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“It’s important to continue to take this seriously,” says Michigan’s chief medical executive

Nurses, doctors, and patients at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
Nurses, doctors, and patients at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan.

Public health in Michigan has undergone a radical shift. 

The COVID-19 epidemic has killed more than 4,700 people and sickened tens of thousands of others in the state. Most businesses are closed, and one million-plus children are learning in place as best they can. 

As the Whitmer administration begins to make decisions on which businesses to reopen and when, the state’s chief medical executive says the numbers are improving.

“We are seeing a significant decline overall in the number of cases and deaths in the state and that is positive,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.

But she warned, “We are still not out of the woods. We still see many cases and many deaths per day.”

“If you open up and you’re not testing enough people, you might have a false sense of security thinking that the disease does not exist. So it’s really important that we test,” she said.

In an effort to identify those people with COVID-19 “as quickly as possible,” the state wants to be running 30,000 tests per day by June. Khaldun says they especially want to be able to test vulnerable populations like those with underlying conditions and essential workers.

"We are making sure we are prioritizing those individuals, and also targeting folks who may be able to spread it to a lot of other people just based on their field of work.”

Khaldun says the state is working to expand testing for everyone in those vulnerable populations, even if they are not showing symptoms of COVID-19. When it comes to the data the state has collected and analyzed, she says they are doing the best with the information at hand, but it’s far from perfect.

“What this pandemic has really shown is that our data systems, our technology systems, are not what they need to be, and there is no question that public health has not been funded, across the country, appropriately for decades.”

The public, Khaldun says, should continue to take precautions such as social distancing, wearing a mask, and not gathering in large groups. Like so many others in the state, Khaldun says she too has lost people important to her due to COVID-19, and she hopes people continue to take the situation seriously.

Mercedes Mejia is a producer and director of Stateside.
Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
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