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Michigan House Republican lawmakers detail data-driven plan for ‘certainty and hope’ through remainder of COVID-19 pandemic
RELEASE|October 20, 2020
Contact: Ben Frederick

County-level data would drive decision-making in response to virus

A group of House Republicans today detailed a plan giving the people of Michigan more certainty and control in these challenging times – allowing for data-driven COVID-19 responses that reflect conditions in local communities.

The plan relies on science-based, county-level data to guide decisions to keep people healthy and determine appropriate COVID-19 restrictions.

“This is a data-driven plan that will work in partnership with the medical community to shape the best COVID-19 responses for Michigan. Those responses may vary from place to place as the prevalence of the virus and other local conditions may vary,” said Rep. Ben Frederick of Owosso. “This approach aligns with the feedback I’ve heard from local health experts about the importance of more community-based strategies to keep the curve flattened while protecting lives and livelihoods across our state.”

Frederick helped lead a work group to develop refinements to existing plans after the recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling striking down Gov. Whitmer’s executive orders as unconstitutional. The plan builds upon themes first championed by House Republicans in April.

“This plan provides certainty and offers hope to guide Michigan through the stress and confusion of this pandemic,” said Rep. Julie Calley of Portland. “You will have a voice in determining the COVID-19 responses in place in your own community. And when a decision is made, you will know why. By empowering people and listening to science, Michigan will have a safe, sensible and improved response to the virus as we move forward to better days ahead.”

When the data supports it, local public health experts will have the option to modify their COVID-19 policies at the county-level – potentially loosening state limits on gathering sizes, restaurant capacity and other measures that would remain in place in other counties. Health thresholds allowing local decision-making would be based on five clear scientific metrics:

  • Case rate. The number of confirmed community spread cases over a 14-day period is below 55 cases per 1 million people.
  • Positivity rate. The rate of positive tests related to community spread over a 14-day period must be below 5 percent.
  • Surge and hospital capacity. Hospitals must be able to handle a 20 percent surge in admissions or patient transfers, and they must be below a 25 percent hospitalization increase in the previous 14 days.
  • Sufficient PPE supply. Local health facilities must have at least a two-week supply of personal protective equipment on hand.
  • Ability to test for COVID-19. Counties must be able to test 15 people per 10,000 residents per day, and turn around test results in three days or less.

If the data indicates a county has risen above these COVID metrics, intervention strategies would immediately go into effect.

“The health of Michiganders should never be politicized – and this plan ensures politics has no place in determining the state’s response to COVID-19,” said Rep. Graham Filler of DeWitt. “People expect and deserve the governor and the Legislature to work together in a bipartisan effort to address COVID-19 – and this plan will move our state forward in that direction.”

The plan was put together by looking to best practices in other states in consultation with Michigan medical and science professionals, including professionals who joined members to express support for the goals of the proposal and a willingness to work together on further refinements as it moves through the legislative process.  Among those in attendance were Brian Long, President/CEO of Memorial Healthcare in Owosso, and Dr. Justin Grill, Chief Medical Officer of Mercy Health Muskegon.

“We learn more about COVID-19 every day, and our state response should improve with this knowledge,” said Rep. Sarah Lightner of Springport. “Our plan is the proper response regardless of whether COVID cases are rising, falling or stable because it accounts for all of these scenarios – prioritizing health and safety, transparency and consistency. This is all based on clear guidance and science-based decision-making.”

Rep. Greg VanWoerkom of Norton Shores noted House Republicans first discussed a regional framework in April to more accurately reflect COVID-19 conditions within individual locations. The approach has worked with the ‘Return to Learn’ plan empowering local schools to make the decisions most appropriate for their communities based upon county data.

“This is not a new concept, but certainly a different approach for Michigan that empowers people and communities to implement best practices,” VanWoerkom said. “Top-down, one-size-fits-all mandates leave people confused and without hope. This plan gives communities something to strive and work together toward.”

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