After 12th coronavirus case, Whitmer shuts down all Michigan K-12 schools

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, March 12, 2020| Gov. Whitmer office photo

Starting Monday, no K-12 schools will be open in Michigan because of the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced late Thursday night.

As there are now 12 presumptive cases in Michigan, the governor called for the closure of all K-12 school buildings — public, private and boarding — to students from Monday until April 5. Many public schools are already set to be on spring break during the following week, April 6 to 10.

Coronavirus information can be found on the DHHS website or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention website.

“This is a necessary step to protect our kids, our families, and our overall public health,” said Whitmer. “I am working with partners across state government to ensure educators, parents and students have the support they need during this time, and to ensure our children who rely on school for meals have access to food. I know this will be a tough time, but we’re doing this to keep the most people we can safe. I urge everyone to make smart choices during this time and to do everything they can to protect themselves and their families.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the health departments in Ingham, Kent, Montcalm, Oakland, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties announced earlier Thursday that 10 adults tested presumptive positive for coronavirus. The previous two presumptive positive cases came from Oakland and Wayne counties.

Clinical specimens were collected from the individuals and sent to the DHHS Bureau of Laboratories where they tested presumptive positive for COVID-19. The specimens will be sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention for confirmation testing.

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Before Whitmer’s announcement, schools across the state were canceling events and parent-teacher conferences. Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti had announced earlier Thursday evening that DPSCD students wouldn’t attend school Friday and it’s an employee work day only as the district was evaluating its plan to deal with coronavirus.

“Thank you for listening @GovWhitmer,” he wrote on Twitter after Whitmer’s speech. “People will look back and say you were one of the few state leaders who got this right. Let’s hope [the] President [Trump] does his part.”

In an Oval Office speech Wednesday, Trump made three big false claims, causing panic and confusion. Trump said health insurers agree to waive all copays for COVID-19 treatment, when it’s only for testing.

Trump also announced a European travel ban, causing travelers to rush to buy tickets at premium prices back to the United States. But it will only apply to foreign nationals who have been in the Schengen region of Europe within 14 days of arrival in the United States. It does not apply to permanent U.S. residents, citizens or immediate family of citizens, the Department of Homeland Security said. The White House also walked back his comments that the restrictions applied to trade.

Governors across the country, including Republican Gov. Mike DeWine in Ohio, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear in Kentucky and GOP Gov. Larry Hogan in Maryland have taken similar steps to close schools.

Here’s what you can do to stop the spread of coronavirus

“Closing our K-12 school buildings is the responsible choice that will minimize the risk of exposure for children, educators, and families and mitigate the spread of coronavirus,” said Michigan State Superintendent Michael Rice. “The Department of Education will continue to work closely with our partners in state government to help our students and educators in each school district get through this time. This is about protecting the most people in Michigan.”

David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Michigan, one of the major unions representing educators, said it was “unfortunate news” but the union thanked “Whitmer for taking action.

“This health crisis deserves all necessary precautions to protect students, school employees and families across Michigan. We will be communicating with our members and elected and public health officials throughout this process to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible. This is a time to come together as schools and communities and do what we can to help one another and protect public health.”

Michigan DHHS Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun “closing our school buildings is the smart thing and the right thing to do for the public’s health,” said . “These actions will help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan. I will continue to work with Governor Whitmer and our four COVID-19 task forces to ensure we protect our children, our families, and our communities.”

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COVID-19 symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure to the virus. Patients with confirmed infection have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath.

The best prevention for viruses, such as influenza, the common cold or COVID-19 is to:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or upper sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • If you are sick, stay home, and avoid contact with others.
Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.