To date, there has been no data on incidence of Covid 19 cases in the workplace in Michigan.
The State of Michigan, as part of Executive Order 2020-114 requires that businesses immediately notify the local public health department and any co-workers, contractors, or suppliers who may have come into contact with the person with a confirmed case of COVID-19 within 24 hours. Businesses must also shut down operations when any person is found to show symptoms of Covid 19 in the establishment and has a positive test.
But anecdotal reports are suggesting that compliance with the directive is spotty. No doubt, businesses will be hesitant to shut down operations with little notice or to draw undue attention to themselves. However, after one local business (so far the only one to do so) issued a public statement that one of their employees tested positive for the disease, the public is becoming skeptical of the private sector’s commitment to responding to potential exposures.
Rumors are flying through service workers that businesses are slow to respond or are actively covering up information on cases that have appeared in their workplaces. Of course, these are rumors and anecdotes, but even if the incidents are wholly unsubstantiated, public skepticism on social media is not. The public does not trust businesses, and particularly service businesses to adhere to the guidelines spelled out in the executive order.
Clearly, we are in real trouble. Cases have spiked in the past week, hospitalizations are up, and many states have lost or are about to lose the gains they have made. Hospitals in Texas are overflowing. Even the US military has extended bans on movement or personnel into specific states, most notably, my own while lifting them for other states.
We need businesses to adhere to the guidelines for reporting in the executive order, but we also need to use that data to inform the public on risks for infection when visiting businesses. While businesses are required to report to local health authorities, there is no indication that the data will be made public and very little indication that the data will be disseminated in a manner that will facilitate research on specific risks in different types of businesses.
Supposedly, you can call your local health department and they will tell you if you if you might have been exposed when you went to Place X. That requires a lot of work on the part of the consumer, and how are they going to know to ask about a specific business without having an alarm raised anyway? I can’t see how that can work.
Public health authorities and the private sector MUST work together to implement systems and information sharing that protects the public health. While businesses are right to be concerned about their survival, becoming the center of a superspreader event will be a public relations disaster as we saw in Lansing, MI over the weekend.
Bars and restaurants need to develop systems to inform customers when a staff member tests positive for Covid 19
Fauci noted that “Bars are bad news” during a Senate hearing on covid 19 today, and he’s right. No one should be going to a bar right now. No one should be playing music in a bar. No one should be working in a bar right now. Just a terrible idea all around.
But people are doing it anyway, and, though the risks are very high, there have to be systems in place to minimize that risk and help insure the safety of customers and workers.
At least two bars in Ann Arbor, MI have had staff members test positive for Covid 19 within the past week. One did the right thing. They shut down operations and had their entire staff tested immediately. A couple of days later, they issued a statement informing the public of what happened and what they did. The other has yet to do anything at all, unfortunately.
Closures and public statements are good things, but maybe there’s another step that businesses can take to inform customers in a timely manner. I suggest collected phone or email contact information from customers each night.
Businesses would send out a text or an email message informing the customer a staff member tested positive and it is possible that they may have been exposed to covid19 and should get tested and isolate as soon as possible.
As this system would be voluntary, no privacy would be violated. It is likely that most patrons would consent to receiving such notices. Personally, I would like to know. I would also like to receive that information sooner rather than later.
A QR code app based system such as that being implement in South Korea would be preferable, but it is unlikely that such a system would be acceptable in the US, aside from issues of cost. A simple email list might be an easy, low cost method of informing the public when they might have been at risk for infection.
But so far, that’s not happening.
In the past week employees at a handful of business in the tiny college town of Ann Arbor have tested positive for Covid 19. I won’t name names because I think that each businesses needs to be afforded an opportunity to make create a response and write a formal announcement.
Responses, however, should be immediate. Any delay in messaging puts the public at unnecessary risk. Businesses should be required by law to immediately make it public when an employee has tested positive.
When an employee tests positive for Covid 19, operations should be shut down, and every employee of that business should be tested without fail. Once everyone has been cleared, people can return to work and operations might commence.
Every single person who entered those businesses or had contact with employees needs to be immediately informed that they might have been exposed to Covid 19. Businesses must do this so that patrons can be tested if possible and isolate themselves if necessary.
Businesses who fail to do these things should be shut down.
One business is currently still open. I have it on good knowledge that an employee tested positive for Covid 19 there, yet there has been no announcement and business moved forward as usual (at the time of my walking past it yesterday.)
Covid 19 is no joke. People should be staying at home. They should not be eating out. Restaurants, bars and entertainment venues should not be open, but they are. If we are going to reopen these places, we need to do so under strict regulation that keeps the public informed and protected.
We went from 74 new cases of Covid 19 on June 15 to 389 cases on June 26, a five fold increase after several weeks of people partying like it is 2019.
Assuming that nothing changes between now and then, we will exceed the peak of new cases found (1,953) in Michigan back on April 3rd…. by the middle of July.
Certainly, case fatality rates are down, but if disease is not, this leaves us with even larger numbers of people suffering debilitating disease. Some will suffer for years and some of them might die earlier than they would otherwise.
Local bars, restaurants and music venues are opening up and trying to get people to come out like they did before, albeit under new rules. Some places are making a greater effort to protect workers and customers than others.
A local bar discovered that one of their staff tested positive for Covid 19 and, to their credit, shut down operations and tested the entire staff. But the infected staff member could have been infected up to two weeks ago and could have infected other staff, who could have infected customers. Every single person who stepped into that building needs to be informed. Is there a mechanism to do this? Obviously not, but there should be.
Moreover, the public needs to know which establishments have positive cases and when so that people can judge the relative safety of businesses and can act accordingly when they believe that they might have been at risk. This is also not happening but it should be.
People will inevitably say “it is worse everywhere else.” That doesn’t do anything to help a person on a vent. We are in real trouble, we need to act like it.
What will the State of Michigan do about this? Will we have another shut down? What does this bode for the future? Whatever it is, it isn’t good.
So… wear your damn mask. Stay the fuck home. Get carry out. Ignore all these people trying to get you to go out and act like life is the same as before, because it just isn’t.