By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
Wayne County Commissioner Sam Baydoun’s COVID-19 Town Hall meeting Nov. 30 featured updates from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun and U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell.
The forum addressed may of the issues that worry Wayne County residents.
Baydon, who serves Dearborn and Allen Park on the Wayne County Commission, said the pandemic continues to challenge us to keep communities safe.
He thanked Whitmer for her leadership despite the hateful rhetoric and attacks aimed at her.
Gilchrist appealed to people to continue to follow the public health guidelines of mask wearing, distancing, handwashing and more, and said experts have helped the state address the racial disparities brought out by the pandemic.
He said as the chair of the Michigan coronavirus task force on racial disparities, he has worked to end the mortality disparities of the pandemic by preventing infection and by addressing long-term health care inequities.
Gilchrist said while there is hope with the vaccines on the horizon, there is work to be done to make sure that people trust them, and that they are distributed to those who need them the most.
“We all must come together to face the biggest challenge of our time from a public health perspective, an educational perspective and an economic perspective,” he said. “What I do know is this: When we come together, we can overcome anything that is in front of us.”
Khaldun said the dreaded fall surge has brought an increase in COVID-19 cases since September, and unlike last spring, it is now spread across the entire state.
She said while the spread across the state is cause for concern, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is addressing the greatest risks in a targeted manner by limiting indoor gatherings, especially in restaurants and bars.
Khaldun said the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings on the spread will show up in the next week, and the upcoming holidays present the last great battle against COVID-19.
“I know it has been an incredibly long year, but vaccines are on the way, and 2021 is going to be a much better year,” Khaldun said. “All we have to do now is just hunker down, wear our masks and maintain our distance. Good things are coming.”
Whitmer said we know what we need to do to avoid overwhelming the hospitals and experiencing the death counts like we did last spring.
“This is still a very real threat to us all, and it is an incredibly dangerous moment, as we are in the midst of holidays, and the fatigue that we are all feeling,” she said. “The simple steps that public health experts are telling us are still the best tools we have to keep COVID from spreading.”
Whitmer said she and her team are working around the clock to help small businesses, which she called “the life blood of our economy.”
“The Michigan Small Business Relief Program awarded $10 million in grants and nearly $10 million in loans to small businesses in all 83 counties,” she said. “More than 2,700 small businesses were awarded grants through the program.”
Whitmer said 157 of those grants were awarded to Wayne County businesses.
“We’ve got much more to do,” she said. “Our Michigan Small Business Restart Grants put $100 million in federal funding for small business relief grants, so we should thank Congresswoman Dingell for that help.”
Dingell said it is difficult to “predict what the man in the White House will do,” but said there are a lot of people at the federal level who are working to provide additional relief.
“I know that everybody’s feeling COVID fatigue,” she said. “We are tired of it, are feeling stressed out and we miss our friends.”
Dingell said it is going to take a few more months of social distancing and listening to the scientists to get past this.
“I am tired of looking at all of you in dark boxes, but I can live with it for a few more months, because I want to live with you guys for a long time,” she said. “We can see Michigan have a winning team again, and the Detroit Lions have a good season, but we’ve got to have hope for the future. Hope is always there, and the vaccines are bringing us hope.”
Wayne County Executive Warren Evans urged Wayne County residents to support small local businesses, and to continue to follow safe practices.
“It is tough on everybody, but we are a resilient group,” he said.