Lt. Gov. Gilchrist and Protect Michigan’s Kerry Ebersole Discuss COVID-19 and Vaccines

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As COVID-19 cases rise, Michigan is in a race to expand vaccination to keep people safe. The Detroit Regional Chamber has hosted two town halls with leaders in the effort to battle the pandemic. On March 26, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist discussed equitable vaccine distribution and allocations based on race, as well as the state’s progress in delivering equity for all. Then, on March 31, the State of Michigan’s Kerry Ebersole, the Protect MI Commission leader, joined the Chamber to discuss the massive Ford Field operation to vaccinate Michiganders and the state’s progress toward herd immunity.

Reducing COVID-19 deaths among Black Michiganders from 41% to fewer than 6%

Lt. Gov. Gilchrist has chaired the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer created an executive order forming the task force one year ago – making Michigan the first, and still only, state to directly address racial disparities highlighted by COVID-19.

The task force was able to act quickly based on the strengthens of what Lt. Gov. Gilchrist calls “our collective” – state health departments, agencies, community partners, and hospitals. “We made the choice to actually instrument our public health infrastructure to measure, track, and report data on demographics when it came to COVID-19 tests and fatalities that included race and ethnicity,” explained the lieutenant governor.

Through the breadth of its research, the task force saw a dangerous and deadly disparity. In the first two months of the pandemic, Black people accounted for 41% of COVID-19 cases in Michigan despite making up less than 14% of the state’s population.

“We needed to take action because people were dying everyday…I’ve lost 27 people to date from COVID-19,” said Lt. Gov. Gilchrist.

The state’s task force also included leaders representing business, clergy, labor, the youth, young professionals, parents, hospital systems, insurance companies, tribal and indigenous nations, higher education, community colleges, and K-12 education. “Everybody has a seat at this table,” said Lt. Gov. Gilchrist. Read the full recap.

Ebersol on Expanding Vaccination During Surging COVID Cases

At Ford Field

Ebersole opened with an update and advice regarding the Ford Field vaccine clinic. The team there has administered more than 38,000 shots in the past week. This number includes some of the mobile sites being used to get into the communities. As for securing an appointment at Ford Field, it is best to register to sign up for an appointment. Walk-in availability is sparse and unreliable, so Ebersole advises getting an appointment set up.

Across the State

Early on in the rollout, Ebersole said, the biggest challenge with getting Michiganders vaccinated was lack of supply. Now, as supply increases and community partnerships continue to come online, the percentage of those 65 and above across the state is showing consistent progress. Initial data is promising regarding cases in this age group, showcasing the effectiveness of the vaccines.

Impact of Michigan’s Case Surge

The challenge now is balancing the optimism of having safe and effective vaccines and the benefits of more of the population receiving them with the caution that needs to be upheld as cases continue to rise across the state. It is important to consider that we know what works, said Ebersole. Vaccines, masking, and social distancing still work and should continue to be at the forefront of prevention efforts.

“As our vaccination rates go up, I think we’ve got to continually be aware of younger folks…Pediatric cases in ICUs in Michigan hospitals are a national story right now,” said Ebersole. “Even as we adults may start to be protected, there are still transmissions happening with younger folks.”

With transmissions continuing to occur, the virus still has the potential to keep mutating and stray further from what the vaccines currently available are designed to address.

“This is why it is really our individual responsibility to not only protect ourselves and our loved ones but be thoughtful in terms of how we’re engaging with other families,” said Ebersole. Read the full recap.


Coming Up Next:

In the coming weeks and months, the Chamber will continue having conversations with leaders in Michigan government and business as we work to defeat the pandemic and have a robust economic recovery.

Thursday, April 15 at 1:15 p.m.

Ford Motor Company has been a leader in COVID-19 mitigation efforts since April 2020. In addition to being one of the first manufacturers to pivot toward making personal protective equipment (PPE), Ford has been a forerunner in implementing successful return-to-work safety protocols and on-site vaccination for employees. Join Dr. Francesca Litow, medical director of global occupational health services at Ford, to learn more about the company’s medical policies, programs, and procedures to #FinishStrong in the battle against COVID-19.

Dr. Litow will participate in a one-on-one conversation with Tammy Carnrike, chief operating officer at the Detroit Regional Chamber. Participants can submit questions during the discussion.


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