Officials Share Coronavirus Updates: New Cases, Price Gouging, Restaurant Support and More
(Crystal A. Proxmire, March 17, 2020)
Ferndale, MI – Normally M-Brew would be packed with revelers enjoying pizza and craft beers, but after the state-mandated closure of bars and limitation of meals to carryout service, the normal crowd was replaced by reporters and public officials for a press conference Monday afternoon.
Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter was joined by M-Brew owner Dean Bach, Congressperson Andy Levin, Attorney General Dana Nessel, Sheriff Mike Bouchard, and Chair of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners Dave Woodward for various updates on the Coronavirus spread.
“It is time that we get very serious,” Coulter said. “Not that we haven’t been serious but we know that the actions we take now will help not spread this virus and save lives. It’s still not time to panic…but it is time to take additional measures to keep our residents safe.”
The total number of positive patients as of noon Monday was 14 in Oakland County. Since then the number has gone up to 16. . “We expect those numbers are going to grow,” he said. Coulter said patients from 5 years old to in their 90s.
One issue of importance to Coulter is that of cybersecurity. He spoke of reports of a cyber attack on a US Dept. of Health and Human Services website, and that he recently formed a Cyber Security Task force for Oakland County.
“This add just an additional threat to the disease we are fighting…Keeping our data secure is a critical task as we move forward,” Coulter said.
Sheriff Bouchard added his concerns about the web. “A lot of different sites have cropped up that mirror legitimate sites and they are putting Trojan viruses into computers,” he said. “There’s one specifically related to John Hopkins that is a real time sickness map…planting malware on your computer, so be aware of those kind of things. Don’t’ click on a link that you don’t know what it is when you get an email.”
Bouchard also shared words of wisdom from his experience. “I responded to Ground Zero and to Katrina – huge tragedies and we saw the best in humanity and the worst, but the best is what overcame those times, we will get through this as long as we work together,” he said.
Congressperson Andy Levin shared his sentiments as well. “We are all here as people trying to deal with something that’s scary and has a lot of uncertainty in it,” Levin said. “I’ve got a dad who’s 88, an uncle who’s 85, mother in laws’s 88. Two of our kids have Crohn’s Disease so they are immune compromised. They’re young adults out in the world, so how to try and reel them in and keep them safe. And I’ve got a school aged daughter who’s school is closed. Every one of you has situations like this. And so I just urge you…if we all dial back and keep our social distance, wash our hands, sanitize those surfaces – you’re taking care of yourself, but you’re also reducing the risk for all your neighbors.”
Congressperson Levin added “Do go outside. But parents if you’ve got little kids and the playground equipment is used by a lot of kids that’s probably not the greatest idea. Everybody can take a walk. Everybody can go outside in the woods or whatever space that’s not crowded you have access to.”
Levin also spoke about the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. “That is all about helping people most affected by this crisis,” he said. The act includes funding for unemployment benefits and access to Coronavirus testing without insurance. It also includes paid sick leave for those in small to medium sized businesses, with Levin saying “larger employers are primarily doing this on their own.”
He’s also called upon President Donald Trump to invoke the Defense Production act of 1950 which would order companies to produce essential items, such as hospital gloves and masks.
SUPPORT FOR SMALL BUSINESSES
The Congressman also announced that the Small Business Association is allocating federal funds in the form of low-interest loans to those experiencing losses.
M-Brew owner Dean Bach was there to make sure officials and the public understood the impact of closure on businesses. “I’ve spoken to a lot of owners in the restaurant industry. Our priority is our staff’s well-being, and our customers’ well-being,” he said. “The restaurant industry works with really slim margins.”
Attorney General Dana Nessel shared her support as well, stating “We urge people to frequent these businesses to the extent they can. If they can afford it, get take out, get delivery, make sure you tip your servers the same way you would if you were dining in,” she said.
Nessel also spoke about her office’s efforts to stop price gouging, referring to Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order that prohibits a retailer from selling items at more than 20% of the price they were charging for the same product on March 9, unless they can demonstrate an increase in cost of getting the product to market. “This s a crime now in order to price gouge,” she said. “Before it was simply a violation of the Consumer Protection Act. It was a civil offense. It’s now a criminal offense.
ADDITIONAL CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE FUNDING
Oakland County is working on ways to respond to needs of residents and businesses, according to Chairperson Dave Woodward. He stated that he’d be proposing for an additional million dollars in funding to have on hand for Coronavirus related efforts. He also said they’d be seeking State and Federal funds as possible.
Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.