Virtual Wolverine Caucus: The State of Michigan and COVID-19

By Erica Colaianne

COVID-19 pandemic experts from the University of Michigan School of Public Health (SPH) and Michigan Medicine participated in the first Virtual Wolverine Caucus panel on May 8, 2020. The panel convened to discuss regional and county trajectories of the spread and the role of data in guiding the reactivation of Michigan’s economy.

The panelists were:

  • Marisa Eisenberg, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health 
  • Vikas Parekh, MD, associate chief clinical officer at Michigan Medicine, associate vice chair of inpatient and hospital operations, and professor of internal medicine
  • Emily Martin, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health 
  • Rick Neitzel, PhD, associate chair, department of environmental health sciences, associate professor of global public health, and associate professor of environmental health sciences at the School of Public Health 

Eisenberg, who recently spoke at a press conference with Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and shared a model developed by SPH, presented an overview of the pandemic during the Wolverine Caucus event. She discussed the forecasting models they have developed and shared some of the simulation scenarios for lifting social distancing. 

Parekh provided insights on how COVID-19 is impacting counties across Michigan and hospital and health system perspectives. He discussed the case trends and how those translate into the hospitals, which he says are entering recovery mode now.

“At the peak, we had about 3,500 patients hospitalized by COVID-19,” he said. “The good news is, over time, that number has come down dramatically.” 

Martin discussed informing reengagement with epidemiology and how data is used to inform decisions about social distancing and businesses reopening. 

“As we go into new ways of interacting with each other, public health experts universally agree that there will be changes in the transmission patterns and that we will see risk change. So we only want to be doing that in a context where our health systems are in a position where they can respond quickly,” Martin said. 

Neitzel built on Martin’s discussion with a presentation on workplace risk mitigation, emphasizing the importance of looking at the characteristics of different workplaces that might make them more or less at risk of having a coronavirus outbreak.

The panelists also answered questions from attendees on how Michigan’s reopening plan compares to other states, what the challenges are for various industries in Michigan, the likelihood of having a vaccine by 2021, and more. 

The virtual event ended with panelists sharing how they are personally handling the pandemic and advice for those listening on how to stay safe and remain positive. 

Watch the full presentation


Interested in attending a future Wolverine Caucus program? Visit the Government Relations website to stay informed about upcoming events.