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Michigan lawmakers to extend emergency declaration

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan lawmakers began voting today to lengthen Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s coronavirus emergency declaration by 23 days rather than adopt a 70-day extension she requested.

The Republican-led Senate approved the shorter extension by voice vote in a short session, as senators covered their faces with masks and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, the presiding officer, wore an “Everybody Vs COVID-19” shirt. The GOP-controlled House was expected to take a similar vote later Tuesday, stretching the state of emergency through April 30.

Republicans said they had to act or else Whitmer’s emergency declaration would expire under a 1976 law. But Democrats said it would not have lapsed because she issued a declaration last week that also includes a new disaster declaration, meaning legislators did not have to vote until April 29.

Another complexity is that a 1945 law, also cited in Whitmer’s declarations and orders, gives a governor broad powers to unilaterally declare an emergency and when it has ended — without any legislative oversight.

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, including pneumonia, or death.

Lengthening Whitmer’s emergency is important because the original declaration is the basis for roughly 30 subsequent executive orders, including those telling people to stay home and closing schools and businesses. Michigan had more than 17,200 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Monday with 727 deaths.

The Legislature implemented screening and distancing procedures to limit legislators from potential exposure. Two lawmakers have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, while a third has died of suspected COVID-19.

Nearly 800,000 people have filed for unemployment benefits in Michigan since mid-March, Whitmer said Monday, detailing the extraordinary impact of the coronavirus on the economy with only businesses deemed essential remaining open.

The state reported 1,503 new confirmed cases and 110 additional deaths — the largest daily jump in deaths yet.

Detroit police over the weekend issued 74 tickets for $1,000 each to people who violated Whitmer’s order against large gatherings, Assistant Chief James White said.

With 154 infected officers, the police department is “not going to be sympathetic,” Mayor Mike Duggan said.

Whitmer said more people have applied for unemployment aid in the last two weeks than in all of 2019, when the state’s jobless rate was under 4%. She promised that people would get paid, despite computer woes and bureaucratic red tape, and said the size of the staff to handle the crush was growing.

“We will get to you,” the governor said.

THE AFFLICTED:

Henry Ford Health System, which has five hospitals, said more than 600 employees have tested positive for the virus since March 12. It’s not known whether they got it at work or through community spread.

Beaumont Health, the state’s largest health system, said roughly 1,500 workers are staying home because they have symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

State Rep. Karen Whitsett of Detroit tested positive but said she’s doing well after being given hydroxychloroquine. She is the second House member with a confirmed case, while a third, Democratic Rep. Isaac Robinson of Detroit, likely died from the disease.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are among those particularly susceptible to more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

FIELD HOSPITAL:

Detroit’s convention center could gets its first COVID-19 patients this week. The federal government has turned the TCF Center, formerly known as Cobo Center, into a 1,000-bed site.

“It doesn’t mean we’ll immediately see a thousand patients,” Khaldun said. “But we’ll have enough staff to start seeing patients as they’re transferred from other hospitals. We still need medical volunteers.”

Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi has been selected as a second field hospital, the state and Oakland County announced. Other sites are under consideration to serve as alternate care facilities, too.

BED COUNTS:

The state for the first time released data on hospitalizations, though it also called it incomplete. On Saturday, there were at least 3,768 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 across the state, 89% of them in southeastern Michigan. Nearly 1,400 were on ventilators.

Khaldun said the state must do more to improve reporting by hospitals, a day after the head of Beaumont called for real-time data. Beaumont, which has eight hospitals, was treating nearly 1,100 patients Monday. About 15% of hospitals were not reporting bed counts and ventilator capacity, and 26% were not reporting their inventory of personal protective equipment.

Khaldun said the state this week would start posting the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19.

Some nurses at Sinai-Grace Hospital in Detroit were sent home Sunday night during a sit-in over the appropriate level of staffing. The hospital called it a “work stoppage” by a “very small number” of nurses.

“We refuse to accept unsafe patient loads,” Sal Hadwan, one of the nurses who was sent home, said in a Facebook video.

GROCERY CALL:

The person with groceries might have a badge. State troopers in an Upper Peninsula community have volunteered to drop off food ordered from Jack’s Fresh Market in Manistique.

“Any little bit we can do to help the community get through this, we’re willing to go that extra mile,” Sgt. Mark Giannunzio said.

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