By Whitney Gresham
As the COVID-19 emergency appears to be leveling off and indications are the state may be moving toward relaxing social restrictions imposed to hinder its spread, some metro Detroiters who survived the deadly virus are urging the public to proceed with caution.
After the sheer agony of experiencing the disease personally and having several members of his church afflicted with the highly contagious virus the Rev. Horace Sheffield III, the head of DABO (Detroit Association of Black Organizations), and Pastor of New Destiny Christian Fellowship Church, said it would be foolish if not dangerously irresponsible to move too quickly in easing restrictions.
“You’ve got crazy white folks walking around with Confederate flags demanding the governor let them get back to work,” he said. “Meanwhile our whole earth is contaminated with this coronavirus and we don’t know if we ever will be able to walk around without a mask. And yet, people are partying and telling others to come to church on Sunday. It’s just ludicrous.”
Sheffield, who is still recovering said he believes he contracted the virus while on a business trip to New York City in mid-March while already feeling a bit under the weather. Upon his return, he felt so ill that he eventually had his wife; a nurse practitioner, bring him to the hospital where he was eventually diagnosed with COBID-19.
After battling the disease for more than two weeks while it ravaged and weakened his body, he admitted there were times when the physical pain was so intense and psychological misery so deep, that he was not sure if he would pull through. “I was in a fight to not let whatever it was to overtake me and overpower me. There was a little bit of delirium and feeling of disorientated.”
However, Sheffield slowly gained back his much of strength and clarity. Upon doing so he became alarmed at how early on in the pandemic many African Americans believed in the “myth” that they were not susceptible to the coronavirus and were fed other misinformation which resulted in far too many people not taking it seriously. As a consequence, the virus was allowed to wreak havoc in our communities.
“We probably had a delay in submitting to the recommendations to social distancing, and covering our hands and faces,” Sheffield said. “And now we’ve got this disease that certainly has had a major impact across the country. It makes me feel as if some of us literally have blood on our hands. The whole way this thing has been responded to really has exacerbated and facilitated the spread of the virus.”
According to the Michigan Department of Health, as of this week, Detroit, which has been the hardest-hit city in the state, now has more than 7,700confirmed cases and close to 700 confirmed deaths. While this is a slight increase from Sunday, it’s a noticeable decline from earlier reported rates.
The state overall has identified more than 32,000 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and more than 2,700 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic in Michigan.
Much of the change appears to be taking place in the metro Detroit region of the state which is the most populated and experienced the greatest impact. And with outstate and northern Michigan communities not experiencing the surge in cases that had been anticipated, the pressure is mounting on Gov. Whitmer to ease up on the state-sanctioned social distancing measures she has imposed last month. Including the extended stay-at-home order in effect for everyone but essential workplace employees through April 30.
As a consequence the state has experienced massive layoffs across its industries and unemployment has risen at a record pace. More than a million people have applied for benefits since March.
LaToya Henry, of Lathrup Village, is still recovering and self-quarantining from her recent bout with COVID-19. She said after feeling poorly for several weeks and finally being diagnosed with pneumonia, a fever that reached 102.7 and then, COVID-19, she spent two weeks in the hospital; including a week on a ventilator. She was released April 11th and was told it could take up to eight weeks for her to regain her strength.
Henry said she had been compliant, followed all the social distancing recommendations, and did not engage in any risky behavior. Yet, she caught the virus and has no idea how.
After her life-altering health crisis, the Detroit native warned with so much uncertainty surrounding the highly contagious virus and the lack of adequate testing supplies in the state, the consequences from catching COVID-119 are far too deadly to loosen regulations meant to protect the public while it is still actively causing so much damage.
“People think they can tell if someone has it, but you can’t tell,” Henry said. “So, you stay at home because you just don’t know. And no economy will be able to work well if workers are sick and making other people sick. It will continue to spread.”
And like Rev. Sheffield, she too is suspicious about the motives of some of the people clamoring the loudest for Governor Whitmer to let upon the public safety restrictions.
While watching the news coverage of the protest up in Lansing, one of the images I saw on TV was a sign that said “Don’t Punish the Rest of the State for Detroit,” Henry said. “They are putting out an image with definite racial tones to it and once again pitting Detroit against the rest of the state. But, they are definitely going to be impacted too.”
“I’ve been through this,” she said. “I want people to know this is very serious. Please stay at home. Please practice social distancing and all the things we have been taught to help mitigate the spread and improve the quality of our life.”
Evrod Cassimy, WDIV Channel 4 morning news anchor knows how Henry feels. After battling through COVID-19 and seeing the havoc it has caused in so many lives across the state he said he understands the anxiety on both sides of the argument over loosening the restrictions.
“When you have a fear of getting sick that is one thing,” he said. “But when you have a fear from the financial aspect, I can understand that too. I don’t have the answer. Nobody does. But I know staying home is saving people’s lives.”
Still, Cassimy believes Michigan and the rest of the country will eventually get through this crisis.
“This will be over soon,” he said. “I believe we are all in this together and if people are advising me to do things that will help, then, I want to do this. Everyone wants to get back to her normal lives and we are going