Michigan has at least three deaths related to virus outbreak

DETROIT — The state of Michigan signed off on $20 million in grants and loans to small businesses harmed by COVID-19 while the number of cases and deaths tied to the outbreak rose Thursday.

Michigan Strategic Fund board members said it wasn't enough aid. But Michigan Economic Development Corp. officials said it's just a start and was made possible by shifting money from other programs.

About 117,000 businesses were directly impacted by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's order to close or greatly limit service at bars, movie theaters, fitness centers and restaurants to prevent the spread of the virus. Some could qualify for grants of up to $10,000.

Hospitals, meanwhile, reported two more deaths, raising the number to three in Michigan. A woman in her 50s with other health complications died at McLaren Oakland medical center in Pontiac, while an 81-year-old man died at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Both died Wednesday, along with a man in his 50s at a Beaumont Health hospital in Wayne County. The state's medical executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, said more deaths are expected.

Michigan is reporting at least 110 COVID-19 cases, but the number lags because county health departments are getting more timely information. Oakland County, for example, had at least 94 cases by Thursday morning, spokesman Bill Mullan said.

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

Amtrak said it canceled trains between Grand Rapids and Chicago due to a drop in demand. Ford Motor, which is temporarily closing factories, said it's suspending dividends to conserve cash.

The Michigan Supreme Court ordered only "essential functions" in all courtrooms and a 10-person limit. Critics said a lack of consistency up and down the state was creating health risks.

Separately, Chief Justice Bridget McCormack said it makes sense for local officials to look at jails as they assess the risk of spreading the virus. She said "there's an awful lot of people" locked up for very minor offenses who wouldn't be a threat to public safety if released during the health crisis.

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