Whitmer notes Michigan COVID-19 deaths could fill Fox Theatre

By: - May 15, 2020 5:42 pm

The second Democratic debate in Detroit in the Fox Theatre | Andrew Roth

Michigan Health and Human Services (DHHS) Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said doctors across the state should be on high alert for children who exhibit symptoms of a COVID-19-related disease called pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MISC.

Symptoms of MISC include fever, low blood pressure or evidence of organ damage. Khaldun added children may also have symptoms consistent with Kawasaki disease, which affects the blood vessels.

Symptoms include red eyes, rashes or swollen joints. Khaldun asked that any parent who believes their child may have those symptoms to seek medical guidance. 

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer give an update on COVID-19 | Gov. Whitmer office photo

The news about MISC came as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shared the latest COVID-19 updates. The state now has more than 50,000 cases and almost 5,000 deaths.

“Imagine you’re on the stage of Detroit’s Fox Theatre, which holds more than 5,000 people, and you’re looking out towards the audience,” said Whitmer. “Every empty seat in the theater represents a life lost to COVID-19.”

“It’s so easy to look past this loss if it hasn’t hit close to home,” said Whitmer, adding it’s crucial for residents across the state to remember the families who are dealing with unbearable losses.

Whitmer acknowledged that many Michiganders are facing tough times due to COVID-19 and said it is important for residents to pull together and offer support.

Michigan now has more than 50K COVID-19 cases

She also renewed her call for Michiganders who have symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested.

“Widespread testing is a crucial tool in Michigan that will help aid the re-engagement process of our economy,” said Whitmer.

Khaldun added the state is making great strides in its COVID-19 testing strategy.

“As of Wednesday, our labs reported testing more than 23,600 people in one day,” said Khaldun. “That is a record for our state.”

Khaldun said Wednesday’s test numbers surpasses the state’s goal of testing 15,000 people per day. The state’s seven-day average for testing in the last week is 14,200. Khaldun said that’s a 37% increase compared to last week.

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Plan to reopen schools this fall

Whitmer also announced the creation of the Return to Learning Advisory Council during Friday’s conference. The council, created under Executive Order 2020-88, will consist of students, parents, educators, administrators and public health officials.

Members will provide the COVID-19 Task Force on Education, created in March, with recommendations on how to safely and efficiently return to school this fall. 

Whitmer closed schools on March 16, just six days after Michigan saw its first two cases of COVID-19. She announced on April 30 school buildings would remain closed for the duration of the 2019-20 school year.  

The COVID-19 Task Force on Education is made up of members of government agencies, including DHHS and the Michigan Department of Education (MDE).

The council will help identify issues schools must consider before re-opening, including outreach efforts, ensuring public health experts are providing input on safety and recommending actions to develop and improve remedial support systems for students who experienced learning loss during the spring and summer.

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Whitmer said health care and education experts, along with students, educators and families play a critical role in determining whether it’s possible for students to safely return to in-person classes in fall. 

“This panel will use a data-informed and science-based approach with input from epidemiologists to determine if, when, and how students can return to school this fall and what that will look like.”

The state will also be partnering with Opportunity Labs, a national nonprofit focused on project management now that the Return to Learning Advisory Council has been created.

Opportunity Labs Managing Director Dr. Mario Ramirez will be among those working with the state. He is an emergency physician and former acting director of pandemic and emerging threats for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Support for the project came from the Council of Michigan Foundations, the C.S. Mott Foundation and other philanthropic organizations.

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Alleged death threat

Whitmer was asked about an alleged death threat made against both she and Attorney General Dana Nessel by a 32-year-old Detroit man.

“It is never acceptable to make threats of violence, to anyone, but our office holders as well,” said Whitmer.

Whitmer added she’s never felt unsafe because of protection provided by the Michigan State Police.

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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.