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Duggan urges Whitmer to re-open "non-essential" medical services; announces major PPE donation

Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit
Paulette Parker
Michigan Radio

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan on Thursday urged Governor Gretchen Whitmer to re-open portions of the medical system that have been closed by the COVID-19 pandemic, saying some people’s medical needs are “being neglected.”

Whitmer put a freeze on “non-essential” medical and dental procedures on March 20, citing the need to conserve health care resources as the pandemic was surging.

Duggan said it made sense to freeze many parts of the health care system when COVID-19 was on the rise. But he said cases and deaths are now dropping off in Detroit, and the city’s hospitals have excess capacity and better safety protocols to protect non-COVID patients.

Duggan said he’s now worried that many people with serious health needs, ranging from heart issues to diabetes, aren’t getting proper treatment.

“And what is really concerning to me is, I think the day-to-day health care of a lot of Detroiters is being neglected,” Duggan said.

Duggan said the Detroit Fire Department has anecdotal evidence that more people are dying at home, suggesting they’re putting off needed medical care either because it’s not available, or they fear going to the hospital.

Now that the pandemic seems to be abating, “we need the people of this city, the doctors, the hospitals, and the governor, to move quickly to open up medical care,” Duggan said.

Whitmer has suggested in recent days that she’s considering loosening some medical restrictions soon. But she has yet to announce a specific plan.

Duggan also announced Thursday that the city has received a major donation of personal protective equipment from international business mogul Joe Tsai. Tsai owns the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, and is co-founder of the Chinese online commerce giant Alibaba.

Tsai secured 350,000 masks and 100,000 protective goggles from China. He said the Detroit Pistons organization is also stepping up to make sure they’re delivered.

“The supplies arrived from China into Chicago a few days ago. So [the Pistons] are taking their trucks to haul that into Detroit,” Tsai said. “And then by next Monday, they will be distributing the materials to the various organizations where the materials are needed.”

Recipients will include first responders, and COVID-19 testing locations.

Tsai said he and his wife chose Detroit as an aid recipient because it’s been hit hard by the pandemic. As of Thursday, the city reported 9,036 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 1,036 deaths.

Tsai said he also had fond memories of a 2017 small business conference Alibaba held in Detroit.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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