As Hospitals Hit Capacity, Whitmer Seeks Disaster Declaration
March 26, 2020
DETROIT (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday again pleaded with Michigan residents to stay at home to rein in the coronavirus while the state’s chief medical executive said hospitals with empty beds were stepping up to ease the burden on overwhelmed medical centers. They spoke to reporters Thursday, 2 1/2 days after businesses were supposed to shut down unless they provide certain essential services.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said hospitals in southeastern Michigan, where the coronavirus cases are most numerous, are “at or near capacity.” She said some hospitals outside the region were willing to set aside 10% of their bed capacity to help out. The head of Beaumont Health, which has been swamped, raised the issue with Whitmer this week.
Khaldun said Michigan is “probably a few weeks” away from hitting a peak in coronavirus cases. The state had nearly 2,300 cases by Wednesday and 43 deaths.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, such as pneumonia, and death.
Henry Ford Health System said it had nearly 400 coronavirus-related patients at five hospitals Thursday morning, although the numbers can swiftly change.
Whitmer said her order that people stop gathering and keep at least 6 feet from each other at places like grocery stores was a command, not a recommendation.
“It doesn’t mean inviting 10 of your closest friends over for dinner. ... This disease cannot spread if we’re not out and about,” she said.
The governor said the “vast majority” of businesses have closed.
“If you are a landscaper, if you are a florist, if you are (in) home construction — none of those are life-sustaining businesses that should be open,” Whitmer said.
PITCH IN, PLEASE
Whitmer made an appeal for hospital gowns, ventilators, hand sanitizer, masks, gloves and thermometers. She said a recent shipment of protective wear from the federal government “was not enough for a full shift” at a hospital.
Separately, the governor said she has asked President Donald Trump to declare a disaster in Michigan like he has in other states, which would trigger food aid and money for rental assistance and temporary housing, among other needs.