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From our State Capitol in Lansing to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, WKAR is committed to explaining how the actions of lawmakers are affecting Michiganders. Political and government reporter Abigail Censky leads this section. There are also stories from Capitol correspondents Cheyna Roth, Rick Pluta and the Associated Press. As the 2020 presidential race begins, look here for reports on the role Michigan will play in electing or re-electing the president.

Ahead Of Patient Surge, Michigan Lacks Enough Equipment And Personnel

Michigan Executive Office of the Governor
Michigan is now the state with the fourth most cases of COVID-19—behind New York, New Jersey, and California. The states’ top doctor says Michigan is weeks away from peak infection rates, and the state is already facing severe shortages of equipment.";s:

Michigan is now the state with the fourth most cases of COVID-19—behind New York, New Jersey, and California. As of Monday afternoon, the state had more than 6,000 cases. Michigan is now in the trenches of battle—without enough troops or ammunition to confront the surge it’s facing.

As Cases Grow, There’s Not Enough PPE

In a Monday press conference Governor Gretchen Whitmer said Michigan received 112,000 N-95 masks from the national stockpile over the weekend, and the state is expecting 8,000 more soon, but it is nowhere near enough for the expected incoming influx of patients.

Whitmer said she’s trying to secure more personal protective equipment for health workers, but it’s complicated.

“We’re hopeful that all these contracts that I cited with all these expected PPE to come into Michigan come to fruition. But our experience has been that other contracts that we’ve been into have gotten delayed or diverted to the federal government.”

Last week the governor became embroiled in a protracted spat with President Donald Trump after she appeared on several cable news programs criticizing the federal government’s flat-footed response to the pandemic.

Her request for an emergency declaration for the state—which opens crucial aid coffers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency—languished, while states like Florida, Iowa, Texas, and Louisiana’s were swiftly approved. The President eventually approved the request over the weekend, but only after saying he advised Vice President Mike Pence not to “call the woman in Michigan,” in his Friday briefing.  

Earlier in the day on WWJ Newsradio Whitmer alleged vendors were being told not to send supplies to Michigan.

“What I’ve gotten back is that vendors with whom we’ve procured contracts -- They’re being told not to send stuff to Michigan,” Whitmer said. “It’s really concerning, I reached out to the White House last night and asked for a phone call with the president, ironically at the time this stuff was going on,” said Whitmer.

Under the system currently in place states bid against one another for personal protective equipment like face-shields, masks, gowns and gloves before securing contracts. The supplies will then be sent to the states unless otherwise redirected by the federal government.  

Thousands More Supplies Needed

Whitmer said the state has spent $80 million dollars to secure masks, face shields, gloves and beds for state health workers. Specifically, the state has: more than 20 million masks, 2,000 ventilators, nearly nine million ounces of hand sanitizer, more than 255,000 boxes of gloves, more than two million gowns, more than 2,000 beds, 210,000 testing kits, 3,000 thermometers, 185,000 face-shields, and 220,000 cartons of disinfecting wipes under contract.

We have about 1700 ventilators right now. We think we will need many more than that by thousands. So, there is no question we are going to need an additional five to ten thousand ventilators.

But even if all of the supplies get to Michigan the severe shortages of equipment and personnel are beginning to be faced in real-time. The state had the largest single-day increase in positive cases Monday—with over 1,000 new cases and 184 total deaths.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, says Michigan is several weeks away from the highest number of cases and will need thousands more ventilators.

“We have about 1700 ventilators right now. We think we’ll need many more than that by thousands. So, there’s no question we’re going to need an additional five to ten thousand ventilators,” said Khaldun.  

Dr. Khaldun said according to some state models, it’s estimated treating one COVID-19 patient takes 10 masks per day.

Short On Health Workers Too

Michigan is also facing a shortage of medical personnel to meet the wave of incoming patients infected with the virus. In Detroit—where the disease is spreading exponentially—FEMA is helping the state build a field hospital at the TCF center with about 900 beds to treat COVID-19 patients, but it’s unclear where the state will get the doctors and nurses to work there.

Whitmer also issued an executive order Sunday suspending scope of practice laws so physician assistants and nurses can treat COVID-19 patients.

“We expect a great need for additional medical support in the coming days, so we ask, please sign up now,” said Whitmer.

Over the weekend the state created a website where health professionals able to volunteer can sign up to offer their services.

The state’s top doctor, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said in the Monday briefing the state is also facing shortages of acute care physicians and nurses.

Whitmer cautioned in her briefing Monday it will be weeks before the state begins to see the effects social distancing, but urged residents not to lose hope, “don’t think that it means that your participation—your staying at home—isn’t having an impact, because it is and it will.”

Follow Abigail on Twitter, @AbigailCensky

Abigail Censky reported on Politics & Government at WKAR from 2018 to 2021. Now, she reports for The Colorado Springs Gazette and edits for The Catalyst Newspaper.
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