This year has been unlike any other, with unprecedented public health and economic crises continuing to upend life as we know it. I write to you today to keep you updated on a few important pieces of information regarding MDHHS’ updated epidemic order, the COVID-19 vaccine, a consumer alert from Attorney General Dana Nessel and more.
In addition, please be sure to regularly check Michigan.gov/coronavirus and CDC.gov/coronavirus for the latest information regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have additional questions about what the state is doing to mitigate the spread of the virus you can call Michigan’s COVID-19 Hotline at (888) 535-6136 seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or email COVID19@michigan.gov and your questions will be answered from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
I hope that you and your family have a safe and joyous holiday season. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and my staff if you have any questions or concerns by calling (517) 373-0475, or by emailing BrendaCarter@house.mi.gov.
Brenda Carter State Representative 29th House District
In This Edition:
- Michigan Supplemental and Federal Stimulus Update
- Updated MDHHS Epidemic Order
- COVID-19 Vaccine Info
- Consumer Alert: DTE Imposter Scams
- 2020-2021 Flu Vaccine
- MI COVID Alert App
Michigan Supplemental and Federal Stimulus Update
The Michigan House has just passed $465 million in COVID-19 relief for Michigan residents and local small businesses, including:
- $220 million to continue unemployment benefits for 26 weeks (up from 20 weeks);
- More than $55 million for COVID-19 vaccine administration and planning;
- $55 million for small business survival grants;
- $45 million in employee assistance grants for workers who have been laid off because of COVID-19 business closures;
- $22.5 million for COVID-19 testing and rapid response;
- $100 million to continue $2/hour in additional pay for direct care workers;
- $15 million to hospitals and long-term care facilities for additional staffing and reimbursement for housing COVID-19 patients
- $2.5 million for hazard pay for educators left out of previous hazard payments, including Great Start Readiness Preschool teachers, special education teachers, and adult education teachers; and
- $3.5 million for entertainment venues that have not been able to hold events since March.
Senate Bill 748 passed the Senate last week and is headed to Gov. Whitmer’s desk for her signature. The House also passed Senate Bill 604, which continues the extension of unemployment benefits through March 31, 2021.
While these bills are far from perfect, they address many of the most immediate needs facing our communities in this moment. While this is a good step, it is only a first step in our continued efforts to keep Michigan families and businesses on their feet now and after this crisis is behind us.
Congress has passed an estimated $900 billion in relief measures that will extend and expand unemployment benefits, providing much-needed relief to millions. This includes:
- Provides all unemployment recipients with an additional $300 per week from Dec. 27 through Mar. 14, 2021 (PUC).
- Extends Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) through Mar. 14, 2021. The relief bill also ensures that all workers on PUA receive 50 weeks of benefits (an increase of 11 weeks from the CARES Act).
- Extends Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) through Mar. 14, 2021.
- After Mar. 14, PUA and PEUC will be phased out so no new people can enter the program. Hard application stop on Apr. 5.
- NEW PUA program requirements: applicants must substantiate employment starting on Jan. 31 for new claimants. (Prove loss of work due to COVID).
- States will have to verify identities to address fraud.
Once the bill has been signed by the president, and UIA receives more information and guidance from the US Dept. of Labor, it will work quickly to implement the extensions of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs. If you have specific questions about your personal UIA benefits, reach out to UIA directly through MiWAM.
Updated MDHHS Epidemic Order
On Friday, Dec. 18, the Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) updated its epidemic order to begin a cautious re-opening of certain indoor activities where Michiganders can remain masked, modifying the successful “pause” to save lives. This updated epidemic order will take effect Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, lasting until Friday, Jan. 15, 2021.
With promising reductions in the spread of COVID-19, MDHHS’ updated epidemic order is aimed at beginning a cautious reopening while closely monitoring the impacts. These actions still require us to move with care, patience and vigilance, recognizing the grave harm COVID-19 continues to inflict on our communities and state, and how quickly our progress in suppressing it can be undone. As these steps are taken, the surest way to maintain our momentum in controlling the spread of this pandemic is to open lower risk venues first, and gradually, rather than all at once. By taking deliberate steps and closely monitoring the data, we can ensure Michigan remains on the path to recovery in the new year.
The updated epidemic order allows indoor activities where Michiganders can remain masked, including in-person learning at high schools and indoor entertainment venues. Casinos, bowling centers and movie theaters will be allowed to reopen with total capacity capped at 100; with food and drink concessions closed and social distancing requirements remaining in place.
Bars and restaurants will be open for outdoor dining, carry-out and delivery only. Gyms will remain open for individual exercise with strict safety measures in place. Professional and college sports meeting extraordinary standards for risk mitigation may continue without spectators, but all other organized sports must not resume.
The updated extension continues to leave open work that can’t be performed from home, including manufacturing, construction and health occupations. Outdoor gatherings, outdoor dining and parks remain open. Individualized activities with distancing and face masks are still allowed: retail shopping; public transit; restaurant takeout; personal-care services such as haircuts, by appointment; and individualized exercise at a gym, with extra spacing between machines.
Teachers, childcare workers and health care professionals continue to serve on the front lines ensuring support for Michiganders across our state. We must take this updated epidemic order seriously, not only for our own loved ones, but for every hero risking their life and the health of their family as we continue to battle this ongoing crisis.
COVID-19 Vaccine Info
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated how diseases without vaccines can devastate an economy and public health. In modern history, vaccines have been integral in reducing, and in some cases, eliminating diseases. On Friday, Dec. 11, the first COVID-19 vaccine in the country was approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Over the weekend, Pfizer—Michigan’s very own—and their German partner BioNTech began shipping doses of the vaccine from Kalamazoo across the country.
The Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is committed to following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for prioritization of distribution and administration of COVID-19 vaccines, with input from state public health and health care leaders and reviewed correspondence from the public. Distribution in Michigan will be in a phased approach, with an emphasis on ensuring the continued functioning of the health care system and essential services in the community, and protecting people at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness. Continue on below for more information, or visit michigan.gov/coronavirus.
Vaccination Approval Process
Vaccines are approved only after they have been held to the highest safety standards. By the time a vaccine like the one to be used to combat COVID-19 is granted approval, the data has been reviewed by the country’s top public health, medical and immunization experts. Here’s how a new vaccine is typically developed, approved and manufactured:
In an incredible feat, the COVID-19 vaccines have been developed faster than any before thanks to the unprecedented, worldwide collaboration among scientists, medical doctors, health and government officials, and manufacturers. This collective effort has allowed researchers to shorten the typical vaccine timeline without sacrificing safety or quality.
Initial Vaccine Distribution & Administration Plan
Distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in Michigan will follow the CDC’s phased approach, including the following phases:
Phase 1A: This phase 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.
The first priority of this phase is to keep critical health care infrastructure open and functioning through the vaccination of staff who perform direct patient care and work in critical areas, including emergency medical service providers, emergency departments and intensive care units. Phase 1A also focuses on preventing outbreaks in long-term care facilities by vaccinating workers who have direct contact with large numbers of vulnerable residents, including staff who come in and out of the buildings. Vulnerable residents in long term care facilities will also be prioritized for vaccination during this phase.
Phase 1B: This phase includes some workers in essential and critical industries, including workers with unique skill sets as non-hospital or non-public health laboratories and mortuary services.
Additional essential workers will be the focus of this phase, in order to keep critical infrastructure open and functioning. This will include K-12 school and child-care staff with direct contact with children, some workers in 16 sectors of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Program, homeless shelters, corrections facilities, congregate child care institutions, and adult and child protective services. Other workers with unique skill sets not already covered, including non-hospital laboratories and mortuary services, are also included in this phase.
Phase 1C: This phase includes people at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness due to underlying medical conditions, and people 65 years and older.
In addition to individuals age 65 years and older, this phase includes individuals over the age of 18 with COPD, hypertension, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, obesity or another condition that puts them at high risk of a negative COVID-19 outcome. Please note that pregnant persons are not recommended to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at this time.
Phase 2: This phase is a mass vaccination campaign for all adults.
All other individuals who did not otherwise fit into the previous groups for whom the vaccine is recommended are included in Phase 2. The vaccine is expected to be available to the general public when supply substantially increases in 2021.
COVID-19 vaccinations will be administered by the following entities:
- Local Health Departments
- Emergency Medical Services
- Michigan National Guard
- Outpatient Clinics
For answers to frequently asked questions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine in Michigan, click here. For additional information, visit michigan.gov/COVIDVaccine.
Consumer Alert: DTE Imposter Scams
This week, Attorney General Dana Nessel issued an urgent consumer alert to Michiganders in response to recent imposter call scams being made to customers by someone claiming to be a DTE employee. During the calls, the scammer was notifying customers of a power shutoff and requesting payment by bitcoin or preloaded money card to avoid shutoff. As customers returned the call to the number shown on the customer’s caller ID, the customer was then greeted by a convincing spoof of a DTE employee who would appear to help the customer avoid a shutoff. The impersonator would then take advantage of the customer returning the call by getting personal information and/or cash.
Unfortunately, consumers are targeted by utility imposter scams every day; but as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year has been marked by an uptick in scams like this. As a result, AG Nessel is urging residents to stay informed on the most common ways to recognize potential bad actors posing as utility workers—whether it be in-person, by phone, text or online.
It’s important to keep in mind that your utility company will never call, email, or show up unannounced to demand payment or threaten shutoff. AG Nessel suggests getting in touch with your utility provider directly from a phone number available on their website or listed on your utility bill to verify.
It’s disheartening that scammers and other potential bad actors often target some of the most vulnerable members of our communities, including seniors and families with low-incomes. With so many already struggling to overcome the challenges posed by this pandemic, every one of us should learn how to detect and report these predatory scame.
DTE Energy and other utility companies will never:
- Solicit personal information for a government program that claims to reduce energy bills.
- Visit your home to collect a bill or threaten a shutoff.
- Show up unannounced at a customer’s home to inspect or repair equipment, investigate a leak or do a free audit for energy efficiency.
- Request immediate payment, instructing customers to purchase a prepaid debit card, or any form of unusual payment.
- Request personal or financial information, such as a Social Security number, utility account number or payment information.
- Claim a customer is entitled to a refund or rebate asking for bank account or credit card information to make the alleged refund.
- Use aggressive tactics to get into a customer’s home.
If you suspect you have been contacted by an imposter, contact DTE Energy by calling (800)477-4747 to speak to a customer representative who can confirm the status of your account.
You can also file a complaint online with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Team by clicking here or by calling (877) 765-8388. More information regarding this consumer alert can be found by clicking here.
2020-2021 Flu Vaccine
As COVID-19 continues to pose a threat to our state, it’s more important than ever to stay healthy and protect ourselves against preventable illnesses, like the seasonal influenza virus, or the flu. The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from getting sick with the flu. Flu vaccines are safe and recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older every year, with rare exceptions. Vaccination has shown to have many benefits, including reducing the risk of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and even death.
For fact sheets, flyers and more resources about flu vaccination, and what you should know for the 2020-2021 flu season, click here.
To find a location to get a flu vaccine, click here, contact the Oakland County Health Division or your health care provider.
MI COVID Alert App
MI COVID Alert is a free app for your mobile phone that will help Michiganders stay safe and protect each other. This app is easy-to-use and can:
- Alert you if you may have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus
- Advise you on what to do to protect yourself and others
- Alert other app users that you were in close contact with if you test positive for coronavirus
Contact tracing is a vital part of slowing the spread of the virus; the more people that download and use the app, the more it will help our state’s existing contact tracing operation. The app does this by alerting you that you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.
The app will not disclose the name of the contact or the location of exposure, but it will let you know that you were close enough (within 6 feet) for long enough (15 minutes or more), for there to be a risk that you could have been exposed to the virus. The app will then alert you and advise you on what to do next. Likewise, if you test positive for coronavirus, you can use the app to alert anyone you have been in close contact with.
For more information on how to use the MI COVID Alert app, click here.
For more information regarding the app’s privacy and data policies, click here.
For more information on the importance of downloading and using MI COVID Alert, click here.