Khaldun calls for COVID-19 changes
MARQUETTE — In testimony delivered remotely on Tuesday to the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, highlighted the ongoing threat posed by COVID-19.
She also called for federal action to increase investment in public health infrastructure and eliminate policies that perpetuate health inequities in communities of color.
As of Monday, Michigan had 61,409 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 5,853 confirmed deaths from the disease.
“While we have made tremendous progress in slowing the spread of this disease in Michigan, we recognize that now is not the time for victory laps,” Khaldun said in her testimony. “COVID-19 is still very present in Michigan and we continue to respond to outbreaks across our state.
“Nationally, this destructive virus has killed over 120,000 people so far with no end in sight and has left under-resourced public health departments scrambling to provide a coordinated and robust response in the absence of federal leadership. It has also further unveiled the tragic injustice of racial inequality in our society.”
She noted that despite comprising only 14% of Michigan’s population, African-Americans represent 31% of COVID-19 cases and 40% of deaths in the states.
“This cannot be explained by genetics and has everything to do with institutional and structural racism that has consistently left communities of color without adequate resources and opportunities for prosperity and optimal health,” Khaldun testified.
Khaldun also stressed the need for a national testing strategy and supporting infrastructure as well as accurate and clear messaging from the White House about the true threat of the disease, how and when to get a test, and the importance of wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
Drivers have grace
The Michigan State Police Wakefield post reminds motorists that for Michigan drivers who need to renew their license or registration, there is still a grace period due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The grace period, which is for those needing a new license or registration is between Feb. 1 and June 30. It’s part of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order stating people will not be penalized or incur late fees until after July 31.
Michigan Secretary of State offices are open by appointment only, but same-day appointments are available. The process has been going smoothly for customers and staff so far, according to the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office.
“So far we have reports from almost every single branch that things are going really well. Customers are being, on the whole, very respectful and very understanding. We have really strict protocols in place and on the whole, everything has been calm,” said Tracy Wimmer, media relations director for the Michigan SOS, in a news release.
Individuals are required to wear a mask inside the Secretary of State offices. Appointments can be made online or via the phone.
UIA to eliminate claims backlog
Michigan’s Unemployment Insurance Agency has announced a goal to clear its backlog and make a determination on all eligible unpaid claims filed before May 1.
For the 11,824 workers who applied before May 1 and are still awaiting a decision on eligibility, the agency will pay out benefits, determine if the claimant is ineligible and communicate why, or deem the claimant unreachable after multiple attempts to make contact. Unpaid claims filed before May 1 represent 0.5% of all claims, officials said.
“Our goal is to have every unemployment claim filed before May 1 resolved by the end of next week,” UIA Director Steve Gray said in a news release. “While most of our eligible workers have been paid, the unprecedented number of claims during this crisis means that there are still tens of thousands of real Michiganders needing one-on-one review to pay benefits.”
The UIA also provided a detailed update on unemployment claims related to COVID-19 in Michigan.
Since March 15, 2.2 million eligible claimants have applied for state and federal benefits, with over $14.3 billion in benefits paid to over 2 million workers. A total of 94.5% of eligible claimants have received or are approved for benefits.
Of the remaining unpaid claimants, most are flagged for potential impostor fraud. Currently, 90,000 unpaid claims are flagged as potentially fraudulent while 33,000 unpaid claims are held pending adjudication for other reasons.
The UIA has made adjustments to its claims processing system to more efficiently adjudicate claims, but in many instances, the agency still needs additional information from the claimant before a determination can be made.
For eligible unpaid claimants, the agency will try to contact them if needed. Individuals can protest any determination made by the agency on their claim.
The agency soon will announce a target date to make a determination on claims filed after May 1.
Gwinn Fun Daze
The Gwinn Lions Club has decided to postpone Gwinn Fun Daze until 2021 due to concerns related to COVID-19. However, it said on Facebook that it plans to conduct one or two community activities this summer, with details to come.
Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.