Michigan OKs $25M to fight virus; tournaments suspended

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LANSING — The Michigan Legislature on Thursday approved spending up to $25 million to combat the new coronavirus.

The supplemental budget bill, which Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will sign once the House concurs with minor changes, will allocate $10 million to state agencies for preparedness and response to COVID-19. Michigan has 12 confirmed cases.

Meanwhile, the Michigan High School Athletic Association suspended winter sports tournaments indefinitely, and it was announced that the state Capitol will suspend tours and events through May 1.

"This is a true and real public health crisis at the time, and we need to do what we can to help slow and mitigate the spread of this virus," said Mark Uyl, executive director of the athletic association.

The state funding may cover monitoring, lab testing, contact tracing and infection control. An additional $15 million will be set aside in a new coronavirus response fund and can be appropriated later. The legislation also will authorize the state to spend up to $50 million in federal coronavirus funding.

The state Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday that it can test about 1,300 people, up from 300 last week. The state had conducted 120 tests as of Wednesday. Ninety-one were negative, two were positive and the results of 27 tests were pending.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive and chief deputy health director, told lawmakers that there is no backlog at the state lab and that some private labs had come online with COVID-19 testing.

"We've known it was coming. But the idea is if you slow it enough, you can prepare your public health systems, we can prepare the community, and we can make sure our health care system, our hospitals, are not inundated with very sick patients," she said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only 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. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

School districts, including Rochester, West Bloomfield, Birmingham and Grosse Pointe, briefly closed or said they will close to prepare teachers for online instruction.

All of Michigan's 15 public universities previously said they were shifting to online classes or other methods for a few weeks or longer.

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