07-02-2020 Letters & Commentary

HAPPY BIRTHDAY USA … Saturday, July 4th is the 244th birthday of the USA. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most celebrations of the day have been canceled or curtailed in an effort to reduce the spread of the virus.

SOME GOOD… Who would have thought it… a microscopic bug has brought the world to its knees, where despots, tyrants, dictators, evil empires, terrorists and such, failed to do so? Over a period of half a year, the world population is battling for its life against a virus that has jumped from continent to continent, country to country, and person to person, with no regard for gender, age, status, and health. The COVID-19 virus in a certain sense has done what mankind has failed to do… globally unite country to country against it without regard for race, religion, gender, and status. The deaths of now over a half million is a terrible price to pay. Hopefully there will be some good that comes of it. Please pray that will be the case.

HOMETOWN HISTORY… This is the last week of Bud (Roy) Davis’s column “The Paw Paw River Journal”, written just a few weeks before his death. I wrote last week in Karl’s Kolumn… “Hands down, Bud is the finest columnist I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with. He’s written in the last column, that he never thought he’d be writing a newspaper column following his teaching retirement in the early 1980s.” In the coming weeks, The Paw Paw River Journal will share rotating space on the history page with Pearl Playford’s columns and “Trails from Shingle Diggin’s”. “Reminiscing with Pearl Playford” appeared in the Watervliet Record, 1959-60 and compiled into book form by her nephew Richard Russell. “Trails from Shingle Diggin’s” by Mabel Branch Stark is a book of local history and reprised as a column in the Watervliet Record by her daughter Dorothy Stark Connell.

Action, not words, needed to protect nursing homes from COVID-19

Nursing homes are places of refuge for the elderly and their families. Much care, cost and effort go into operating these facilities to ensure a quality of life for residents who cannot live on their own or be taken care of by family.

We don’t expect that their lives would be endangered at such places, and the last thing we would expect is that they would be endangered there by their government. But in 2020, that is what happened.

From the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it became apparent that the virus was particularly harsh on the elderly and those with comorbidities commonly associated with seniors. A nursing home in Washington, the nation’s first coronavirus hotspot, became the state’s epicenter. Despite these early warning signs, and in the face of objections from the Health Care Association of Michigan, which represents hundreds of nursing homes and rehabilitation communities in the state, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order forcing COVID-19 patients to be admitted into their facilities.

This was a devastating decision that could have been avoided. Now, over 2,000 nursing home residents and nearly 20 employees are dead because of that decision. In the 21st Senate District, Berrien County was hit the hardest. Of the 123 known COVID-19 cases in the county’s nursing homes, 39 residents sadly lost their lives.

Communities across our region and state are grappling with a similar reality. The families who lost loved ones, employees of the facilities, and the public are questioning the governor’s administration’s actions. We deserve answers and demand accountability. We also need action.

Universal testing can be an effective way to prevent the virus’ spread in facilities, and lawmakers have already approved a budget supplemental that included $25 million for testing supplies and personal protective equipment for workers like those at nursing and home health care facilities. The governor has inexplicably still not signed that bill, thus withholding the needed funding and supplies.

The Senate also recently adopted a resolution denouncing Whitmer’s nursing home policy, and last week I supported legislation that was passed with bipartisan support to prevent people who have COVID-19 from being admitted or retained in nursing home and long-term care facilities in our state.

Senate Bill 956 would prohibit people with COVID-19 who are ineligible for admission in a hospital from being admitted or retained in a nursing home unless the facility has a state-approved designated area and program to provide appropriate care necessary to the patient.

The bill would require the state Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) to develop and submit a plan to the House and Senate health policy committees describing its process to ensure there are dedi