Governor, unemployment director to hold press conference

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has called a press conference for this afternoon to provide an update on how the state is responding to the coronavirus outbreak.

You can watch it streaming live on at 3 p.m.

The governor will be joined at the briefing by Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive; and Jeff Donofrio, the director of the state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. That department includes the Unemployment Insurance Agency.

The UIA has been flooded with claims linked to the widespread closures aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus. Last week, it said that it saw a more than 5,000 increase in the number of claims filed between March 15 and April 4 over the previous three weeks.

In response, it quadrupled the number of people working the phones, upgraded servers so the UIA website could handle more traffic and added new online features aimed at making it easier to reach technical support — though Whitmer has made it clear that it’s still going to take time to process all claims. Self-employed people were able to start filing for benefits today.

More than 24,600 people statewide have contracted coronavirus and nearly 1,500 have died within about the last month, according to the latest data. Updated figures will be released this afternoon.

Saying models from the University of Michigan show cases may not peak until the end of the month, Whitmer last week extended her stay-at-home order through April 30. Under the order, you should only go out for essential errands, like grocery shopping or getting medication, or if you are an essential service worker. When you do have to go out, limit the number of people from your household on the trip and stay 6 feet away from others.

The goal of the social distancing measures is to keep the number of severe cases low enough that hospitals will be able to handle them. In New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S., the health care system is struggling to cope. You should also wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds with soap and warm water, cough into your arm or a tissue rather than your hands and avoidd touching your face with unwashed hands.

COVID-19 presents with a fever, cough and shortness of breath. For most who contract it, symptoms are mild. Though anyone can get it and anyone can develop a serious case, the people most at risk to develop severe complications are the elderly and those with preexisting health problems.

If you think you have coronavirus, call your health care provider. Unless you are in need of emergency help, do not go to the emergency room. Get advice from a doctor over the phone or a televisit and they will direct you on how to get tested.