As second COVID wave looms, biz leaders ask state officials to present a united front

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Leaders in auto, health care, manufacturing, finances and education penned an open letter Wednesday to Michigan's elected officials pleading for them to present a united front on COVID-19 regulations as concerns of a second wave loom.

In the letter, the group said orders from the state health department and job safety agency were "sufficient" to provide standards for mask usage, gatherings, and workplace protocol, but elected officials needed to "focus on deploying them with discipline."

Coronavirus virus testing at the North entrance of Beaumont hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan on March 31, 2020.

The "period of public confusion" after the Oct. 2 Michigan Court Order overturning Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's emergency powers cannot continue on the cusp of a second wave, they wrote. 

"Michigan cannot afford for the recent case surge to evolve into an uncontrolled outbreak of the sort underway in Wisconsin, where case levels are over ~2.5 times those in Michigan and many hospitals are again under pressure," read the letter, signed by, among others, university presidents the heads of General Motors, Meijer, Dow, Steelcase, Lear, Barton Malow, Wolverine Worldwide and TCF Financial. 

The senders also include the health systems of Munson, Spectrum, Beaumont, and Henry Ford. 

A spokesman for Whitmer and Republican representatives in the Legislature did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. 

The letter noted that, after the initial spike of 1,600 cases per day in April, cases fell to a low in June, then rose to 800 cases per day by mid-July, where they stayed until October. 

The October spike in cases also has included a shift from youths over the summer and start of school to a more even distribution across all age groups in the fall. 

Hospitalizations also have risen in recent weeks, with the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions being the most affected by severe cases.

"The job of the rest of us is to rally to protect them by suppressing the spread of the virus to protect those who remain at high risk," the letter said.

The discipline needed to curb the second wave in Michigan is needed to protect not just the elderly or the economy, but also to guarantee the eventual return of kids to classrooms across the state, the letter said. 

"Many of our children, especially the poorest, are not thriving in a virtual learning world — and many parents are struggling to balance the demands of work and virtual schooling," the letter said.