Coronavirus: What’s being done in local area

March 20, 2020

 

The panic button has been hit. On it reads “coronavirus,” and we're all feeling its ramifications, if not its symptoms. Local and state governments have declared states of emergency, freeing funds to be used for those in need. All schools have been closed, modt businesses have employees working remotely, sporting events, concerts, fundraisers and even religious services have been canceled or are streaming online.  Shelves at grocery stores, Costco and Sam's Club are stripped bare as soon as they are restocked.

The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is a strain of virus that has only spread in human beings since December 2019. It began in Wuhan, China, and has taken off rapidly since then, infecting more than 215,000 people at this writing and killing more than 9,000 before spreading across the world, in particular to South Korea, Japan, Italy and Iran. While it may have peaked in China, it is believed to still be in its growth and transmission phase in the United States, and as many as 100 other countries.

In Italy alone, well over 3,500 people have died from coronavirus, with over 35,000 infected, and by the time the pandemic is over and a final count is taken, the total may well reach into the millions.

Health professionals call it “novel” coronavirus, or its newest identification, COVID-19, because coronavirus itself is not a new virus or species of illness. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which can cause illnesses in both animals and humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold – which is a coronavirus, known for it's “crown” or corona, around its cells – to more severe diseases, such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

COVID-19 is simply the most recently discovered coronavirus. Because it is a new virus, humans have no immunities or defenses built up, so when exposed to the virus, the likelihood of our becoming ill is very high – much higher than if we're exposed to a virus we may have had before and therefore have natural antibodies in our system. If we are over 60, have respiratory or immune diseases, we are not only more susceptible to becoming seriously ill, but to dying from the virus. That is also why there is no vaccine that can yet be used to prevent the risk of developing COVID-19, although scientists are actively at work attempting to develop one.

Emily Toth Martin, co-director, Michigan Influenza Center, associate professor of epidemiology, University of Michigan School of Public Health, said, “I think we need to take this seriously until we know what we're dealing with. It's the same precautions we recommend for other illnesses. Hopefully, people really pay attention to them this time.”

Those precautions include everyday preventive actions, such as staying home when sick, covering  coughs and sneezes, and washing your hands properly and thoroughly.

What is known, to this point, is that COVID-19 appears to affect older people and those with underlying health issues more forcefully than children and young adults. But they do get ill, just with often with less severe symptoms. And even those who are asymptomatic, or have not yet come down with the disease, are believed to be carriers of the virus.

“The data seems to be indicating that children are not getting particularly ill. But if you have respiratory symptoms, you have to be careful. People over 60, and those with underlying health concerns, their dial of concern should be higher for what kinds of group events they attend,” Martin said, emphasizing that people should stay about six feet away from one another, because they believe the area of transmission is about six feet and closer.

“We think most people who get infected will not become ill, not become seriously ill,” Martin said. “They won't be comfortable. You may be sick – but not critically ill. In these times, with a limited number of tests, we're hearing in the news about the most critically ill.”

“These actions can help keep yourself and others from getting and spreading respiratory illnesses  like the flu,” said a fact sheet from Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Other ways to limit the spread of the illness is community non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as cleaning with anti-bacterial wipes frequently touched surfaces and objects, including toys, refrigerator handles, desks, doorknobs, childcare facilities, schools, and offices, as well limiting social gatherings and social distancing, permitting telecommuting, school closures and dismissals, and not attending other events.. An example is in Italy, where they expanded travel restrictions to the entire country, putting 60 million people on effective lockdown. Previously, China closed their borders and locked down cities, schools and manufacturing in an effort to quarantine those with the virus and try to stop its further spread. Worldwide, over 300 million students are out of school.

On Thursday, March 12, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer closed all Michigan schools, public and private, effective from Monday, March 16 through Monday, April 6. However, because that week is spring break, districts including Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills do not expect students back until Monday, April 13.

Birmingham Public Schools started providing free breakfasts and lunches – to all children and families who need them, not just those in the Birmingham Public School district – beginning Monday, March 16, with drive-thru pickup at Groves High School, Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., and school bus pick up style at Derby Middle School, West Maple Elementary and Huntley Square Apartments, Monday through Friday, from 10-11 a.m. Menu items include assorted deli sandwiches, salads, yogurt parfaits and hummous.

Bloomfield Hills Schools is also providing free breakfasts and lunches to all children 18 and under, or under 26 for those with disabilities in need, and like Birmingham, they do not need to be enrolled in the district. As of Tuesday, March 17, pick up was available at the main entrance of Bloomfield Hills High School from 10 a.m. to noon; and main entrance of East Hills Middle School, 10 a.m. to noon. Meals are packaged in grab-and-go containers to maintain a small number of individuals in the building at the same time. Each breakfast will contain grains and/or proteins, fruit and milk; each lunch will include protein, grains, fruit, vegetable and milk. Adult meals are available for $4 each.

Just prior to Whitmer's announcement, Birmingham schools had sent out emails that read, “In preparation for a potential extended school closing, we are encouraging all of our students to use their own internet accessible devices available at home. (i.e. laptop, desktop, tablet). These devices likely have safeguards that are already in place. Additionally, your student is also familiar with that device.” For families without a device, there was a link to a device.

Bloomfield Hills Schools is also distributing district-owned devices for those families who need them.

Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills schools are to be thoroughly cleaned during the closure, with teachers providing Google Classroom or other online learning activities.

“The online tools we will provide will be designed to engage young minds in inquiry, exploration, and reflection. The learning experiences are designed to provide structure for students and families during these uncertain times,” said Bloomfield Hills Superintendent Pat Watson.

“Globally, about 3.4 percent of reported COVID-19 cases have died,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference in Geneva on March 3. “By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than one percent of those infected.”

With a population of about 10 million residents in Michigan, that is potentially 340,000 Michigan lives; in the United States, which has 329.2 million people as of 2020, that could potentially mean 11.2 million deaths.

Dr. Brian Monahan, attending physician of the U.S. Supreme Court and Congress, briefed Senate staff on March 10, telling staffers he expects anywhere between 70 million and 150 million people in the U.S. to get ill from coronavirus.

The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, also known as the Spanish flu, infected about 500 million people, which at that time was 27 percent of the population. The death toll was between 17 million and 50 million, or 2.7 percent of the population, according to WHO and the American Journal of Epidemiology.

On March 11, Ghebreyesus and WHO declared coronavirus a  pandemic. “"WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” he stated, saying it does not change what the WHO is doing, or what countries around the world should do.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that between nine to 45 million Americans contract influenza each year, with 140,000 to 810,000 requiring hospitalization each year. Since 2010, there have been 12,000 to 61,000 deaths from the flu each year – notably in the 2017-2018 season, when 810,000 people were hospitalized and 61,000 died. There are currently no final figures for this year's flu outbreak as it is still ongoing, but the CDC estimates that so far there have been 34 million people hit by the seasonal flu and 20,000 deaths. Ghebreyesus said COVID-19 is more than three times as deadly as the seasonal flu.

Martin of the Michigan Influenza Center also believes coronavirus is more dangerous and deadly than influenza.

“We have vaccines and antiviral medications for the flu,” she said. “The medications do not have any effectiveness for the coronavirus.

“We have centuries of experience with the flu that tells us how to protect our health care workers, patients and ways to handle it,” Martin said. “We have no experience with coronavirus. We have good experience, but this is a virus we have never seen before. It's why we're seeing so much caution from public health workers.”

Yet, it's symptoms are very similar – fever, cough, difficulty breathing. Only a test approved by the CDC can confirm if it is COVID-19, the seasonal flu, another virus or the common cold. And testing kits remain in very short supply.

The first two cases COVID-19 in Michigan were verified on March 10, one in Oakland County and the other in Wayne County, followed by 10 more throughout the lower peninsula on March 12, when Whitmer declared her state of emergency and closed all schools. Local state, county and municipal officials have been taking the viral outbreak seriously, preparing the when, not the if, the number of cases increase in Michigan. The current number of cases are believed to be the tip of the iceberg by health professionals.

With those two confirmed cases, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency, which she said she did to assist local governments slow the spread of the disease. Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter followed suit, directing the Emergency Operations Center to partially activate as part of the county’s coronavirus preparedness efforts, which enabled the county to coordinate resources and responses with partners and stakeholders.

On March 13, Coulter declared a state of emergency for Oakland County, allowing him to shift resources quickly to assist residents, businesses and communities affected by the spread of the coronavirus.

John H. Horstman, deputy director of media affairs for the White House, announced on March 11, that the CDC was awarding millions of dollars to state and local partners to support the COVID-19 response, with Michigan to receive $14.6 million.

Coulter said the first positive case of COVID-19 in Oakland County was a middle-aged woman who had traveled internationally.

“Based on the Oakland County Health Division’s investigation, there was low to no exposure in the general public from this person,” said spokesperson Jaime M. Fenner.

A second Oakland County confirmed case was an elementary school teacher at Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills who had traveled from New York.

In anticipation of the spread of coronavirus in Michigan, Coulter had established an internal and external staff team for coronavirus readiness efforts, and asked former Congressman Sander Levin (D-Royal Oak) to assist the team in its work. The team includes Kathleen Forzley, director, Oakland County Health and Human Services director and Leigh-Anne Stafford, health officer; Tom Hardesty, homeland security manager; David VanderVeen, central services director who oversees Oakland County International Airport; Mark Newman, public services director; Bill Mullan, media and communications officer; Mike McCready, senior business advisor, economic development and community affairs; Bret Rasegan, manager, planning and economic development; Chris Ward, chief of staff, board of commission; April Lynch, deputy county executive; captain Larry Perry, Sheriff's Office emergency response and preparedness, and Megan Noland, Sheriff's Office director of government affairs.

“I want to reassure our residents and our businesses that we are taking all precautionary steps at the local level as we learn more about the virus, the outbreak and the risks of transmission,” Coulter said.

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

Mullen said the health department is in the lead of the team. He said they've had two full team meetings, taking a comprehensive look at what the county should be doing.

“Each of us goes out with separate responsibilities to fulfill,” he said. “All of us are focused on preparedness so we are optimally prepared to combat coronavirus, no different than any emergency.”

He said former Rep. Levin, in Congress for 36 years, is actively involved with the internal task force. “He's here every day on the fifth floor, putting in entire work days, looking outward to make sure our work force is communicating with the right stakeholders,” Mullen said.

“He has a wide global view of what we're doing,” he continued. “He is taking it very seriously. The questions he's asking are very thoughtful, helping to build up that big picture to create prevention messaging. He has great experience with the federal government. He brings a wealth of knowledge from his years in Congress, so we don't miss any constituents or stakeholders. He is helping us fill the gaps here in Oakland County.”

Mullen said the county government is prepared economically for whatever they are faced with. Oakland County approves three-year budgets, “but there are already line items that address public emergencies,” he said. “The health department is well-prepared, homeland secretary is well-prepared for the eventualities we could face, and they're making plans now, and they're tapping into those funds now. The board of commissioners are very engaged and willing to do whatever they have to from a policy or procedure point-of-view. They're ready to assist in whatever way necessary.

“It's not something that is filling in our days – it is our days,” Mullen emphasized.

Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner closed his office to the public, offering phone services, and announced no one will lose their house due to foreclosure during this period.

“This is a new virus, so it is concerning. It is something we're learning about,” said Lynn Sutfin, spokesperson, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS). “We have seen evidence of community spread across the country. It's contagious – it is person-to-person spread.”

She said MDHHS anticipates the possibility there could be cases in the thousands, “Just like in China and Iran and other countries.”

Other than pending criminal cases, all civil cases in Oakland County have been put on a temporary hold, as have federal cases and  the U.S. Supreme Court.

Health professionals believe the incubation period for this novel coronavirus is two to 14 days, most commonly about five days according to WHO, meaning from the time an individual is exposed to the virus to the time they could show their first symptoms of getting ill. If someone believes they are exposed to the novel coronavirus, they are urged to self-quarantine, meaning stay home, don't go to work, school, stores, events – anywhere they could potentially expose themselves to other people.

Dr. Trini Mathew, MD, MPH, FACP, FIDSA, Medical Director of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control, Infectious Diseases and Internal Medicine, Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, said the hospital system of four hospitals have been following the novel coronavirus and preparing for it “since the first cluster of pneumonia at the end of December, and have been receiving routine monitoring, discussions and preparations from the CDC .”

Mathew said, “COVID-19 mimics a lot of the influenza routine, and there are other coronaviruses, including the common cold. But please do not confuse COVID-19 with the common cold.

“We have learned some things from the novel coronavirus deaths in China, especially about mortality,” she continued. “The number of deaths, it is higher than the seasonal influenza. Influenza is much more widespread in the United States, so the total numbers are higher, and there is a vaccine – and it is still not too late to get vaccinated. With COVID-19, it's spread by small droplets, by sneezes, coughs, just like the influenza. Inadvertently, we get exposed because we touch something and touch our face.”

That is why public and medical health advisors urge everyone to wash their hands as if their lives depended up on it. Because it does. That means washing with soap and hot water for a minimum of 20 seconds – imagine singing “Happy Birthday” twice – thoroughly and then not touching your face, especially your eyes, nose or mouth.

“It's all in our hands – literally and figuratively,” Mathew emphasized. “It's the way to present spreading diseases. It's in our hands – it's in our control if we remember to wash our hands, especially before we touch our face, especially our eyes, nose and mouth, because they're the easiest to transmit germs and infections. You're auto-inoculating yourself to germs. It's a good way to make a mindful decision when you're doing something, or on the computer, especially since we don't have vaccines.”

COVID-19 and influenza A and B, which is still currently going around, have many similarities, making it difficult for health professionals and laymen to diagnose the difference. Each are very contagious, with fever, cough and other respiratory issues, particularly shortness of breath, headache, sore throat and nasal congestion. The only accurate way to diagnose COVID-19 is through testing, which currently is only available through test kits provided by the CDC.

“Right now, the MDHHS Bureau of Laboratories can do the test. We just received more test kits, and have the capacity to test about 300 people,” Sutfin said on March 5. As of March 15, MDHHS announced they were able to test about 100 people a day.

The state of Michigan has just under 10 million residents – which means testing is very, very limited.

No county health centers in Michigan have any test kits, nor the ability to test, Sutfin said, which was confirmed by Dr. Russel Faust, MD PhD, medical director of the Oakland County Health Department.

 “We are currently surveying hospitals to see which ones could have the capacity to do testing,” Sutfin said. “We have heard that private labs are getting very close to being able to do testing – as in days, not weeks.”

“We are finding that several commercial laboratories will have tests available in the next week, and then we may have some more positives,” Dr. Faust said, including Quest Diagnostics.

“The test itself is incredibly sensitive. If you feed it accurately, it needs to pick up only part of the virus to read it,” said Dr. Nasir Husain, medical director of infectious diseases, Henry Ford Macomb Hospital.

Henry Ford Hospital has developed it’s own test, and can test up to 100 patients a day, with a goal of a 1,000 test per day.

Sutfin said an accurate test ideally needs two different swabs, one oral and one nasal, although a sputum (cough) sample can be used as well.

Faust provides the same advise for everyone in Oakland County in order to practice prevention: “frequently wash your hands with soap and water, and if you can't use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 to 70 percent alcohol.”.

As for  your pets, it's okay to cuddle with them. Despite some rumors, humans cannot give dogs and other house pets COVID-19 – and they cannot become infected from their pets.

“We recently got a notice from the American Veterinary Association about a dog being quarantined in Hong Kong,” said Dr. Stephanie Goodman, a veterinarian at DePorre Veterinary Hospital in Bloomfield Township. “The dog was not showing any symptoms, and likely the human mom sneezed or coughed on her, and she had the inactive virus on her fur.

“We have not heard or gotten any warning that humans are getting COVID-19 from their pets, and we have not gotten any warnings about any concerns, either,” Goodman said.

Faust said, the best precautions people can do is to disinfect the items already in their house and place of business – the handrails, counters, toys, elevator buttons.

“It's a good practice not just for the coronavirus, but for the flu, the measles, for any communicable disease,” he said.

Husain said Henry Ford Health System, with four campuses, including one in West Bloomfield, has teams that have been meeting three times a day in preparation of coronavirus. A key component is making sure entry points have careful screening for who is permitted in, especially to the emergency rooms and outpatient testing. He said it is being done as close to the entry point as possible.

“They're specifically being asked about their symptoms and travel history,” he said. “It's the questions and answer that will matter. If there are any question as to where to put the patient, the director of each of the four campuses are available 24/7.”

He said Henry Ford Health System has assigned at least one bed on each campus to deal with the coronavirus, with the main Detroit campus designating more beds. “Each ER has rooms that are more isolated and air that is especially filtered, so we have areas” that are prepared to deal with an influx of patients.

“We at Henry Ford Health System are particularly well-prepared to meet the needs of those infected, and we're prepared if more than one patient shows us at a time,” Husain said. “These things are so unpredictable. A lot of people might get infected, but most will have it less severely than influenza. But about 20 percent will need medical care.

“The ones at the greatest risk are the ones at risk for other illnesses,” he pointed out.

Mathew from the Beaumont system said their hospitals are actively screening patients and visitors. As of Sunday, March 15, guests are limited to just one adult visitor; mothers in labor and delivery can have two adult visitors.

The Detroit Medical Center announced they are not allowing any visitors at their hospitals for the foreseeable future.

Beaumont has begun processing a limited amount in their labs.

“We are exploring lab testing capabilities like any other hospital,” she said. “The CDC is ramping up their testing capabilities. We have to also work on the testing capacity. We have the platform and we're looking at private laboratories who have the capabilities to test.”

On Friday, March 6, Michigan large health insurers, notably Blue Cross Blue Shield, agreed to join Medicare and Medicaid in waiving patient co-pays and other testing costs for people suspected of being infected with coronavirus.

Health insurance companies include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Blue Care Network of Michigan, Priority Health, CVS Health, McLaren Health Care and Meridian.

Once they become available, Medicaid and Medicare said they would pay for vaccines for COVID-19.

However, University of Michigan's Martin said a vaccine is not going to be available anytime in the near future.

“Unfortunately, no. The amount of time it takes to go through the safety protocols...we have to make sure they (vaccines) are safe and they work,” Martin emphasized.

Local municipalities and schools are following protocols and making preparations for eventualities with COVID-19.

“Internally, Bloomfield Township personnel have been meeting over the last few weeks to prepare for the emergence of the COVID-19 virus in southeast Michigan and in particular, Bloomfield Township,” said Bloomfield Township Supervisor Leo Savoie, noting Township Hall is now closed. “We have already begun training all personnel to protect them and the community when asking residents and when dealing with emergency situations. Our local dispatch center is asking appropriate questions regarding medical symptoms or any recent travel by individuals calling in...We are following recommendations of the CDC. They recommended that all emergency providers wear the proper personal protective equipment...Our fire department is one of only a few fire local fire departments that have an Electrostatic Decontamination Sprayer.”

Trucks can be completely decontaminated in 10 minutes.

He said Bloomfield Township has a paramedical program with St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, allowing them the resources to communicate directly with doctors at the hospital to assess a patient's condition if hospital beds fill up and there are no beds available.

“If you are sick, stay at home. And if you need us, call us,” Savoie said.

Birmingham City Manager Joe Valentine said fire chief Paul Wells is the city's emergency manager, and he is working with the Oakland County Health Department as well as state emergency management department, which is the state centralized source for preparation and information sharing.

“We're working in lockstep with the county and state and taking directions from them,” Valentine said. “We haven't expended funds yet, but if we have to provide special services or provide facilities, the county and the state emergency declarations will help us.”

He noted with schools closed, there is a local work force that is impacted, and they will work with them. Further, all city and committee meetings have been canceled for the next few weeks, as is Baldwin Public Library, Birmingham Ice Arena and Birmingham Museum. Access to municipal buildings is restricted to scheduled meetings only.

He said the city prepared an emergency work book years ago which covers all varieties of emergencies and disasters, “and it's good for this or any type of emergency.”

“The fire chief has been in discussion with senior living facilities, churches, schools, sharing information that they may already have so they can take precautionary preparations,” Valentine said.

“Our public safety department is prepared as necessary,” said Bloomfield Hills City Manager David Hendrickson. “We're in touch with Oakland County Health Department and CDC for recommendations and directions, and we've put the county health department and CDC information on our website and directed residents to speak to the county about concerns and updates.”

Local businesses have closed down to prevent the spread, like Birmingham's The Italian Dish and My House of Style, which closed after a son of a friend of owner Diane Harris tested positive.

Many others along Maple Road, like Suhm-Thing and Stem & Stone, have also closed, with owner David Zawicki citing safety and prevention at this time. National retail chains including Lululemon, Anthropologie, Sarah Campbell and Allen Edmonds closed, and Starbucks currently is only open for visitors to grab their drinks and food and go – no sitting and working or visiting. SHE in Bloomfield Township is offering clients personal appointments and FaceTime consultations; Wachler Estate Collection in Birmingham is offering virtual appointments via FaceTime or calls and texts, and Astrein's Jewelry in Birmingham is open only by appointment, as is Shades Optical. Tender and Lori Karbal are staying open.

Papa Joe's and other local merchants have sent out emails assuring their customers they are taking all necessary health and safety precautions – and going above and beyond.

At Papa Joe's in Birmingham, hand sanitizers and wipes are available near carts and throughout the store. Checkout stands, touch screens, credit card terminals and register belts are cleaned and sanitized every 30 minutes, as well as other frequently touched surfaces, and all produce employees are now wearing gloves as they restock products.

On Monday, March 16, Whitmer closed all gyms and fitness facilities for at least two weeks. Many local fitness facilities had made that decision ahead of Whitmer's decree, including SLT in Bloomfield Township and The Daily Method in Birmingham.

As of Thursday, March 19, there were 336 confirmed cases in Michigan – with numbers expected to rise exponentially. Gov. Whitmer announced the signing of an executive order, closing all restaurants and bars to business other than takeout and deliver – changing the game for local restaurants and dining establishments, which had previously sent out emails assuring guests they were doing extra sanitizing and spreading out tables.

Steve Hurwitz, owner of Steve's Deli in Bloomfield Township, said they ramped up both their carry-out and delivery service to assist their patrons. Customers are encouraged to phone in their carry-out orders to the deli, and then enter through the carry-out entrance for pickup, or they can have deli personnel bring it out to their cars. Customers also have the option of ordering delivery service through the deli's website at stevesdeli.com.

All six restaurants in Roberts Restaurant Group, which includes Beverly Hills Grill, Streetside Seafood, Cafe ML, Bill's, Town Tavern and Roadside B&G, announced they would have their full menus available for carry-out and pickup.

“We love serving you in our restaurants. Today, however, we ask that you let us serve you in a different way – with carry-out only,” owner Bill Roberts said in an email. “We treat our carry-out orders with the same care and respect that we do when you dine in at one of our restaurants, and we're taking extra precautions right now.”

Likewise, Big Rock Chophouse in the Birmingham Rail District has devised a special take-out menu and is offering discounts for a limited time. Patrons can phone their orders to the restaurant and either pick them up inside or, with advance notice, orders can be brought out to patrons' vehicles. Big Rock has created a special carry-out menu and for the short-term future is offering discounts on pricing and delivery within a five-mile radius of the restaurant.

Some establishments are more comfortable taking a temporary time-out. Chef Andrew Carmellini, co-owner of San Morello, Evening Bar, The Brakeman and Penny Red's in Detroit, announced they would be temporarily closing their establishments as “the highest priority is the health and safety of our team members, our guests and our neighbors.”

Per Whitmer's directive, numerous non-profit events and other events have been canceled as she ordered all events of over 250 to be postponed or canceled, and the CDC has recommended groups of no more than 50 get together. And don't plan to hit Detroit's casinos to blow off some steam. They've been shuttered for the time being.

Whitmer also signed an executive order on March 16 that expanded unemployment benefits to all workers affected by coronavirus, effective immediately.

Joe Bauman of the Birmingham Bloomfield Chamber, postponed a Government Forecast Breakfast featuring Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills) for his members for March 17. Bauman said they are sharing information and updates from the CDC, state of Michigan and US Chamber of Commerce with their membership.

Ingrid Tighe, executive director of Birmingham Shopping District (BSD), said they are following all federal, state and local guidelines and communicating that information to downtown businesses.

“Additionally, we are researching federal, state, and local resources and initiatives that will be available to assist our small businesses during this trying time,” she said. “As we get more information, we will disseminate it to the business community.”

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