Latest on virus: Michigan has 549 cases, 4th death | jobless claims soar | some medical work banned

March 21, 2020, 7:26 AM by  Alan Stamm

As part of our daily pandemic coverage, we compile brief items you may have missed as health news sprays at high velocity from media firehoses.

►General Motors Co. is partnering with a Seattle area-based ventilator manufacturer to boost production of the medical devices to help COVID-19 patients, the Detroit News reports.

GM is offering its logistics, purchasing and manufacturing expertise to help Ventec Life Systems build more of its ventilators. The two companies are joined in the collaboration by, an private sector advocacy group. 

► Update: A 50-year-old Oakland County man died Friday after being diagnosed with COVID-19, according to a statement from the Oakland County Health Division, The Detroit News relays. He's the fourth Michigan fatality linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

Toll rises, predictably: The cumulative total of confirmed COVID-19 patients in Michiugan is 549 as of Friday afternoon, a daily state tabulation says. That's a jump of 225 diagnosed victims in just a day, a 69-percent increase that shows what "exponential community spread" means.

And Metro Detroit is hard-hit, with 207 new cases (92 percent) in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. Detroit has 149 cases overall.   

Unemployment spike: The number of Michiganians filing for jobless benefits surged dramatically the first three days of this week, The Detroit News and others relay. Claims are 1,500 percent above the usual level for this time of year. 

More than 55,000 sought unemployment benefits from Monday through Wednesday, said Erica Quealy, spokeswoman for the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.

The rush to file comes as restaurants, bars, gyms and other businesses shut and lay off workers in response to pandemic restrictions and safety guidance.

Your procedure is off: Forget about cosmetic surgery or dentistry, joint replacement, bariatric surgery or other elective procedures any time soon (whatever soon means these days). A new executive order Friday from the governor imposes restrictions on nonessential medical and dental procedures, starting at 5 p.m. Saturday or "as soon as possible." It applies to hospitals, surgical outpatient sites and dental offices " until the termination of the COVID-19 state of emergency."

"My number one priority remains to flatten the curve and protect the most people we can from the spread of coronavirus," says Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. "Our health care workers are on the front lines every day protecting Michiganders during these extraordinary and difficult times. By postponing all nonessential medical and dental procedures, we expect to reduce the strain on the health care system and protect people." 

The state's chief medical executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, adds: "Healthcare professionals are working around the clock to help protect and treat Michiganders, and by temporarily postponing nonessential procedures, this will free up staff and critical resources that will be needed to address the ongoing public health emergency."   

► Memorial Day ritual bumped: For the first time in two decades, crowds won't rave and wave to electronic dance music in Hart Plaza this Memorial Day weekend. The life disrupter known as COVID-19 bumps it ahead 15 weeks to Sept. 11-13, the Movement festival posts. Purchased tickets are valid for the new dates or in 2021, and refunds can be requested.

"It’s hard to accept that we won’t be dancing together this Memorial Day weekend," says the announcement. "Postponing was certainly not an easy decision, but it is the responsible decision. ... The safety and health of festival-goers, artists, partners, crew and related families are always our top priority. ...

"We look forward to dancing together during one of the last weekends of the summer!" 

What's Detroit Chamber waiting for? While an annual Techno festival decides on a four-month delay, a yearly conference of hundreds of Michigan business and political leaders the same week says it's "continuing to monitor the situation."

A gathering hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber remains on, apparently, for May 26-29 on Mackinac Island. "Planning for the 2020 Mackinac Policy Conference continues according to schedule," its site says. "Chamber leadership is closely watching the decisions being made about major events across the country and internationally. ...

"We are in regular touch with state and local health officials as we continue our event preparations. The final decision to proceed with the conference as planned will be made in consultation with public health guidelines. We will update our audiences as the conference gets closer." The event is now less than 10 weeks away and federal leaders say the pandemic risk is expected to last many months.

Military response: The emergency response escalates as the governor mobilizes the Michigan Army National Guard to help prepare and load gloves, gowns, face shields and other protective gear for shipment on military trucks to local and county health departments.

Guardsmen load Health Department medical gear in Lansing for military transport around the state. (Photo: Sgt. James Bennett)

"Our units frequently train and respond side-by-side with state and local emergency responders, making them well-suited for domestic operations," said Maj. Gen. Paul Rogers in a statement. "The National Guard has unique capabilities, providing local first responders with additional resources to combat COVID-19.” 

In a written request to the White House, the governor asks the president to authorize the Guard to operate with federal funding for pay, benefits and equipment. The citizen-soldiers would help distribute food and supplies to families, Michigan Radio reports.

► Court precautions: The Michigan Supreme Court on Thursday issued its first restrictions for courts statewide. Access to courtrooms and other public spaces is limited to no more than 10 people including staff. Courts at every level -- municipal, district, county and appellate -- are closed to the general public except for essential functions involving health, safety and constitutional rights. 

Child care for critical workers: The governor relaxes child care center regulations so that some closed public schools can convert into temporary drop-off sites for children of "essential workers." Pop-up centers may can be developed in hospitals, according to an emergency executive order, which doesn't say how the care -- staffed for school districts or contractors -- would be paid for.

Eligible parents are health care professionals, home health aides, emergency medical service members, first responders, sanitation crewss, child care workers, jail and prison personnel, postal workers, key government employees, in-patient food service staff, court personnel and "those working in Michigan utilities, manufacturing, mass transit, grocery stores and "other essential supplies, goods or equipment." Those who qualify can go to and enter information that will be routed to local placement providers.

Each disaster relief center must do a health check of everyone each time they arrive, and must reject parents or kids with fever or other symptoms.

Here's how a western Wayne County gouger rolls. (Photo: Facebook/Mike Arcuragi)

Canton opportunist: Police questioned a man selling toilet paper for $60 a case from his vehicle trunk outside Meijer on Ford Road in Canton. "It's unclear what repercussions, if any, the person faced," WXYZ posts with the Facebook photo at left by 54-year-old Mike Arcuragi of Westland, who tells the station: "I just wish people would calm down and quit hoarding and lets live life, we’ll get over this."

 Grim age data: "Demography is not on Michigan's side as it confronts the coronavirus crisis," Bridge magazine warns in the first sentence of a look at age data. The realiuty is that our state has an above-average number of old and unhealthy residents.

Michigan has the 12th highest median age at 39.8 years old and the 18th highest percent of residents over 75 years old. Just over 7 percent of the state’s nearly 10 million residents have passed their 75th birthday. ...

Michigan also ranks ninth for the highest rate of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or lung disease.

Brewing sanitizer batches: Griffin Claw, a Birmingham craft brewer, now gives out two-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer to carryout and delivery custiomers. The item is made on site with grain alcohol.

It plans to make 7,000 containers, marketing director Chris Lasher says in a release, and has given some to Gleaners Community Food Bank in Detroit. Old beer is distilled to make grain neutrall alcohol that's 160-proof to 180-proof, which is diluted with distilled water to become hand sanitizer that's 70 percent alcohol.

A wry banner spans the locked door at this Cass Ciorridor legend. (Photo: Reddit)

"We just saw the impact of COVID-19 and everyone running out of sanitizer," the executive adds in the statement quoted by Crain's. "We operate a distillery, so we got creative and were able to make our own. It started as a way to sanitize our own taproom and brewery without stressing the public supply."

Silver lining in East Lansing: Here's something that didn't happen this week -- no St. Patrick's Day spike in disorderly conduct around Michigan State. Arrests fells from nine last year to zero Tuesday, Deputy Chief Steve Gonzalez of East Lansing's Police Department tells Michigan Advance:

“The town was drastically different from what we've seen in years past for St. Patrick’s Day. ... These are unique times that we're living in, for sure."

Leave a Comment:

Photo Of The Day