Michigan has almost 3K COVID-19 cases, 60 deaths

Gov. allows pharmacists to extend refills, Nessel pushes Amazon/Whole Foods on sick leave

COVID-19 | NIAID-RML

Sixty people have now died of COVID-19 in Michigan. There were 43 deaths on Wednesday.

A statewide coronavirus hotline is open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1-888-535-6136. Information can be found on the DHHS website or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention website.

There are now 2,856 positive cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by a new coronavirus, as of Thursday afternoon, although state officials believe the actual number of cases is much higher. That’s a jump of more than 500 cases, as there were 2,295 cases Wednesday. 

Fifty-one of Michigan’s 83 counties have cases. Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties have been hit the hardest. Detroit has 851 cases and is considered a hot spot.

The World Health Organization reports there are more than 416,000 cases worldwide and more than 18,500 deaths, as of this story’s publication. There are roughly 70,000 cases in the United States and more than 1,000 deaths.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued more executive orders on Wednesday night to combat the impact of COVID-19 on the state.

In order to limit in-person interactions, Whitmer signed an order allowing the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, Unemployment Insurance Agency and other administrative hearings to be held by video or phone. In addition e-signatures on related documents will temporarily be allowed and hearing notifications can be sent by email or mail, instead of in person.

Pharmacists can dispense emergency refills of prescriptions for up to 60 days’ worth of non-controlled substance medication, under another executive order issued Wednesday. Insurers are required to cover these emergency refills during the pandemic. Pharmacists will also be allowed to dispense government approved COVID-19 treatments. 

The order runs through April 22, but could be extended as needed.

“No Michigander should be worried about running out of critical medications during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Whitmer said in a press release. “Residents who are limiting their time in public places and practicing social distancing shouldn’t have to fear running low on their prescription drugs during these trying times.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel also has been campaigning for safe practices during COVID-19. On Wednesday, she joined a group of attorneys general in calling on Amazon and Whole Foods to provide paid sick and family leave to employees during the public health crisis.

Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, enacted by Congress on March 19, companies are required to provide paid sick and family leave as during the pandemic.  

Whole Foods in East Lansing | Susan J. Demas

The attorneys general assert that the policy of Whole Foods and its owner, Amazon, to provide two weeks of paid leave to employees diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in quarantine falls short of the legal requirement under the Families First Coronavirus Act. For a company of its size, Amazon is required to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave for employees taking care of children out of school, with family members who are sick or who are in quarantine.

“Federal law provides certain guidelines for paid leave, and employers have an obligation to abide by those rules,” Nessel said in a press release. “Moreover, considering grocery stores are one of the places being frequented by consumers, extra precautions should be taken into account.” 

Since Whitmer issued executive orders shutting down businesses and banning indoor gatherings of over 50 people, the Consumer Protection Hotline has received calls that Nessel said she be redirected to local law enforcement.

Breaking: Entire Michigan congressional delegation sends letter asking Pence to grant emergency COVID-19 supplies

“These are unprecedented times and my office is working with Gov. Whitmer’s office, local law enforcement agencies and other parties to ensure these executive orders are being followed,” Nessel said in a press release. “The orders are in place to protect the public health and welfare of Michigan’s residents, and consequences will result to those found to be in willful violation. By working together through this public health emergency and staying home, we can help slow the spread of COVID-19 across the state.”  

Currently, the Consumer Protection Hotline is taking consumer complaints of price-gouging and scams. The helpline is 1-877-765-8388 or complaints can be submitted here.