LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Nearly 800,000 people have filed for unemployment benefits in Michigan since mid-March, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Monday, detailing the extraordinary impact of the coronavirus on the economy with only businesses deemed essential remaining open.
Whitmer said her stay-at-home order will be extended in the days ahead. Michigan finished the weekend with at least 15,718 coronavirus cases and 617 deaths, mostly concentrated in Detroit and the suburbs.
“We are not out of the woods yet,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s medical executive. “Our hospitals continue to be overwhelmed, especially in southeast Michigan.”
Whitmer said more people have applied for unemployment aid in the last two weeks than in all of 2019, when the state’s jobless rate was under 4%. She promised that people would get paid, despite computer woes and bureaucratic red tape, and said the size of the staff to handle the crush was growing.
“We will get to you,” the governor said.
House Democrats said Rep. Karen Whitsett of Detroit tested positive for COVID-19 but that she was doing well and appeared “to be on the other side of this illness.” She is the second House member with a confirmed case, while a third, Democratic Rep. Isaac Robinson of Detroit, likely died from the disease.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are among those particularly susceptible to more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover.
Detroit’s convention center could gets its first COVID-19 patients this week. The federal government has turned the TCF Center, formerly known as Cobo Center, into a 1,000-bed site.
“It doesn’t mean we’ll immediately see a thousand patients,” Khaldun said. “But we’ll have enough staff to start seeing patients as they’re transferred from other hospitals. We still need medical volunteers. There’s no question about it.”
The state for the first time released data on hospitalizations, though it also called it incomplete. On Saturday, there were at least 3,768 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 across the state, 89% of them in southeast Michigan. Nearly 1,400 were on ventilators.
Khaldun said the state this week would start posting the number of people who have recovered from COVID-19. It’s been less than a month since the first cases were found.
The person with groceries might have a badge. State troopers in an Upper Peninsula community have volunteered to drop off food ordered from Jack’s Fresh Market in Manistique.
“Any little bit we can do to help the community get through this, we’re willing to go that extra mile,” Sgt. Mark Giannunzio told WLUC-TV.
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