Michigan officials plead for ventilators, people to run them
By DAVID EGGERT and ED WHITE
LANSING — Michigan desperately needs thousands of ventilators to treat victims of the coronavirus and more health care workers willing to pitch in during the crisis, state officials said Monday.
TCF Center in downtown Detroit soon will be turned into a 900-bed field hospital for COVID-19 patients who are not critically ill.
“There’s a shortage of acute care physicians. But I’d say it’s certainly nurses. We are definitely having a shortage of nurses to take care of COVID-19 patients right now,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s medical executive.
The number of coronavirus cases reported statewide reached 6,498 Monday, an 18% increase, while deaths rose to 184 from 132. Detroit has roughly 28% of the cases and deaths.
Michigan has 1,700 ventilators — critical equipment to help people breathe — but needs 5,000 to 10,000 more, Khaldun said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency sent 400 due to arrive today. The state is procuring 2,000 from other sources.
“That’s going to be a pressure point,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said when asked about people to operate them. “That’s precisely why we’ve called out to people who have perhaps retired from the medical field to consider coming back. That’s why we’ve made it easier for people to join the front lines.”
Khaldun said health care workers in areas that are not hard hit could travel to hot spots in southeastern Michigan. Whitmer signed an order allowing hospitals to be flexible in how they use medical professionals.
“If anyone says there’s one particular date where we know this is going to peak or we know how many people are going to get it, are going to die — it’s just not true right now,” Khaldun said.
Ford Motor said it will start making ventilators in late April at a factory in Ypsilanti Township. It expects to produce 50,000 by July 4.
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 death.
Oakland County, which has more than 1,300 cases among residents, rolled out online maps that show the numbers by ZIP code. County health officer Leigh-Anne Stafford cautioned it is not a complete picture of the coronavirus because it is not known where someone was infected.
Twenty-one of Michigan’s 83 counties have not reported any cases, including a five-county pocket in the northeastern Lower Peninsula.
Mayor Mike Duggan said Detroit is getting testing kits from Abbott Laboratories that can confirm the coronavirus in minutes instead of days. They will be used on paramedics, police and health care workers.
The governor, who is expected to extend a stay-at-home order and other restrictions at least through April, suspended all nonessential veterinary procedures and encouraged veterinarians to use telemedicine. On Sunday night, Whitmer urged county jails to consider early release of older inmates, those with chronic conditions and people nearing their release date, all to reduce the spread of the virus.
Whitmer, who signed $150 million in emergency funding to fight the pandemic, said President Donald Trump authorized up to 3,000 National Guard members to do humanitarian work in Michigan.
All Michigan schools have been closed since March 16. Whitmer, who has said it is “very unlikely” that schools will reopen, said she will publicly talk about the rest of the school year this week.
To encourage students, Grosse Pointe South High School principal Moussa Hamka recalled how his friends missed years of education while in refugee camps.
“They all turned out OK. It built some resiliency, some grit,” Hamka said in a video onTwitter.