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New Whitmer order to free up hospitals to add beds, medical personnel

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order Tuesday that would allow hospitals and care facilities to sidestep state regulations temporarily to ensure COVID-19 patients have access to care. 

The order would allow hospitals to increase their number of beds beyond what is usually permitted under state guidelines and authorize the construction of mobile facilities to deal with an expected influx of patients in Michigan. 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the media about the state's steps to prevent the spread of coronavirus at a Friday press conference at the Michigan Emergency Operations Center in Dimondale.

Under the order, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs also will waive continuing education requirements for license renewal, temporarily register certified nurse aides and allow social workers, activity coordinators and volunteers to help feed and transfer patients.  

The order will help to address a “crisis unlike any we’ve seen before,” Whitmer said in a statement. 

“This executive order will help expand capacity so more people can access the care they need while we work to mitigate the spread of coronavirus,” Whitmer said. “I will continue to work quickly with our partners in state government and with hospitals and care facilities to protect Michigan families.” 

The allowance came after around-the-clock discussions with state government officials and the health care industry, said Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. 

“It’s a critical step at a time when we need all hands on deck to address this crisis,”Khaldun said. 

In the week since Michigan confirmed its first coronavirus cases, Whitmer has issued several executive orders to address the pandemic. Starting March 10, she has declared a state of emergency, closed all K-12 schools, limited assemblies to 50 people and closed all bars, restaurants, fitness centers and movie theaters.

Michigan has 65 confirmed coronavirus cases through Tuesday afternoon. Of the 57 confirmed cases for which the state has isolation information, 25 people are hospitalized with the illness while 32 are isolating at home.