Mackinac Island will essentially be closed until May 1, at least, Mayor Margaret Doud announced Wednesday, April 8, as northern Michigan communities grapple with the continued spread of the novel coronavirus.
“Listening to the governor, Michigan is in a very tough situation,” Mayor Doud said. “COVID- 19 is moving north.”
The first Mackinac Island resident has tested positive for the virus, and she urged all residents to take the public health crisis seriously. The patient is being treated at McLaren Northern Michigan in Petoskey after being evacuated from the Island by an ambulance from St. Ignace aboard a freight boat Friday, April 3. The Luce Mackinac Alger Schoolcraft (LMAS) District Health Department is contacting anyone who may have been exposed.
“LMAS will work with the businesses and the people involved to do all the follow-up necessary to keep everyone on Mackinac safe and healthy,” Mayor Doud said
Concern and anxiety among Island residents is high, echoing the feelings of all dealing with the global pandemic. Mayor Doud encouraged the more than 30 people who tuned into the remotely held April 8 city council meeting to take steps to protect themselves and others. Everyone should stay home unless absolutely necessary, she said, and continue until May 1.
“After May 1, will reassess the situation and see where we go from there,” she said. “The governor was asked a question, When are you going to open Michigan? She said, ‘I will open Michigan when it is safe.’ My motto is, ‘I will open Mackinac when it is safe.’”
Mayor Doud also read aloud a joint statement from her and St. Ignace Mayor Connie Litzner, echoing their support of advice from the health department that seasonal residents considering returning to their summer homes in the Upper Peninsula plan to quarantine themselves for 14 days and bring all of their supplies for that period with them.
“Our medical facilities and resources are limited. An influx of seasonal residents at this time could cause significant issues in our ability to affectively treat our close-knit communities,” Mayor Doud said. “If it is necessary to return to the region at this time, we are strongly urging seasonal residents to adhere to the self-quarantine guidelines from LMAS District Health Department. These critical steps will combat the spread of COVID-19 through the region, ultimately preserving the health and well-being of all who love this special place, permanent residents to seasonal guests.”
Mayor Doud echoed recent federal guidelines for people going out in public to wear cloth masks to reduce their risk of exposing others.
“Please wear your mask,” she said. “I did today for the first time in the history of my life on Mackinac Island.”
Police Chief Lawrence Horn explained that there is a working group of first responders on the Island who are working swiftly to develop and implement plans and strategies for a coronavirus outbreak here. The group of police, fire, emergency medical services, and Mackinac Island Medical Center staff coordinate on responding to all emergencies, he said, including this public health crisis.
“There is a core working group of professional, boots-on-the-ground people who will treat you if you are ill,” Chief Horn said.
One of the group’s first initiatives has been to install a construction trailer on the grounds of the medical center for use as a COVID-19 patient triage facility. Mayor Doud thanked contractor, Steve Rilenge, for securing the trailer and Belonga Plumbing and Heating for their work in getting it up and running. Tony Brodeur has also been working with the Mackinac Island Service Company to continue the Meals on Snowmobiles program this spring, and The Mustang Lounge has been offering food for carryout.
Mayor Doud also commended the staff of the Island’s grocery stores for their work in servicing the community, and for Doud’s Market for offering home deliveries. The Mackinac Island Service Company drivers have been especially helpful, she said in continuing to work during the pandemic.
Mayor Doud, owner of the Windermere Hotel and Dog House snack shop, acknowledged that this summer will be extremely difficult for the community, both medically and economically, but that the residents are resilient.
“We have a great community here,” she said, “and we’re working together and it is very, very difficult. But we’re strong, and we’re special, and I say to you, stay home, stay safe, and we will get through this together.”
Only essential work is allowed during the governor’s stay-at-home order. If people have questions about what work they can do during the shutdown, Chief Horn encouraged them to contact the police department’s non-emergency phone number, (906) 847-3300, including reporting people violating the stay- at-home order.
“It is the police agencies that are charged with enforcing this,” Chief Horn said, so officers are the best people able to answer regarding the stay-at-home directive.
He has worked with several businesses already on what they can and cannot do during this time. He must consult about five different documents, he said, to ensure the governor’s mandate is being followed.
“There are questions about what is essential business, so that’s good information,” Mayor Doud said.
City departments will develop plans in the coming weeks on how to deal with public health concerns this season. Plans for what to do if city employees living in municipal housing, like the summer police officer, contract the virus, and sanitation plans for the public restrooms downtown and in Great Turtle Park.
Councilmember Anneke Myers suggested the plans be made, noting she’s looking for “Something we can do in these coming weeks so we know that we have a plan going forward.”
Chief Horn already has plans underway. Recreation Director Mary Patay has also decided to close the playground at Great Turtle Park until further notice, as the novel coronavirus can survive on metal surfaces for hours, if not days.
Dr. Patay has also been sharing frequent updates with community members via email and social media on how they can stay active and healthy during. She encourages everyone to get outside just for a little while, even when the weather is gloomy.
Those who are exhibiting symptoms should not use parks or trails, in accordance with federal CDC guidelines. People should warn other users of their presence as they pass, trying to maintain at least six feet between each other. Gatherings and hangouts are discouraged. If six feet of separation is not possible, people should find another place to recreate.
The playground and restroom at Great Turtle Park will remain closed until further notice and will be opened when deemed safe.
Runners should maintain a distance of more than six feet between each other, as they breathe harder than when walking. Runners should wear a mask, if possible.
She also shares suggestions for outdoor activities. In her April 8 update, she suggested people keep a nature journal or practice their observational skills by getting to know a tree with their children.
“It is best for your health to try and get out for a bit,” she said.
Source: Mackinac Island News
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