State: 4 involved in nixed contact tracing contract

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — State officials have disclosed who was involved in selecting a now-canceled contract with a firm that was picked to help reach those who have come into contact with people infected with COVID-19.

The state says State Epidemiologist and Director Dr. Sarah Lyon-Callo, Senior Advisor of Opioid Strategy Andrea Taverna, Director of HIV/STD Programs Kathryn Macomber and Joe Coyle, section manager in the communicable disease division, were involved in the decision-making process.

Republicans were concerned that the firm, Great Lakes Community Engagement, is owned by a Democratic consultant who planned to also use software developed by a firm with ties to Democratic campaigns. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration nixed the contract on Tuesday, one day after it was selected.

“Department staff were moving rapidly to expand contact tracing and reduce the loss of life. They believed a firm with substantive experience in organizing volunteers at scale would excel at organizing hundreds of contact tracing volunteers. In retrospect, it would have been better to choose a different firm, but we have been working around the clock to save lives. I have complete confidence in these individuals’ commitment to protecting the health of Michiganders, and am grateful for their continuing public service,” said Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director Robert Gordon in a statement.

At a Wednesday press conference, Whitmer said she ordered the contract to be terminated when the issue was brought to her attention and promised to not repeat the error.

“This was an unnecessary distraction,” she said. “Leadership is about solving problems. The correct process was not followed. We are fixing it because it’s important that we get this right because this work is incredibly important.”

-The Associated Press contributed to this report