James Peltier was the first Director of Community Development and Personal for the City of Monroe. Here is his latest column.

The first COVID-19 death the U.S. reported was in the state of Washington on Jan. 21; about a month later, Feb. 19, two more deaths were reported from a nursing home in Kirkland. Wash. Just 10 days later that total had grown to 29. (At one point the state nursing homes accounted for 60 percent of the cases identified in the U.S.) This was a large red flag, based on my experience dispatching ambulance service to those facilities.

In Michigan there are 445 nursing homes that can accommodate more than 47,000 persons. The population of nursing homes and adult care faculties ranges from six to 250 persons 24/7. It’s this density that’s a major cause of rapid infections.

An example: A 100-bed nursing home on two acres can account for about 100 persons per acre when patients, staff, family, friends, vendors, and public employees are counted. (A square mile is 640 acres which equates to 64,000 persons.) New York City had 27,000 per square mile; the comparable number in Monroe County is 271 per square mile.

With the patients confined to the facility and sometimes to their rooms it’s obvious how fast the COVID-19 virus can spread, making nursing homes the worst place for this virus. The state missed this serious problem.

So, I started looking at data, executive orders and media reports, tracking down the following facts:

March 10 the governor declared a state of emergency.

March 13 she issued an order banned the gathering of 250 persons, with exception of residence facilities and childcare centers.

March 23 she required staying at home and prohibiting visits to family or friends – either at your home or theirs. This then applied to nursing homes.

I could not find an order that all nursing home patients and staff be tested in the state. The national news media had many reports on death in nursing homes. They have become the centers of a great deal of attention with a high number of positive cases, great disappointments, and no trust.

April 8 the City of Detroit started testing of all patients and staff in the 44 nursing homes is the city to be finished by April 24. The results are not known yet. By April 10, nursing home deaths made up 27 percent of the city’s 272 deaths.

April 15 the governor’s order directed nursing homes to transfer COVID-19 patients to separate units or special facilities and banned evictions from nursing homes. Placing a loved one there is extremely hard but often is the only option left to keep them alive.

This data demonstrates the state emergency plan lacked important information. Plus, all the new gubernatorial appointees lacked disaster response skills. I did read an excuse claiming the nursing homes were hiding the numbers, but the lack of good data creates bad results.

Education, unemployment, lost revenue, budget issues, closing the economy, roads, and many other topics will cause other deaths and more misery for all. The governor and staff will spend the rest of their term with the lack of revenue, answers, and local governmental agencies will be severally impacted.

There is an old saying “Big is not Better.” This crisis sure gave many examples of those problems that made this disaster hard on everyone. There is hope because people will help during the crisis, but when this crisis is over, a whole bunch of new ones are waiting. Planning must be on overdrive.

James Peltier was the first Director of Community Development and Personal for the City of Monroe. He is also a retired county administrator, emergency service coordinator and Emergency Services Consultant. He can be reached at crisismaster1@hotmail.com.

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