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Nessel questions coronavirus letter

Said she would act regardless of political party

MARQUETTE — Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Monday sent a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis in response to its request that she investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order relating to nursing homes.

Executive Order 2020-50, which has since been rescinded, stipulated that nursing homes must not prohibit admission or readmission of a resident based on COVID-19 testing requirements or results.

In a June 25 letter to Whitmer, the subcommittee said it sought information regarding her decision to mandate that nursing homes and long-term care facilities admit untested and contagious COVID-19 patients from hospitals.

This decision, it said, “likely contributed to the thousands of elderly deaths in Michigan.”

In her response letter, Nessel said that according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Michigan had fewer resident deaths than, for example, Illinois, Massachusetts and Connecticut, but she knew of no congressional request for investigation made to those attorneys general.

“I have recently learned that you have sent similar requests only to the attorneys general in New York, New Jersey, California and Pennsylvania,” Nessel wrote. “While I appreciate and share your concern for the impact of COVID-19 on the health and safety of our elderly population, I am curious as to why similar requests have not been sent to states with Republican governors.”

She said “genuine concern” about the impact of COVID-19 on vulnerable populations such as the elderly should compel the subcommittee to review all states’ policies to determine if and how they impacted medical outcomes within these communities, not just those led by Democratic governors.

“Accordingly, if and when an investigation by my office is necessary to protect Michiganders, I will act irrespective of political party or congressional decree,” Nessel said. “You can be assured that the health, safety and welfare of the people of the state of Michigan is my top priority.”

Exposure sites identified

With contact tracing and case investigation conducted by the Luce-Mackinac-Alger-Schoolcraft Health Department and Chippewa County Health Department, several locations have been identified as possible exposure sites for COVID-19.

They are:

≤ 10:30 a.m. to noon June 20, AGLOW meeting, Ashmum Creek Apartments Community Room, Sault Ste. Marie

≤ 2 to 4 p.m. June 20, Pickford Pickers, Pickford Township Hall, Pickford

≤ 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. June 20, Sundown Lounge, Sault Ste. Marie

≤ 9:45 to 11 a.m. June 21, Pickford Methodist Church, Pickford

≤ 10:30 a.m. to noon June 21, E-Free Church, Sault Ste. Marie

Anyone present at any of these locations during the times and dates noted are asked to monitor for symptoms and contact their health department. For Mackinac County residents, call 906-643-1100. Chippewa County residents are asked to call 906-635-1566.

Keep the Fourth safe

Several local agencies are urging the public to plan for a safe and responsible Fourth of July during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even though most area fireworks displays and parades have been canceled, people most likely will still want to get outside and celebrate Independence Day, although how they celebrate it might have to change this year.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is providing tips to the public for how to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday in a safe way, stressing that the reopening of state park campgrounds has come with new health and safety protocols. However, it said people have to do their part.

Its recommendations include:

≤ Go out only if you’re feeling healthy.

≤ Stay at least 6 feet from people who aren’t from your household, and wear a face covering when in enclosed indoor spaces.

≤ Follow operational and sanitation guidelines. Some processes, like checking in and using bathroom facilities at DNR-managed sites, may vary by location. For example, visitors are encouraged to pay by debit or credit card to decrease the exchange of money.

On the DNR’s COVID-19 information page at Michigan.gov, it noted the self-observation raft at Palms Book State Park near Manistique, home to the Kitch-iti-kipi or the “Big Spring,” is now open and will be sanitized daily, but not between each use.

The LMAS Health Department also stressed the importance of keeping health and safety protocols in mind during the holiday.

It mentioned a recent incident in lower Michigan where 85 people have now tested positive for COVID-19 as a “powerful reminder” that people in the Upper Peninsula must continue to maintain at least 6 feet of distance from others not in the same household, wear cloth face coverings, thoroughly wash hands or use hand sanitizer often.

The Lansing State Journal reported on Saturday that the number of COVID-19 infections linked to Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub in East Lansing rose to 85, citing the Ingham County Health Department.

LMAS said that of the 85 who have tested positive tied to the incident downstate, all are under the age of 30.

LMAS Health Officer Nicholas Derusha said in a news release, “When we let our guard down and stop practicing the necessary precautions, we see clearly in this recent incident how easily and quickly the virus which causes COVID-19 can spread.

“With the upcoming Fourth of July holiday we must be smart and continue practicing our protective measures.”

The LMAS District Health Department urges residents and visitors to maintain social distancing and wear a cloth face covering when distance cannot be maintained — indoors or outdoors — unless they are with people within their own household.

Resource directory developed

The Michigan State University Extension Tourism team has created an online directory of resources for the tourism and hospitality industry that includes best practices for safe operation and sanitation recommendations from various sources, including the Centers for Disease Control, the state of Michigan, local health departments and industry and trade associations.

Additionally, people can find recordings of MSU Extension webinars covering COVID-19’s impact on the tourism industry and information on other MSU Extension programs responding to the pandemic.

“Our goal was to create a single location where the tourism and hospitality industry, retail, restaurants, lodging, outdoor recreation, you name it, could go and find the information they need to open and operate their businesses safely, for themselves, their employees, their customers and their communities,” said MSU Extension Upper Peninsula Tourism educator Will Cronin in a news release. “The site is growing all the time, but if there’s information you need and can’t find, I encourage you to contact us and we’ll help you find it.”

For more information about MSU Extension Tourism’s novel coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic response and resource directory, visit www.canr.msu.edu/tourism/COVID-19-pandemic-and-tourism/.

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