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Whitmer, state suggest precautions, not panic

Photo courtesy of Gov. Whitmer’s office Following the announcement of the state’s first presumptive positive cases of COVID-19, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services are providing recommendations designed to help prevent the spread of the virus. Whitmer urges all Michiganders to take these recommendations seriously and to share them with their friends, families and coworkers.

HOUGHTON — Governor Gretchen Whitmer late Tuesday declared a state of emergency, after two downstate residents were tested presumptive positive for COVID-19. However, her declaration was not intended to create fear or panic, but rather as a precaution, and to encourage a higher alert and sense of urgency among the state’s residents.

Whitmer’s action was taken in order for state and local health authorities, and health care providers, to receive the resources and assistance needed to address the virus through state and federal funding. The state of emergency also allows for immediate cooperation between state agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Education, the State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, local health departments and school districts, and others.

“Tuesday’s declaration makes it easier for Michigan to provide aid to local communities,” said Dale George, a spokesman for the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division. In the case of coronavirus, that assistance could include equipment, personnel or supplie, such as personal protective equipment, he said.

“We expect there to be more cases in Michigan, and we expect for there to be community spread,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, adding that the majority of individuals who contract the virus should see “very mild symptoms. Still, residents should do their part to stop its spread. Khaldun joined Whitmer for her Wednesday press conference to provide an update on recommendations, which consist mostly of common-sense approaches: hand-washing, cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, canceling or postponing large gatherings and people staying home if they are sick.

Whitmer had already created four coronavirus task forces focused on state operations, health and human services, education and the economy, weeks before the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed, in her determination to have every state agency prepared to be activated as soon as they were needed to be.

Whitmer’s forward thinking paid off. When the first two cases of the coronavirus were found to be presumptive positive on Tuesday, she already had a plan in place, and did not hesitate to enact it once those cases were confirmed.

As a result, local public schools superintendents met Thursday with local health department officials to determine which actions superintendents should take in the event the coronavirus reaches the Copper Country. So far, the Copper Country Intermediate School District has been following the recommendations of the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), CCISD Superintendent George Stockero said in an interview earlier this week.

Cancellations and postponements of large events and college classes are not the result of a statewide panic. They are the result of precautions recommended by the CDC and various state agencies, to prevent the spread of the novel coronava virus.

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