained. “I want to level with you: No one really knows what the coming months are going to bring. No one knows.”

State officials will also consider more of a regionalized approach to reopening various sectors of the economy by examining employee travel patterns, health care capacities and the prevalence and aggressive trajectory of the disease in individual communities. The type of workplace — depending on the level of employee and customer contact — will also be heavily considered. Face masks and other protective gear will become ubiquitous in Michigan, officials emphasized.

“Stopping is simple. Reengaging is complicated,” Whitmer added. “It’s really important that we’re all working together in a way that gets more people back to work in a safe manner.”

Whitmer also said she will request the Legislature extend Michigan’s state of emergency, which expires April 30, for at least another 28 days when lawmakers meet in Lansing later this week. She expressed confidence in her power to do so if the Legislature challenges it.

In Lansing... 

The Lansing City Council voted tonight to extend its local state of emergency through May 15 to coincide with Whitmer’s latest order. Similarly, the city of East Lansing announced today that its offices will remain closed to the public through at least May 15 with plans to reopen on May 18. 

At tonight’s City Council meeting, Mayor Andy Schor said that construction on McLaren Greater Lansing’s newest hospital has been halted. He said complaints had been filed about contractors working through Whitmer’s lockdown order but officials have since agreed to stop the project. 

Schor, State Rep. Sarah Anthony and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist — among several others — will host a virtual town hall about the 2020 Census at 4 p.m. tomorrow afternoon on Facebook.

The city of Lansing and Capital Area United Way are still accepting donations to the “One Lansing Fund.” Cash collected will help assist local residents struggling financially amid the pandemic with utilities, child care, rent, mortgages and other basic needs as found necessary.

Donations can be made to the One Lansing Fund online or by texting ONELANSING to 41444.

Local attorney Jamie White made a $10,000 donation today to provide meals for the staff at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing. He hopes other firms and businesses will also make donations.

Across Michigan...

A series of new safety measures from Whitmer’s office took effect today at grocery stores, pharmacies and other food-selling businesses that remain open in Michigan during the pandemic. The stated goal: Reduce exposure to COVID-19 for both employees and customers.

“We must continue to take aggressive action to reduce exposure and prevent a second spike in cases,” she explained. “This is not the time to slow our efforts; we must continue to be smart.”

Under executive order, customers are “strongly encouraged” to wear a face covering — even a simple homemade mask, scarf or bandana — over both their nose and mouth when entering food establishments, grocery stores and pharmacies as long as they can “medically tolerate” it. 

Those establishments must also now require checkout employees to wear some form of covering, ensure customers and employees remain at least six feet as part “to the maximum extent possible,” close all self-serve prepared food stations and eliminate free sample stations.

Ingham Co. Health Officer Linda Vail said those masks can be simple bandanas or scarves, encouraging residents to leave the medical-grade equipment for front line health care workers. Care should also be taken to ensure they’re worn properly and disinfected on a regular basis.

A violation of the new order is punishable by a misdemeanor. Enforcement of Whitmer’s executive orders, aside from those on price-gouging, have been left to local law enforcement.

Attorney General Dana Nessel has since asked cops to “consider the good faith efforts” of businesses that have tried and failed to obtain appropriate face coverings for their employees.

“While businesses work diligently to find appropriate face coverings to meet the requirements of the executive order, I urge employees that can safely do so to use their own face coverings as protection until businesses provide face coverings as required by the executive order,” she said.

Whitmer also signed an executive order today that suspends transfers into and from state prisons until more risk-reduction protocols are in place. It also gives local officials more flexibility to release vulnerable inmates whose release would not pose a threat to the safety of the public.

To date, at least 1,048 prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19. At least 37 have died. The Michigan Department of Corrections will monitor and evaluate the risk of the spread on a weekly basis and can lift the suspension of transfers whenever additional safety measures are in place. 

Another executive order also extends the validity of personal protection orders through July 21.

The U.S. Small Business Administration resumed accepting Paycheck Protection Program applications today. This is a second round of funding that will provide an additional $310 billion for the program and is expected to be totally exhausted very quickly.

More than 43,000 Michigan businesses received more than $10 billion in forgivable loans during the first round of PPP funding. Nationally, $349 billion was authorized for the initial round of PPP, all of which was committed by April 16, less than two weeks after applications opened.

The program offers forgivable loans for businesses, including farms, that use most of the money to retain or rehire workers. Businesses must have 500 or fewer employees or generate less than $1 million in revenue annually. Grants are also available. Click here for more details.

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency has provided benefits to more than a million residents, dispersing more than $1.66 billion in payments since March 15. The most recent federal reports show that 1.18 million Michiganders have filed unemployment since that time. Most workers who have not received benefits will be eligible in the coming weeks, officials said.

And Pure Michigan has launched a new campaign — “Two Peninsulas, One Pure Michigan” — to spread a message of strength and unity as residents stay home during the pandemic. The #ONEPureMichigan project is designed as a reminder of the value of unity and connectedness.

T-shirts with “Two Peninsulas, One Pure Michigan” graphics are available for $28, with $5 of every purchase going to the Michigan Hospitality Industry Employee Relief Fund. People are also encouraged to share photos on social media with the hashtag #OnePureMichigan.

In partnership with MLive, Under the Radar Michigan, and the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, Pure Michigan is also planning an upcoming virtual concert series featuring Michigan musicians. Donations collected online during the event will go to another relief fund.

More details on the event will be announced soon.

And in the numbers...

At least 15 more cases of COVID-19 were reported in Greater Lansing today, along with the tenth virus-related death in Ingham County and a sixth death reported within Eaton County. The regional death toll now stands at 25 with at least 641 cases from across the tri-county area.

Michigan tracked another 432 confirmed coronavirus cases earlier this afternoon with 92 more virus-related deaths, edging up the case count past 38,000 statewide with at least 3,400 dead..

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

Ingham County                        

Cases — 418 (+12)

Recoveries — 124             

Recovery Rate — 29.7%         

Deaths — 10 (+1)   

Fatality Rate — 2.4%               

At least 91-100 cases are in southwest Lansing in zip code 48911. Much of the rest of south Lansing, Mason, East Lansing, Meridian and Bath townships each tally 41-50 cases in zip codes 48910, 48823 and 48854. Zip codes 48864, 48842 and 48906 each track 21-30 cases. Zip codes 48912 and 48915 each track 11-20 cases. Zip codes 48840, 48895, 48917, 48285, 48819, 48827, 48892, 48909, 48933, 49251, 49264 and 49285 each track 10 cases or less.      

Eaton County                        

Cases — 116 (+0)

Recoveries — 75            

Recovery Rate — 64.7%          

Deaths — 6 (+1)                 

Fatality Rate — 5.2%             

Clinton County                        

Cases — 112 (+3)         

Deaths — 9   

Fatality Rate — 8%                        

Officials at the Mid-Michigan County Health Department do not report recovery statistics.             


Cases — 38,210 (+432)

Recoveries — 8,342 (as of 4/23/20)          

Recovery Rate — 21.8%        

Deaths — 3,407 (+92)

Fatality Rate — 8.9%          

State reports show about 73% of cases (and about 82% of deaths) are from Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, including Detroit. Other hotspots include Genesee County with 3.9% of cases, Kent County with 2.9% of cases, Washtenaw County with 2.6% of cases, Saginaw County with 1.5% of cases and Ingham County with 1.1% of cases reported statewide. At least 2.7% of cases, or 1,048 cases (and 37 deaths) have also been reported among state prisoners. 

Caucasians account for 32% of cases and 44% of deaths statewide. Despite accounting for a smaller segment of the population, African Americans account for 32% of cases and 41% of deaths in Michigan. Those of an unknown race accounted for 22% of cases and 9% of deaths.           


Cases — 987,022

Deaths — 56,144

Fatality Rate — 5.7%         

Source: CNN                 

As of earlier this afternoon, Michigan 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 New York and New Jersey. 


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