Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist Speaks On State’s Responsibility Is To Protect

By Whitney Gresham

State officials are urging calm as Michigan continues to reel under the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic while the President of the United States mocks and ridicules Gov. Gretchen Whitmer instead of offering his full-throated support as the deadly disease hits closer and closer to citizens’ homes.

The most recent data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services shows the state officially surpassed 5,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and as of Monday morning was closing in on 5,500 cases with 132 reported deaths.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, in an exclusive interview with the Michigan Chronicle, said given these dynamics he understood why citizens are fearful and she shared their concerns. But he pleaded for everyone to follow the MDHHS and Centers for Disease and Control safety protocols to help the state leaders and health officials combat the disease as effectively as they can.

“Our responsibility is to protect and promote the public health and public safety of the people of the state of Michigan and so that is what is motivating the decisions that we’re making to try to have the most comprehensive and aggressive response to the coronavirus as it spreads through communities across our state,” he said. “It is why we took the action to order people to stay at home, so they can stay safe and so we can save lives.”

Gilchrist acknowledged the real burden of the pandemic is now being felt on a more personal level by Detroiters with the recent deaths and illness of several prominent Detroiters including Marlowe Stoudamire and Commander Donafay Collins attributed to COVID-19.

“It’s something that is becoming certainly more present in more people’s lives as the virus spreads,” he said. “More people are going to know someone who was affected, or is going to know someone who was passed away so it’s something that is getting more real.”

The problem, however, is that much less prominent or affluent people living in poverty or underinsured are dealing with this struggle as well.

“What we are again first and foremost wanting to do is to make sure people are safe and healthy,” Gilchrist said. “We know that this has the potential to spread amongst impoverished communities and that’s why we’re taking the action that we’re taking. It’s also why we wanted to make clear that during the stay at homestay safe order the food distribution continues so that so many children and families that rely on it when they go to school have that essential meal just as when they go to school.”

Public health professionals in Michigan, around the country, and the world agree the best way to slow the community spread of the virus is by limiting activities and limiting human-to-human contact, and to ensure medical professionals have the equipment that they need to respond to this virus.

Although he said “the federal response has been lacking,” the Whitmer Administration began to prepare for a possible outbreak before the first cases emerged. He noted the MDHHS and other agencies had stepped up its monitoring when it appeared to be spreading throughout Asia and Europe.

The problem, however, was that the state lacked enough personal protective equipment for first responders and the federal government was slow in delivering critically needed medical equipment such as respirators.

Fortunately, the Big Three and workers of the UAW stepped up and committed to manufacturing much-needed face seals and face masks, Gilchrist said.

“And all the other materials that the public health professionals need so that they can stay safe, and they can take care of the people in our country,” he said. “We’ve also taken action to do things like expanding access to childcare for those professionals. We’re working so hard during this time to make sure that their kids are taken care of.”

The coordination with the Michigan industry and unions should allow the state to be able to make up for the gap in supplies so that they don’t overwhelm our healthcare system. “The difference between what’s happening in Michigan and what’s happening in Italy, is that the Italian healthcare system got overwhelmed with a spike in positive cases,” Gilchrist said. “And when the system gets overwhelmed that’s when you see more people testing positive and more people passing away at a really, really, fast rate and we are working to avoid that. And that’s why we’re asking people to stay home so we can try to get ahead of the challenge.”

The Lt. Governor’s comments followed a remarkable week where Trump had singled out the governor for harsh criticism and told the press on Thursday that he had a “big problem” with the “young, a woman governor” in Michigan. He said, “all she does is sit there and blame the federal government.”

The following Trump admitted he told Vice President Mike Pence, “don’t call the woman in Michigan,” and later referred to her as “Gretchen ‘Half’ Whitmer” in a tweet and said she is “way in over her head” and “doesn’t have a clue.”

Gilchrist bristled at the President’s criticism of his boss but declined to elaborate. Earlier this week Governor Whitmer sought to de-escalate tensions between her and President Trump even as she defended her handling of the pandemic.

During an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” Whitmer said that she doesn’t “have the energy to respond to every slight.”

“What I’m trying to do is work well with the federal government,” she said. “We are all stressed because we have people that are dying right now. I need assistance and I need partnership.”



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