View full video of the press call here.
LANSING, Mich. — Michigan physicians today applauded Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for keeping science and data as driving forces of the state’s COVID19 response and called on Republican legislative leaders to support safeguards that protect public health, which a state health department order affirmed Monday.
The physicians’ appeal comes as Republican leaders denied the pandemic was a public health emergency. They also called on Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield to end their obstruction of evidence-based safety measures such as wearing masks and limiting crowds.
“As physicians, we greatly appreciate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her public health team’s approach throughout this pandemic for the past eight months, and strongly urge the Michigan Legislature and its leaders to work with her and pass legislation that can reduce COVID-19 transmissions,” said Dr. Farhan Bhatti, MD, Michigan State Lead for the Committee to Protect Medicare and a family physician in Lansing. “Unfortunately, Republican politicians are rejecting science, turning down federal aid and many are even attending public events without wearing masks — putting more Michigan lives at risk when they should be doing the hard work of keeping people safe and demanding the Trump Administration provide relief for Michigan families. From a medical perspective, we ask Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, House Speaker Lee Chatfield and their fellow legislators to stop dragging their feet and help get health workers the resources we need to turn the corner on this pandemic. By reining in COVID-19 the right way, using science to guide us, we can make businesses, schools and public life safer so people can enjoy their freedom without putting their lives or the lives of others at risk.”
Citing overwhelming evidence, the physicians called on Republicans who control Michigan’s Senate and House to immediately pass legislation that would:
- Require masks be worn in all indoor locations, with no exceptions;
- Enable the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to call for stay-at-home orders in counties that are experiencing outbreaks or where outbreaks are imminent;
- Expand rapid-response tests for schools, businesses and anyone who has been exposed;
- Support community health efforts to hire and train enough contact tracers; and
- Provide support to individuals who must quarantine, including financial and educational support.
“As medical professionals, we join physicians across Michigan and the country in hoping that President Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis and the outbreaks linked to events he attended will serve as a wake-up call to every American that COVID-19 can strike anywhere, anytime and anyone, especially when basic safety measures such as masks and social distancing are ignored,” said Dr. Ijeoma Nnodim Opara, MD, pediatrician in Westland. “The COVID-19 pandemic is still with us, and continues to kill around 1,000 Americans every day. Instead of waving the white flag of surrender, as some politicians who don’t want to put in the work suggest we do, we can gain the upper hand against COVID-19 if we follow the science and implement safe and effective measures that public health experts agree work, such as wearing masks and maximizing social distancing.”
More than 170 studies across 16 nations and six continents show that common, simple interventions such as mask wearing and social distancing lower the risk of COVID-19 infections. In communities without mask requirements, positive case growth was three times higher than communities that implemented universal mask requirements over the long term. Studies show that maximum social distancing measures such as stay-at-home orders could save thousands of lives. One analysis credited Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, which began March 24, with reducing the number of people each COVID-19-positive person infects in Michigan from 3.5 to 1.
“Scientific and medical evidence tell us that we have ways to keep people safer during the COVID-19 pandemic, and refusing to take basic, simple precautions that we know can save lives is negligent behavior that endangers people,” said Dr. Stephanie Markle, DO, MPH, critical care surgeon in Kalamazoo. “We have an opportunity to come together and show a unified front against an indiscriminate disease that has killed more than 209,000 Americans, including 7,100 Michiganders. The most irresponsible thing we could do right now is refuse to act on the science and give up, which will only lead to more pain and suffering. Every Michigan family deserves better than what Republican politicians in Lansing are offering, which is defeat and surrender.”
Overwhelming majorities of Michigan voters support Whitmer’s handling of the pandemic. Recent polling shows that Michigan voters trust Gov. Whitmer to handle the pandemic over legislative Republicans by 43 points.
The physicians’ appeal comes after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled last week that public health emergency measures require legislative input. The ruling occurred on the same day media outlets reported President Trump tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted to Walter Reed Medical Center. Several people who had been around Trump or at events he attended last week have tested positive. Following Trump’s hostility to masks and stay-home orders, Michigan Republicans refuse to support COVID-19 safety requirements.
Shirkey, who refuses to support mask requirements and stay-at-home orders, adopted a defeated posture last week in the face of the pandemic when he said Michiganders must “learn to live with the virus” even as he acknowledged that “the virus ultimately was going to win.”
In July, Chatfield criticized safeguards requiring adults to wear masks in public and refused to support laws requiring people to wear masks in public. Chatfield claimed people should have the choice of wearing a mask during a global pandemic.
Rep. Jim Lower (R-Cedar Lake), tweeted on July 9 that wearing masks was “non-sense.”
On July 18, state Rep. Beau LaFave challenged mask wearing and claimed that when people wear masks, they are less likely to keep their distance from each other.
State Rep. Ryan Berman is spearheading a petition to repeal Whitmer’s ability to fight pandemics, claiming the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer an emergency but a “threat we know how to deal with.”
Rep. Pauline Wendzel attacked Whitmer’s stay-at-home order in a radio interview on April 9.
Despite Chatfield, Shirkey and other Republican legislators’ opposition to Michigan’s mask-wearing requirement, the White House COVID-19 task force supports Michigan’s directive.
About the Committee to Protect Medicare
The Committee to Protect Medicare is an advocacy organization made up of frontline doctors engaging in direct advocacy and communications in support of a stronger healthcare system in America. To learn more: https://committeetoprotect.org/
NOTE: The physicians above are speaking in their capacity as members of the Committee to Protect Medicare. They should be identified only as indicated in this news release.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 7, 2020
Az Ibrahim, 616-227-1940, firstname.lastname@example.org