Gov. Whitmer: Hospitals ‘dangerously low’ on employee protection

LANSING — A field hospital at Detroit’s downtown convention center could get its first COVID-19 patients this week, officials said Monday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Detroit-area hospitals are running “dangerously low” on personal protection equipment. She also reported an “incredible surge” in the number of unemployment claims and promised that people would get paid, despite computer woes and bureaucratic red tape.

“We will get to you,” Whitmer said.

The governor gave an update on COVID-19 after the number of cases rose to 15,718 and 617 deaths over the weekend. Whitmer said she plans to extend a stay-at-home order, which limits people to essential trips outside their homes and shuts down most businesses.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s medical executive. “Our hospitals continue to be overwhelmed, especially in southeast Michigan.”

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are among those particularly susceptible to more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.

The federal government is creating a 1,000-bed hospital at TCF Center, formerly known as Cobo Center. Whitmer said the first patients could be there by Friday.

Also Monday, Democrats in the state House reported that Rep. Karen Whitsett, D-Detroit, tested positive for COVID-19 but that she was doing well and appeared “to be on the other side of this illness.” She is the second House member with a confirmed case, while a third legislator, Rep. Isaac Robinson, D-Detroit, is suspected to have died from the disease.

Whitsett did not attend the last day of voting March 17.

The state for the first time made public data on hospitalizations, though called it incomplete. On Saturday, there were at least 3,768 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 across the state — 89% in southeast Michigan. Nearly 1,400 were on ventilators.

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