Updated: Michigan coronavirus cases up to 25, SOS stops walk-in appts. 

State launching hotline Saturday

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Updated, 9:06 p.m., 3/13/20 with nine new cases

There are new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by a new coronavirus, reported in Michigan as of Friday evening. That has brought the total of presumptive positive cases up to 25, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).*

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

DHHS says that the new cases include people from Detroit, Washtenaw County, Bay County, Charlevoix County, Oakland County, Macomb County and Wayne County.*

A statewide hotline to respond to health-related questions about coronavirus will launch at 9 a.m. Saturday. The hotline will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1-888-535-6136.*

Staff cannot provide individual clinical advice or a diagnosis through the hotline. If you believe you have been exposed to COVID-19 and are symptomatic, call your health care provider. If you do not have a health care provider, call the nearest hospital.*

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been more than 1,200 positive cases and 42 deaths reported in the United States There are more than 132,000 confirmed cases and 4,500 deaths reportedly globally. 

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this week declared a state of emergency and took other sweeping actions as the first preemptive cases of COVID-19 were found in Michigan. She announced all K-12 schools would close to students from Monday through April 5 and banned gatherings of 250 people or more.

Whitmer’s actions were endorsed Friday by Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake). He said the decision to close schools and limit gatherings was difficult, but he agrees with the governor that it’s the appropriate next step to get ahead of the pandemic in Michigan. 

“Governor Whitmer has acted to close school buildings and limit gatherings to less than 250 people. While this action may seem severe, we believe it is appropriate,” Shirkey said in a statement. “We have met with the gGovernor and her team and have experienced first-hand the thoughtful, measured, and data-driven process being used to arrive at these decisions. Closing schools is not an easy decision, but we agree that it is a step toward helping to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.”

Shirkey reiterated that the Senate will be limiting public interaction and only scheduling session as needed. Senators and staff are accessible to constituents, but will limit in-person interactions. 

Following the closure of schools across the state, Catholic Archbishop of Detroit Allen Vigneron announced Friday the temporary suspension of publicly celebrated masses until April 6.

On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency. It’s reported that his declaration could free up $50 billion to help fight the pandemic and empowers U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar to waive certain laws and regulations to ensure the virus can be contained and patients treated.

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USDA student meal waivers

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has waived regulatory requirements mandating that Michigan schoolchildren must eat meals together and at schools during unanticipated school closures, effective immediately.

Under the new waiver announced Friday evening, the free meals served during these school closures will not be required to be served in a group setting. School meal providers will also be allowed to explore other options for serving meals to students during the closures, including the delivery of student meals to bus stops or meal pickup at designated locations.

The waiver was granted in response to a request from the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), as both a preventative measure against the spread of COVID-19 and a move meant to support families in need who rely on school lunches.

Schools can contact MDE for questions about the waiver and the Unanticipated School Closure SFSP program at 517-241-5374 or [email protected].

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SOS branches

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced Friday afternoon that branch offices will not be accepting walk-in appointments. Only critical services that must be done in-person will be provided at branch offices within the next three weeks in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

Critical services include all new driver licenses and state IDs, title transfers and testing for an original commercial driver license, chauffeur license, motorcycle license and/or recreational vehicle license.

Anthony DiSano

Anyone who needs any of these critical services will need to schedule an appointment beforehand, and all other services will need to be done online, by mail or at a self-service kiosk.

These rule changes are expected to be in effect until April 5.

“The goal is to eliminate any crowding in our offices and thereby support the work of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her administration to protect the health of all state employees in Michigan,” Benson said during a press conference Friday.

Benson said the SOS is expanding the number of appointments offered, continuing to offer same-day appointments and extending weekday hours at all branch offices to help limit the inconvenience these changes may cause.

Offices will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday. No offices will be open for service on Saturday.

Benson asked that anyone with a current noncritical appointment reschedule it after the three week time period to open up availability. 

Jocelyn Benson at a press conference in Flint, Feb. 21, 2019 | Ken Coleman

The SOS also is lifting the restriction that requires the demonstration of insurance for license renewal to make it possible online and at self-service kiosks.

Benson said the department will waive late fees for the time being, and has notified Michigan State Police of these changes so they can convey the information to local law enforcement.

Preventing coronavirus

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.

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8.

Madeline Ciak
Madeline Ciak

Madeline Ciak is a former Michigan Advance reporter. She’s a University of Michigan-Flint graduate and previously worked as a digital media manager at NBC25/FOX66 in Flint and a weekend producer at ABC12.

Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins is a former Michigan Advance reporter. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.