Gov. Whitmer activates State Emergency Operations Center in preparation for COVID-19.

In response to the worldwide spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), Gov. Gretchen Whitmer activated the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC), located in Lansing, on Friday, Feb. 28. The SEOC is coordinating with state, local and federal agencies to prepare for possible COVID-19 cases.

As of press time, there have been no confirmed cases in Michigan.

“Right now, we’re harnessing all of the resources of state government to help people prepare and keep themselves and their families safe,” Whitmer said in a press release. “By activating the State Emergency Operations Center, we’re ensuring that every branch of state government is on alert, and actively coordinating to prevent the spread of coronavirus if it comes to Michigan. We are taking this step out of an abundance of caution.”

Alongside Whitmer was Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Director Major General Paul Rogers and Captain Emmitt McGowan of the Michigan State Police to inform Michiganders on how the state is preparing to protect the public health.

Since Feb. 3, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) activated the Community Health Emergency Coordination Center (CHECC) to support the local and state response to the potential threat of the coronavirus. The CHECC is working closely with local healthcare providers and public health agencies to create guidelines, provide education and identify potential cases of COVID-19.

“While the current risk to the general public of getting COVID-19 is low, we need to use all of our public health tools to make sure we are prepared,” Khaldun said in a press release. “Everyone can do basic things like washing their hands frequently, covering their coughs appropriately and staying home if they feel unwell to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.”

In Oakland County, County Executive David Coulter said he will task former Congressman Sander Levin to assist in the county’s preparedness efforts against COVID-19. Oakland County Health Division is currently working with the MDHHS and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“I want to supplement our strong internal efforts with an independent advisor who can assist our staff and collaborate with community partners,” Coulter announced in a press release. “Sandy Levin is uniquely qualified with his expertise on health care issues from his work on the Ways and Means committee, international relations, and his deep roots in Oakland County.”

After Rep. Levin meets with the internal staff, composed mainly of Oakland County board executives, they will begin outreach to other levels of government and private partners.

“In these health matters it is wise to exercise an abundance of caution and have in place the organization to be fully prepared if and as necessary,” Levin said in a press release.

Area hospitals are also preparing for a potential outbreak. According to Dr. Jeffrey Band, a semi-retired epidemiologist and the former chief of infectious diseases and international medicine at Beaumont Hospital, on Feb. 27, members of the infectious diseases department met to discuss the latest news about COVID-19 and the hospital’s readiness to provide for patients, if needed.

Right now, news about the virus and its spread is fluid, with new numbers being released daily. According to Band, the CDC will hold a conference call on March 5. The MDHHS will also hold a conference on March 5 to address the coronavirus.

“This is when specific information will be released,” Band said. “A lot of things have changed, but the state has a very aggressive and well thought out emergency preparedness plan. We will learn more specifics from that conference.”

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