Governor outlines plan for coronavirus response


WINDSOR TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday activated the State Emergency Operations Center to make sure Michigan is ready to respond if coronavirus shows up in the state.

“While there have been no confirmed cases in Michigan yet, and the current risk of getting coronavirus in the United States is low, we must take an abundance of caution to ensure the safety of our families,” Whitmer said during a morning news conference at the SEOC near Lansing.

The center brings together local, state and federal agencies, as well as private organizations, that will be on the front lines if coronavirus becomes a problem here.

Included in the state’s battle plan is providing quicker clarity when a case of COVID-19, the coronavirus illness that has sickened tens of thousands of people in China, is suspected.

“We can now test for the disease in the state. We no longer have to send samples to the CDC,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said.

That should cut the wait time for results from days to hours.

The state will also soon launch a campaign aimed at reminding you of the best ways to fight the spread of all sorts of bugs, including coronavirus, like proper hand-washing. The governor even suggested backing off on a common way of greeting others:

“Replace handshakes with elbow bumps or fist pumps is something we are encouraging,” she said.

Whitmer said the state is working with business and education leaders to make sure they are prepared in the unlikely chance that coronavirus shuts down a school or closes a businesses.

The state has also set up a website with the latest information on the virus.

As of Thursday, the Associated Press reported the number of cases of COVID-19 worldwide had climbed past 82,000, including 2,800 deaths, the vast majority of those in China.

As worldwide concerns grows, so is West Michigan’s role in dealing what has the potential to become a pandemic. Battle Creek’s Fort Custer was pressed into service in 2005 to house refugees from Hurricane Katrina. Now, the Department of Defense is looking at Custer as a potential site for refugees from areas hard hit by coronavirus.

“We set aside a facility with a 20-bed capacity, but to date, it has not been activated,” said Gen. Paul Rogers, director of the state’s Military and Veterans Affairs Department.

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