VanderWall op-ed: Doing our part to beat COVID-19

By Sen. Curt VanderWall
35th Senate District

The situation we are facing in Michigan, across the nation and around the world is unprecedented in our lifetimes; we have never encountered a global pandemic as serious as the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Yet while we face extraordinary challenges, we have never been more prepared to meet them.

We all have a part to play in helping resolve this crisis. First, we must follow the practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to combat the spread of the virus.

This means maintaining a distance of six feet whenever possible when you must go out; washing your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water; avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands; and covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or upper sleeve when coughing or sneezing.

Perhaps most important, we need to stay home as much as possible for the next several weeks. Experts emphasize that reducing gatherings of people is an important part of reducing the community spread of COVID-19 and shortening the life of the pandemic.

This has been mandated by the governor’s recent “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order, directing all Michigan businesses and operations to temporarily suspend in-person operations that are not necessary to sustain or protect life, and directing Michiganders to stay in their homes unless they’re a part of that critical infrastructure workforce, engaged in an outdoor activity, or performing tasks necessary to the health and safety of themselves or their family, like going to the hospital or grocery store. Read the executive order here.

To help folks in need, the Legislature has sent two bills to the governor that dedicate $150 million to tackling the spread of the virus.

State funding breaks down as follows:
• $50 million will assist with monitoring, laboratory testing, infection control and maintaining the critical functions of state government;
• $50 million will support expanding health care capacity, as well as critical payments to hospitals, nursing homes, doctors, nurses and testing labs; and
• $50 million will be dedicated to the Coronavirus Response Fund, set aside should the situation worsen.

All of the new funding will be subject to oversight by the Legislator Auditor General to ensure every penny is spent as intended.

To help those who have become unemployed during this crisis, guidelines for unemployment benefits have been temporarily expanded to cover the following:
• Workers who have an unanticipated family care responsibility, including those who have child care responsibilities due to school closures, or those who are forced to care for loved ones who become ill;
• Workers who are sick, quarantined or immunocompromised and who do not have access to paid family and medical leave or who are laid off; and
• First responders in the public health community who become ill or are quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19.

Click here for a fact sheet for claiming unemployment benefits. You may file an unemployment claim at michigan.gov/uia.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest news is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus, including details for businesses with questions about their status and specific information on the governor’s active executive orders. Additional material can be found at CDC.gov/Coronavirus. As is often the case surrounding crises, much of what you read on the internet and on social media cannot be trusted; instead, use these two sources for reliable information and updates on the pandemic.

For those who have questions about the state’s actions to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, please call the COVID-19 Hotline at 1-888-535-6136 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.

The challenges ahead of us are significant, but there is no need to panic; we know what we need to do. As we follow medical experts’ recommendations and look out for one another, we will overcome this crisis.

This op-ed appeared in the March 28, 2020 edition of the Manistee News Advocate. Senator Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington, serves the residents of the 35th Senate District, representing the counties of Benzie, Crawford, Kalkaska, Lake, Leelanau, Manistee, Mason, Missaukee, Ogemaw, Osceola, Roscommon and Wexford. He can be reached at 517-373-1725 or [email protected].