Whitmer seeks major disaster declaration from federal government

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer offers an update on Michigan's response to coronavirus.
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LANSING (WJRT) (3/26/2020) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is seeking a major disaster declaration for Michigan, as the state implements a hospital load balancing plan.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said hospitals in the Metro Detroit area are becoming overwhelmed with coronavirus patients and reaching capacity.

"Intensive care units are full and emergency rooms are overwhelmed," Khaldun said.

The state has started moving some patients from those hospitals to other facilities around the state, who are offering up to 10% of their capacity for patient transfers.

"The urgency is real. That situation is getting more serious every day," Whitmer said.

Whitmer's major disaster request goes to President Donald Trump's administration. A major disaster declaration opens the state for additional food, housing and counseling resources.

The major disaster also would allow Michigan to start setting up temporary field hospitals to deal with a surge of coronavirus patients. State officials are working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin the process in case one is needed.

Whitmer and Khaldun noted Michigan's coronavirus cases remain on a steep upward climb and the state has the fifth highest number of cases. Michigan had nearly 2,300 confirmed cases and at least 43 deaths related to coronavirus as of Tuesday.

"The crisis is ramping up exponentially," Whitmer said.

Khaldun expects the state won't reach an apex or see growth slow significantly for at least a few weeks. Whitmer believes it will take a couple weeks for the effect of her stay home order to slow growth of coronavirus.

She said the apex will come sooner if residents practice social distancing and follow Whitmer's orders. Whitmer said coronavirus won't spread if people don't transmit it to others.

"The only tool we have to fight this and to support our health care system is to stay home," Whitmer said. "When we do, we save lives. That is how we will start to slow the spread of COVID-19."

Whitmer also continues seeking more personal protective equipment for health care providers. Already, Michigan has secured the following:
-- 13 million N95 masks.
-- 226,000 surgical masks.
-- 35,000 hospital gowns.
-- More than 4 million gloves.
-- Nearly 100,000 face shields.
-- 250 beds.
-- Thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer.

Residents and businesses are asked to continue contributing these items, along with no-touch thermometers.