Detroit Regional Chamber’s Perspective on Michigan’s Pause to Save LivesNovember 16, 2020
Where We Are Now
As many public health experts predicted, the colder months have brought a substantial spike in coronavirus cases, positivity rates, and hospitalizations. Given the flattening – and even reduction of the virus levels during the summer – many may have a hard time adjusting to yet again having to restrict our daily lives. However, the data clearly shows that the COVID-19 spike Michigan and the rest of the nation is dealing with is far greater than the initial emergence of the virus in the spring:
- Positive COVID-19 cases stand at over 7,000 per day, compared to the 1,878-case peak during the spring.
- Positivity rates stand at 12%, compared to less than 3% in early October.
- Hospitalizations resulting from COVID-19 are doubling every two weeks and at that rate, will eclipse our spring capacity peak by December.
- Michigan COVID-19-related deaths are increasing as rapidly as the pandemic’s peak in early April when in a three-week period, deaths increased from 22 per week to over 1,000 per week.
- This alarming rise in cases is across all parts of Michigan, compared to the initial emergence that was concentrated in Southeast Michigan.
- While many Michiganders have put COVID-19 in the back of their minds, health care professionals have been running at full tilt since the emergence of the crisis and their ability to handle this increased spike is beyond reasonable expectations.
- Unlike the situation in the spring, this COVID-19 spike has swept the nation, mitigating the ability for states to share resources. Every corner of the nation will require all the resources they have; and then some.
Given these facts, it is not surprising that the State of Michigan has utilized public health authorities to implement a three-week pause – reimposing several restrictions on activities and business operations in an attempt to moderate this serious COVID-19 spike. The State of Michigan, under Gov. Whitmer’s leadership, has consistently prioritized public health. The Governor has faithfully executed the government’s key role of keeping people safe and has done so often in the face of overheated opposition as evidenced by the shocking kidnapping plot uncovered by Federal authorities this summer.
Economic Crisis as Grave as Health Crisis
While the State’s actions are understandable, it puts already suffering businesses in an even more precarious situation. This pause order impacts businesses struggling the most or that have only recently been allowed to reopen, such as restaurants, fitness facilities, theaters, and others. These additional restrictions will lead to the permanent closure of even more Michigan businesses, which will damage our economy in both the short and long terms.
Businesses who have taken every possible step to keep their employees, customers, and public safe deserve to know exactly what threat their operations pose to public health. As these recent orders are framed, there are business types included that have no documented cases of COVID-19 spread.
The Chamber’s Recommendations to Leadership
The Chamber concurs that actions should be taken to mitigate the growing and serious public health risks. We suggest the following for Michigan’s government leaders:
- Speak with one clear voice – #MaskUp Michigan. The evidence is clear, wearing a proper face covering is the most effective way to mitigate the spread of the virus. More vigorous mask standards have been called for by national business organizations such as the Business Roundtable, National Association of Manufacturers, National Retail Federation, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce as a tool to keep more businesses open and provide the public more confidence to be engaged in public commerce. A clearer mask policy coupled with allowing businesses to remain open would be a productive conversation for the Governor and legislative leadership to have.
- Provide clear data on which types of establishments pose additional risks to the public when mandating these businesses be closed to protect public health.
- Our executive and legislative leadership should be working together more collaboratively. As this crisis now passes eight months, the division between our executive and legislative leaders has become glaring and not helpful as Michiganders grapple with the dual challenges of health and economy. The mixed messages from Lansing harm both our public health and economy.
- Our elected officials, along with the business community, should speak with one voice to urge action by the Federal government to enact new financial support for businesses and individuals. This action is urgently needed and cannot wait for the new Administration and new Congress in January. Too many businesses have gone out of business or are on the brink. We need these businesses to be here as we emerge from the crisis to drive our economic recovery.
- Expand our coordination with neighboring states. Setting a more uniform approach across the Great Lakes region will help send a message of bipartisan action and better ensure positive actions taken in one state are not put at risk by another.
The COVID-19 crisis will not simply go away and there are no easy answers. This is not a business as usual circumstance and not the time for partisanship. We need to act collectively to simultaneously protect the lives of our fellow Michiganders as well as protect the businesses that employ our neighbors and that countless Michiganders have devoted their lives to build.