I hope this newsletter finds you safe, well and warm. I want to take a moment to be honest with you: writing a cheerful wrap up for 2020 would feel insincere. It is difficult to celebrate how many constituents our office has talked to when so many of those conversations were with families who were struggling. I could not talk about the number of community conversations I held without recognizing that many of these stemmed from deep systemic problems the pandemic brought to light. From small business hardships to school closures to lives lost, this year has tested our resilience and strength as a community in a way I have never seen, and the cost is terribly high. For those of you for whom this is the first holiday without a loved one, my heart goes out to you. Each of you and your families are on my mind constantly as we work to pass the final pieces of legislation in the 100th Legislature.
Despite the incomprehensible loss, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and there have been moments of joy this year. This week, the nation had its eyes on our state as the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine left a manufacturing facility in Portage, Michigan and began to be distributed across the nation. Frontline health care workers have started to receive the first doses of the vaccine, and our state has a plan to get everyone inoculated. On a personal note, our family welcomed my son, Benjamin, into the world this year. I have been grateful to have more time at home with him in his first months of life—even when that meant interrupted Zoom meetings and phone calls.
This is the note I want to end on: hope. I am hopeful that additional coronavirus relief, including water shutoff protections, will be passed at both the state and federal level before the year ends. I am hopeful that at this time next year, my children will have a faint memory of the time we spent inside and will be happily back to seeing their friends, classmates and cousins. I am hopeful that the flaws in our system exposed by the pandemic continue to see sunshine, and that instead of returning to a normal that didn’t work for so many, we are able to come together as a state to build a better Michigan. And I am hopeful you will continue to join me in this work.
Thank you all for continuing to be active participants in our community. Your voices have been critical to hear throughout this year, and I look forward to seeing you all soon—in person, as soon as it is safe.
Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season,
From the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS): COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout
MDHHS has set an initial operational goal of vaccinating 70 percent of individuals 16 years of age or older, or about 5.6 million people, for COVID-19 by the end of 2021. COVID-19 is a new disease in human populations and immunity in populations is not well understood at this time. This initial goal assumes the effectiveness of the vaccine is similar to manufacturers’ expectations. This goal will be adjusted as population effectiveness studies become available and ACIP guidance changes. Michigan has prioritized vaccine allocation within CDC phases, with an emphasis on both ensuring the continuing functioning of the health care system and essential services in the community and protecting people at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness.
Note, while there is not currently data on the safety and efficacy of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in pregnant women, the CDC has recommended that pregnant women may be offered the vaccine within these priority groups upon consultation with their medical provider. These prioritizations may change as further guidance from CDC or ACIP, more information on vaccine effectiveness and additional vaccination products become available.
The current priority order for the vaccine is as follows:
Phase 1A includes paid and unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials and are unable to work from home, as well as residents of long-term care facilities.
Phase 1B includes workers in essential and critical industries, including workers with unique skill sets such as non-hospital or non-public health laboratories and mortuary services.
Phase 1C includes people at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions, and people 65 years and older.
Phase 2 is a mass vaccination campaign for all adults.
You can also visit Michigan.gov/COVIDVaccine to learn more about the latest updates as they happen.
From the Michigan Public Service Commission: Heating and Other Home Resources
If you or a loved one are struggling with heat, food or other needed resources, please call 2-1-1 or visit www.mi211.org. They will be able to directly connect you to resources.
State Emergency Relief (SER) may help low-income households pay part of their heating or electric bills, assist in keeping utilities in service, or have service restored, assistance that’s available year-round. Apply on MI Bridges or call your local MDHHS office for information. You’ll be required to verify your income, so you may want to work with your utility or 2-1-1 first on tips to navigate this process. Households must apply for SER assistance prior to receiving any MEAP services.
In addition, MPSC recommends households do the following to help reduce energy costs:
- Check furnace filters and change them monthly or as recommended by the manufacturer. Clean filters allow furnaces to run more efficiently.
- Install a programmable thermostat and save on heating costs by lowering temperatures during daytime hours. Dressing for cold weather and turning down the thermostat another degree or two helps save money.
- Seal air leaks around windows, doors, or utility access points.
- Schedule a home energy assessment to identify ways to cut energy waste. Rebates on heating, ventilation and air conditioning, appliances, lighting, insulation and other improvements are available through utilities.
- Go to the MPSC’s Be Winterwise page for more information, or check out additional recommendations on reducing energy bills from the U.S. Department of Energy.
From the Macomb Center for Performing Arts: Free Virtual Performance for Students in Kindergarten through 5th grade
Theatre and dance collide in bite-size experiences crafted by world-renowned educator and performer Paige Hernandez. This residency features several warmups and a two-part basic hip hop routine! You’ll learn moves from Paige’s critically acclaimed show HAVANA HOP while grooving to the electrifying original music of Kris Funn’s The Cornerstore. Please visit MacombCenter.com to access this event, which will be available through Feb.13, 2021. The event is free, but registration is required. Run time: 60 minutes.
Stay in touch!
Due to the holidays, there will be no more community conversation hours this year. We will be in touch in the new year with an updated calendar of events! If you have specific questions in the meantime, please feel free to email my office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mental Health Assistance
While I am hopeful the next year will be brighter, the holiday season can be hard on mental health in the best of times. If you or anyone you know are in need of someone to talk to, the following resources are available:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (for all ages, available 24/7): 1-800-273-8255
Michigan Mental Health Peer Warmline (for all ages, available every day 10am-2am): 1-888-733-7753
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Treatment and Referral Line (for all ages, available 24/7): 1-800-662-4357
The Trevor Project Lifeline (for people under 25, offers counselors trained in LGBTQ+ concerns, available 24/7): 1-866-488-7386
If you are looking for other helplines, the Youth Alliance has a database of resources you may find helpful. Remember: our community is better because your voice is in it. You are not alone.