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Open Letter to Michigan Leaders in Support of State and Local COVID-19 Public Health Measures

October 30, 2020

Dear Michigan Leaders:

On behalf of the Washtenaw County Medical Society (WCMS), we write to state our support for continuing the public health measures that have been promulgated to contain and reduce transmission of COVID-19 in our community and the surrounding areas. We believe strong, data-driven measures and cooperation at every level will be needed for the foreseeable future until this pandemic is truly contained.

WCMS is comprised of approximately 1,000 physicians and medical students affiliated with major medical and teaching institutions, including Chelsea Hospital, Integrated Health Associates (IHA), St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, and the University of Michigan Hospital and Medical Group, as well as community health centers and medical practices small and large. In March, as soon as the severity of the pandemic was becoming apparent, WCMS convened the COVID-19 Workgroup staffed by representatives of all health-related fields, from first responders to infectious disease experts, ICU directors, epidemiologists from the UM School of Public Health, and the medical director of the Washtenaw County Health Department (WCHD). This group tracked resource allocation, emergency preparedness, and demand for patient care, sharing information that enabled communication and coordination among Washtenaw County's health systems and physician practices, while also monitoring the disease statewide.

Based on this experience, WCMS encourages Michigan’s elected officials to recognize the authority of public health professionals, such as those in the state and local health departments, and to support them as they continue to take reasonable and nonpartisan approaches to protect community members from COVID-19. We believe the WCHD has done a remarkable job in providing clear direction[1] on prevention measures for Washtenaw County residents including the promotion of wearing face coverings, social distancing, and frequent hand cleaning[2] since the first reported cases in our county.

WCMS supports the swift action by the WCHD in issuing a public health emergency stay-in-place order for University of Michigan undergraduate students on October 20. We also support the University of Michigan’s steps to provide choices for students and instructors, including moving more undergraduate courses to fully remote instruction for the remainder of the fall semester.[3] WCMS encourages the University of Michigan and all other in-county universities, including Concordia University, Eastern Michigan University, and Washtenaw Community College, to promote remote instruction throughout the winter semester. WCMS also supports the WCHD’s October 29 open letter on public  health guidance and COVID-19 and their efforts to make recent state and county health orders clear to community members.[4]

This is not the time to back off; case numbers across the state are rising. WCMS asks that Michigan’s leaders support local health departments’ (LHD) funding requests as they and other experts work to best manage and understand COVID-19 spread. These asks include:

  • increasing funding for case investigation and contact tracing staff;
  • increasing the personal protective equipment (PPE) supply broadly for healthcare systems, skilled nursing facilities (SNF), and long-term care facilities (LTC);
  • increasing funding for LHD staff, testing supplies, and laboratory; and
  • increasing funding for outreach to vulnerable communities.

If there is an expectation for local jurisdictions to independently assess local COVID-19 risk and implement local restrictions rather than at a state or regional level, these should be tied to a plan for increased funding to allow for safe implementation (for example, increasing staffing to assist with planning and enforcement of local orders).

We recognize that the resources currently available to various communities within Washtenaw County are disparate, and likely range even greater when compared to LHDs around the state and country. Our safety here at home in Washtenaw County is directly tied to the safety and availability of resources for our neighbors.

WCMS resolves to continue to make its physician leaders available to elected leaders through its regular COVID-19 Workgroup and Legislative Committee meetings. We welcome the opportunity to develop reasonable solutions in pursuit of our goal of optimizing patients’ health and community safety.

Sincerely,

Sandro Cinti, MD
WCMS COVID-19 Workgroup Chair

James Szocik, MD
WCMS President

Gabrielle Szlenkier
WCMS Executive Director

CC:
Washtenaw County Health Department Health Officer Jimena Loveluck, MSW
Concordia University Vice President of Administration Reverend Ryan Peterson
Eastern Michigan University President James Smith, PhD
University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel, MD, PhD
Washtenaw Community College President Rose Bellanca, PhD
Ann Arbor Mayor Chris Taylor
Ypsilanti Mayor Lois Richardson
Governor Gretchen Whitmer
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Officer Joneigh Khaldun, MD, MPH, FACEP
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey
Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield
State Senator Jeff Irwin
State Senator Lana Theis
State Representative Donna Lasinski
State Representative Ronnie Peterson
State Representative Yousef Rabhi
State Representative Rebekah Warren
U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell
U.S. Representative Tim Walberg
U.S. Senator Gary Peters
U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow

[1] https://www.washtenaw.org/3107/Multilingual-Materials

[2] https://www.washtenaw.org/DocumentCenter/View/16709/COVID-19_-Reduce-Your-Risk

[3] https://president.umich.edu/news-communications/letters-to-the-community/county-stay-in-place-order-and-course-format-changes/

[4] https://www.washtenaw.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=1246

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