LANSING, MI — As Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer offered condolences to family and friends of the state’s first COVID-19 victim, she acknowledged the lack of tests to gauge the full extent of the virus’s spread.
“A week ago we were standing here at two cases and now we are well above 100 cases,” Whitmer said, while at least six feet from the nearest person in the room, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.
“We don’t have enough tests,” Whitmer said. “We don’t have enough resources to process the tests … We have set up our own state lab, which I am so grateful we did that.
” … We are concerned about the system being overtaxed and we’re also concerned about not having enough tests to do all of the tests that we believe are necessary.”
As of Wednesday, state health officials had verified 80 cases of coronavirus, but due to a lack of tests, too few testing locations and 48- to 72-hour lag times on test results, health officials say there are likely many more existing cases yet to be confirmed.
“As the situation continues to develop, we expect more cases and, unfortunately, we expect more fatalities,” said Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, who joined Whitmer during her announcement Wednesday. ” … We know that so far today there are at least 30 additional cases of COVID-19 here in the state of Michigan.”
Khaldun wasn’t immediately able to provide figures regarding the total number of tests conducted by state government or private labs and said the state would be compiling that data over the next week.
She said nearly 500 tests have been distributed to private labs and the state lab expects to be processing up to 200 tests per day by the week’s end.
Whitmer wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a “shelter-in-place order” for Michigan, similar to what has been imposed in the San Francisco Bay Region.
“There could be a time that we might take that step,” Whitmer said, “but at this juncture there is nothing that I am announcing on that front today or that’s in the works.”
Whitmer laid out a list of “tough choices” she said she made in order to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including closing all K-12 schools until April 5, asking U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to suspend standardized testing, banning assemblies of more than 50 people, closing theaters, bars, casinos and in-restaurant dining, expanding unemployment benefits from 20 to 26 weeks and delaying state tax bills for small businesses.
Whitmer thanked Attorney General Dana Nessel for her efforts combating price gouging, urged President Donald Trump to quickly sign the Families First Bill to assist families impacted by the coronavirus and questioned the federal government’s lack of assistance to Michigan in addressing the coronavirus.
“But when the White House communicated to us that … we should go around the federal government … that’s when I said it was kind of mind-boggling,” Whitmer said. “That was kind of a strange message get from the head of the federal government, but I’m not going to parse that, I’m just going to get to work … “
Trump in a post to Twitter on Tuesday, in which he referred to Whitmer as the “failing Michigan governor,” said she must “work harder” to address the pandemic.
As of Tuesday, March 17, the Centers for Disease Control had recorded 7,038 cases and 97 deaths nationwide.
Michigan’s first coronavirus fatality involved a man in his 50s who died at Beaumont Hospital in Wayne County Wednesday morning.
“Our medical team went to extraordinary efforts to care for this patient and we are deeply saddened by his passing and empathize with his family,” Beaumont Health Chief Nursing Officer Susan Grant said in a release. “Our physicians, nurses and medical staff are all working together to care for COVID-19 patients. During a time like this, we are united to battle this virus.”
Beaumont Health reported that the man had other underlying medical conditions.
Of 15 new cases announced Wednesday, all arose in Metro Detroit’s Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.
Case data is released by MDHHS daily at 2 p.m. and includes any known cases through midnight of the day prior.
Wayne and Oakland counties have the most cases in Michigan so far, with 23 each. Men account for 55% of the cases and women 36% in cases where the sex was revealed.
Michigan’s State Emergency Operations Center is coordinating state-government resources and the response to the coronavirus spread. It has shared the following tips:
What you can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases:
· Always cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue or sleeve.
· Stay home if you are sick and advise others to do the same.
· Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
· Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.
· Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, if soap and warm water are not available.
· Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces(computers, keyboards, desks, etc.).
· It’s not too late to get your flu shot! While the influenza vaccine does not protect against COVID-19 infection, it can help keep you healthy during the flu season.
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