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LANSING, Mich. — Michigan physicians today called on Republicans in the Legislature to immediately work with Governor Whitmer to fully utilize federal funding to vaccinate people, reopen schools safely and support struggling families — without stripping the powers she has used to help keep Michiganders safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, the Michigan House Appropriations Chair, Republican Rep. Thomas Albert said he would not meet with the Whitmer Administration to discuss releasing additional federal dollars unless they would negotiate on the governor’s pandemic powers. The Michigan Senate also passed a measure that would allow Republican Majority Leader Sen. Mike Shirkey to sue Governor Whitmer if she allocated the money without legislative approval.
“As physicians, we are extremely concerned that Republicans in the Legislature continue to block resources that can save lives and safely reopen our schools and economy,” said Dr. Farhan Bhatti, MD, Michigan State Lead for the Committee to Protect Medicare and a family physician practicing in Lansing. “Partisan games and lawsuits intended to reduce Gov. Whitmer’s authority are truly dangerous. Every day that Republican politicians refuse to give health care workers all the tools and support we need to protect people is another day they are prolonging Michiganders’ pain and suffering. The sooner we can vaccinate Michiganders and make local businesses, schools and our communities safer, the sooner we can get back to our normal lives.”
Republican legislators continue to block as much as $2 billion in total funds to vaccinate as many Michiganders as quickly as possible. The funds are also intended to help schools implement safety measures to protect children, teachers and staff, and support local businesses. In addition, the funds would boost Michigan’s testing-and-tracing abilities, which can help identify disease outbreaks and prevent them from spreading.
Vaccinations are essential to protecting people from getting COVID-19, and evidence increasingly indicates vaccinated individuals carry a very low risk of infecting other people. Public health experts say vaccinated individuals can begin to participate in some activities safely, including meeting indoors with other vaccinated people. The physicians say vaccinated people should still observe safety behaviors around unvaccinated people, such as wearing masks and socially distancing. They stressed that the risk of COVID-19 infection in fully vaccinated people cannot be completely eliminated as long as community infections remain.
“Vaccinations are how Michigan can finally get to the other side of this devastating pandemic, and politicians should stop preventing health workers from doing our jobs,” said Dr. Rob Davidson, MD, CTP executive director and an emergency physician in West Michigan. “The science and the evidence are clear: Vaccines are essential to a better future for countless families in Michigan, and eradicating community transmission through vaccinations is the key. If we ever want to get back to normal, Republicans must stop holding hostage resources that can help prevent sickness and death. They must be held accountable for putting partisan misinformation and power grabs ahead of people’s lives and livelihoods.”
The doctors called on Republican legislators to immediately stop spreading misinformation intended to deceive people and deepen partisan divisions, such as those from politicians like Michigan House Appropriations Chair, Republican Rep. Thomas Albert of Lowell in Kent County. He falsely claimed that Gov. Whitmer “literally locked people in their homes” and is unilaterally keeping schools closed. Gov. Whitmer has imposed fewer restrictions on the opening and closing of schools and urged schools to reopen by March 1. By law, K-12 districts and charter schools decide whether to allow in-person classes. Only half of Michigan’s teachers have been vaccinated; some districts continue to struggle to vaccinate their teachers and school staff. Others actions by Gov. Whitmer, the likes of which Republicans are trying to curtail with their funding threats, were shown to have saved tens of thousands of lives last summer.
“From a physician’s perspective, I see vaccinations as the light at the end of our tunnel, and our best tool at saving more lives after a year of so much loss, so we should be focusing squarely on getting shots in arms,” said Dr. Harland Holman, MD, a family physician practicing in West Michigan. “Michigan is building valuable momentum, and here in my home of Kent County, everyone is working tirelessly with the resources we have to get people vaccinated. It’s disappointing that some of our representatives in Lansing are threatening to slam the brakes on the hard work and sacrifices so many people have made in the past year just to score short-sighted political points. Physicians join many others across Michigan in calling on our legislators, including those in Kent County, to stop playing games with people’s lives and give us the resources we need to keep people safe.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, Mar. 16, 2021
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.