As signs of a viable vaccine show promise in resolving the COVID-19 pandemic, Wayne County Commissioner Sam Baydoun hosted and moderated a town hall with local and state leaders on Monday evening to discuss the importance of continuing to curb the spread of the virus.
The virtual event featured U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Gilchrist spoke first about the importance of continuing to wear masks, practicing social distancing and heeding the advice of medical experts until the vaccine is widely and readily available.
“Everyone has to do their part to continue to be masked up, we have to continue to practice… some physical distancing,” Gilchrist said. “We have to continue to do our best to follow those public health guidelines that have been given from the experts.”
Gilchrist also commented on the local spike, encouraging Michiganders to remember that the case positivity and hospitalization statistics are “real people.” He also cited the low statistical rates of positivity in the summer under stricter public health guidelines as a model for Michigan residents to strive toward. Khaldun confirmed this and cited a current 13% positivity rate compared to the summer’s 3% positivity rate.
“We’ve seen an increase in cases and we’ve seen an increase in test positivity,” Khaldun said. “When you have sufficient testing, like we do in the state (with) over 60,000 tests today, and you have your percent positivity going up … that’s cause for concern. We have seen significant community spread across the state.”
Evans echoed Khaldun in encouraging those experiencing “COVID-19 fatigue” to continue to push through what he hopes are the last legs of the pandemic.
“People are getting to the point that (they think), ‘I’m going to bend the rules now, because it’s been eight or nine months and a vaccine is coming,’” Evans said. “Things will get better … and this is the time when you ought to step it up and be more restrictive than you were before.”
Dingell praised local leadership for the steps taken to mitigate the virus on the state level.
“Michigan was hit hard (which) is something that’s being seen in states across the country and (in) Michigan. Quite frankly, we are very lucky to have the leadership that we do,” Dingell said. “And while some people have gotten angry at some of the steps that have been taken, it has saved lives.”
Dingell also referenced Dr. Anthony Fauci’s warning about holiday travel and the national uptick in COVID-19 cases. She said she is taking restrictions seriously.
“These next few weeks and months, we’re gonna have a surge on top of the surge,” Dingell said. “We find ways like this to talk to each other, connect with each other. I’m tired of looking at you in black dark boxes, but I can live with it a few more months, because I want to live with you guys for a long time.”
Whitmer spoke about the gravity of the situation economically for small business owners going into the holiday season as they try to provide for their employees and families.
“People are desperate, especially as we go into the holidays,” Whitmer said. “I hear from my small business owners (and) my restaurant owners who are scared to death.”
Evans concluded the town hall, encouraging residents to maintain a positive outlook and emphasizing the end of the pandemic is in sight.
“We’ll have the virus handled way before Michigan football gets itself together,” Evans said.
Daily Staff Reporter Sarah Payne can be reached at email@example.com.
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