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Non-essential medical, dental procedures curtailed in Michigan

In this image provided by Michelle White, a line develops outside at a Trader Joe's store in Grosse Pointe, Mich., Friday, March 20, 2020, where employees wiped down grocery carts and restricted the number of customers inside. (Michelle White via AP)

MARQUETTE — As residents are being advised to stay home, bars and restaurants are either shut down or closed to dine-in customers and other businesses are allowing non-essential employees to work from home in an effort to stem the COVID-19 virus outbreak, it only stands to reason healthcare facilities would also take steps to protect their patients and employees.

An executive order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday imposed temporary restrictions on non-essential medical and dental procedures.

Whitmer’s latest special order states that hospitals, freestanding surgical outpatient facilities, dental facilities and all state-operated outpatient facilities “must implement a plan to temporarily postpone all non-essential procedures until the termination of the COVID-19 state of emergency.”

“My number one priority remains to flatten the curve and protect the most people we can from the spread of coronavirus,” Whitmer said in Friday’s release. “Our health care workers are on the front lines every day protecting Michiganders during these extraordinary and difficult times. By postponing all non-essential medical and dental procedures, we expect to reduce the strain on the healthcare system and protect people. My administration will continue to do everything we can to mitigate the spread of the disease and ensure our children, families, and businesses have the support they need during these challenging times.”

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said putting this latest order in place will “reduce the strain” on the medical community. “Healthcare professionals are working around the clock to help protect and treat Michiganders,” Khaldun said, “and by temporarily postponing non-essential procedures, this will free up staff and critical resources that will be needed to address the ongoing public health emergency that we are facing.”

The Marquette County Health Department began restricting services to essential public health services only on Wednesday, according to a post on the MCHD Facebook page.

Patients are urged to contact the department to schedule an appointment if services are needed, the post states, and walk-ins will not be permitted at this time.

For more information call 906-475-7844 or visit the county website at www.co.marquette.mi.us/departments/health_department/

UP Health System also expanded its visitor restrictions at all of its hospital locations.

“To help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses, routine visitation will not be permitted on our campus until further notice,” a post on the UPHS Facebook page states.

“Our standard operating protocols that are in place year-round help ensure the health and well-being of everyone who enters our hospital,” the post states.“We want to reassure our communities that it is safe to come to the hospital should you or your family need care.”

As of 2 p.m. Friday, the number of COVID-19 cases in Michigan rose to 549 according to the state’s website. And although no positive cases of the virus had been reported in any Upper Peninsula county, it remains unclear how many tests have been conducted in some counties, if any.

This is due, in part, to a change in MDHHS reporting protocols instituted on Tuesday.

“It is important to provide the public with accurate data regarding this outbreak,” Khaldun said Tuesday in an MDHHS release. “As the number of people tested has drastically increased in recent days, our team has transitioned the way it prioritizes and reports testing.”

In an effort to provide case counts “as quickly and efficiently as possible” the department has stopped reporting “the number of persons under investigation, tests pending, referred for assessment and/or monitoring to date and total assessment and/or monitoring referrals under active monitoring” in its daily updates online.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.

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