Are stricter government COVID-19 rules inevitable as cases spike in Michigan? Top hospital officials weigh in

Officials believe tools to combat spread of COVID-19 are in place without further restrictions

Face coverings required. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Eric Gay, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

As COVID-19 trends worsen dramatically across Michigan, are stricter government regulations inevitable? The top hospital officials in the state weighed in on that topic.

“Is calling on residents to do the right thing enough or, based on what’s happened in the last month, is it going to be necessary for the government to step up its restrictions, requirements?”

READ: Michigan hospital leaders call on residents to heed COVID warnings as cases, deaths surge

That’s the question that was posed to the top hospital leaders in Michigan during a virtual panel Thursday. The presidents and CEOS of Henry Ford Health System, Beaumont Health, Spectrum Health, Munson Healthcare and UP Health System-Marquette joined the discussion to highlight the alarming trajectory of COVID-19 numbers statewide.

“Do we need everything from tougher penalties if people don’t wear masks, to a stay-at-home order? Is just asking people really going to be enough, or would you like to see the government take stronger action?” a reporter asked.

John Fox, president and CEO of Beaumont Health, said the tools to slow the spread of COVID-19 are already in place. Throughout the discussion, he referred to wearing masks, practicing social distancing and washing hands as the “big three” safety practices.

“None of us want to go through the shut down and the brute force of what happened in the spring,” Fox said. “I think we don’t need to do that, but I do think that government, and frankly all of our communities, play a critical role in reinforcing the way that we can control this virus.

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“The tools to control it are there. They’re all accessible, and we just have to constantly emphasize that in any and every way we can. I don’t think any of us want to see a lot of regulation dropped down on business and social activities and other things, but we can’t be tone deaf to the reality of this virus and its massive impact it can have, clinically and otherwise, on Michigan.”

Wright Lassiter, president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System, agreed with Fox, saying a “blanket shutdown” wouldn’t provide the specific protections Michigan needs.

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“I think it remains to be seen whether or not simply asking Michiganders will be enough,” Lassiter said. “I think that’s where we stand currently, that if doing the right thing and using ration and science isn’t sufficient, then there may be other steps that end up being necessary.”

Lassiter said a broad-based shutdown likely would not be effective. He said measures taken to combat specific issues and locations contributing to the spread might be needed if trends don’t change.

Gerry Anderson, executive chairman at DTE Energy and a member of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Michigan Economic Recovery Council, said when cases in other places have reached the pace of increase that Michigan is currently seeing, reversing to broad shutdowns is not common.

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“They’ve been much more targeted, where government did intervene,” Anderson said. “Generally, they’ve intervened to shut down social interactions, because that is where the spread is occurring. Generally, businesses are finding that cases are coming into the workplace from social settings, or from home settings.”

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Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.