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Grand Rapids a hotspot for COVID-19 cases in MI; healthcare workers to undergo implicit bias training

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during a press briefing Friday, June 5, in which she provided an update of the coronavirus situation in Michigan (courtesy photo)

The coronavirus pandemic continues to grip the country, and Michigan is no exception, particularly in Grand Rapids. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, alongside Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health, provided an update on the state’s response Thursday morning. 

As of Wednesday, there are a total of 67,237 confirmed cases and 6,015 total deaths attributed to COVID-19. There were 610 new cases reported Wednesday, one of the highest numbers of new cases since May.

In Kent County there have been 5,014 confirmed cases of the virus. Grand Rapids has now become the hotspot for the pandemic in Michigan as we are currently reporting 45 cases per million people per day, the highest of “any region in the state,” Khaldun said.

Khaldun said that the data is “not looking so good” and reminded people to remain diligent in preventative measures like maintaining six feet of distance from people, wearing a mask in public, and frequently washing hands.  

According to state data, one in five people infected with COVID-19 are between 25 and 34. “Youth will not protect you from carrying and spreading this virus,” Whitmer said. 

Whitmer noted that wearing a mask in public spaces can reduce one’s likelihood of contracting the virus by nearly 70%.

“For the sake of your loved ones, for the sake of our economy, please, mask up,” Whitmer pleaded, saying that people “owe it” to healthcare workers to wear a mask while in public since they are working tirelessly to treat those infected. 

The Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities was created under the governor’s direction and is chaired by Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrest II. Whitmer highlighted the disproportionate impact of healthcare on communities of colors. 

Whitmer said that the coronavirus is reflecting the “staggering health disparities” Black Michiganders have been dealing with “long before this pandemic hit our state.” 

Black Michiganders make up 14% of the state’s population yet account for 40% of confirmed COVID-19 deaths of those whose race has been reported. Black people are four times more likely to contract the virus compared to their white counterparts. 

On Thursday, Whitmer signed Executive Directive 2020-07 which requires the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) to include implicit bias training in “licensure, registration and renewal of licenses and registrations of health professionals in Michigan.”

According to Whitmer, Michigan has “led the nation” in its COVID-19 prevention by “bending the curve and saving lives.”  

“We’ve done hard work and made great sacrifice to get to that point, we cannot let it go to waste. Every one of us has to continue to do our part,” Whitmer said. “… Let’s muscle up, mask up, and double-down on doing what we need to do to lead.”

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