Deaths spike in Michigan; top doctor warns about Detroit
LANSING, Mich. (AP) – The U.S. surgeon general said Friday that the situation in Detroit, a national “hot spot” for cases of the new coronavirus, will worsen next week — as Michigan reported the highest daily spikes yet: 801 new cases statewide and 32 additional deaths.
Three counties in the Detroit area — Wayne, Oakland and Macomb — account for 83% of the more than 3,600 people in Michigan confirmed to have COVID-19. At least 92 have died, mostly from the three-county region. The deceased ranged from 36 to 92 years old, with a mediam age of 70.
Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans “will have a worse week next week,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on “CBS This Morning." Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said police chief James Craig tested positive. “He is very fit and he has mild symptoms," he said.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration previously began implementing a plan in which hospitals outside southeast Michigan are being asked to serve as “relief” hospitals during the pandemic. They will offer 10% of their usual bed capacity to accept patients from hospitals overwhelmed with virus patients.
Henry Ford Health System, which has five hospitals in metro Detroit and one in Jackson, sought to calm people after a draft letter to patients circulated on social media. The document suggested the possibility of some very ill patients not being eligible for a ventilator or care in an intensive care unit because it would take resources from others who might survive.
Dr. Adnan Munkarah, executive president and chief clinical officer, said the development of such guidelines are commonplace in crises and they would only be used during an “extreme emergency,” including if patients could not be transferred to other hospitals with open beds. “We hopefully will never have to share it,” he said. “We'd be foolish if we are not prepared.”
Munkarah said an anesthesiology machine used in operating rooms could be used to ventilate patients, and Ford was looking into ways to share ventilators between two patients if needed.
Whitmer told radio station WWJ it was “very unlikely” students would return to school this spring, but she had “not made that call yet.” K-12 schools are in the midst of a four-week shutdown. She will announce a plan next week to make sure seniors graduate and no child is held back due to the lack of face-to-face instruction, said spokeswoman Tiffany Brown. It was unknown to what extent districts may be asked to do online teaching, which is happening in some communities.
Whitmer on Friday delayed the April 15 deadline for state taxes to July 15, mirroring a change in the federal due date.
Included in a $2.2 trillion federal rescue package that was signed into law Friday is at least $2 billion for Michigan's state government, separate from additional funding that will go to schools and universities, said budget office spokesman Kurt Weiss. He said the law does not let states use the money to offset tax revenue lost due to the economic downturn caused by the outbreak. “But discussions are ongoing in D.C., and we are hopeful that there will be some consideration for what this is doing to Michigan’s budget and other state budgets across the country,” he said.
The state Unemployment Insurance Agency, deluged with a record number of applications for jobless benefits, announced a schedule for workers to file on certain days based on the first letter of their last name. It urged people to file online and only call if they cannot access a computer or the internet.
Whitmer ordered that local elections held on May 5 be conducted to the greatest extent possible with absentee ballots issued and submitted by mail. Each community must have at least one place where people can vote on Election Day.
Whitmer told WWJ that the state contracted with companies for much-needed supplies such as medical masks, but vendors were told not to send items to Michigan. Her comments were seen as potentially suggesting that the White House punished the state for her criticism of President Donald Trump's preparedness for and response to the crisis.
She later clarified her remarks to CNN, saying shipments were delayed or canceled so equipment first goes to the federal government — echoing comments she had made Thursday. She mentioned Massachusetts and Los Angeles as having similar issues. “This is an issue that we are confronting as a nation, where we are bidding against one another, where we are struggling to grab every PPE (personal protective equipment) that we can get our hands on," Whitmer said.
Trump, who has taken exception to Whitmer's criticism of his preparedness for and response to the public health crisis, said Whitmer should be more “appreciative.” He said Vice President Mike Pence should not call “the woman in Michigan.”
The governor's Thursday request that Trump declare a disaster in Michigan, like he has in other states, is pending.
“Right now, we all need to be focused on fighting the virus, not each other,” Whitmer tweeted. "I’m willing to work with anyone as long as we get the personal protective equipment we need for the people of Michigan."
Associated Press writer Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this report.
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