Serving Metropolitan Detroit Since 1944

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib Hosts Tele-Town Hall to Address Coronavirus Issues

On Tuesday, March 17, Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib hosted the 13th Congressional Coronavirus (COVID- 19) Telephone Town Hall. Information presented at the town hall and questions from residents were communicated via telephone rather than assembling a large group of people for the event, per Governor Gretchen Whitmer's ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Also participating in the town hall were Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, Carol Austerberry, Director of Wayne County Public Health Division, Dr. Ruta Sharangpani, Wayne County Public Health Medical Director, and Teena Chopra, M.D., Director of Infection Prevention at Detroit Medical Center.

"Like many of you, I understand how scary and very anxious you and your loved ones are right now. We wanted to continue holding a town hall, but this time it's going to be a telephone town hall to make sure we can answer your questions, provide that information that you need to protect yourself and your family," Tlaib told listeners, adding that she had witnessed the 13th District community come together to look out for one another amidst the health crisis. "When we come together at times like this it shows the tremendous amount of strength and compassion we all have."

The congresswoman gave a rundown of legislative actions being taken to address the crisis, including an $8.3 billion emergency funding package which will provide for funding for testing and treatment of health care personnel on the front lines of the fight against coronavirus, and expansion of paid sick leave and unemployment.She also said the Michigan delegation has been urging the administration in Washington to allow the border between the U.S. and Canada to remain open, allowing health care professionals who work here to continue to travel back and forth between home and job.

She added that proposals are being put forward to initiate a temporary halt to mortgage payments and other financial obligations people are now struggling with. "There seems to be bipartisan support of some form of relief for homeowners on foreclosures and utility payments, and rental evictions," Tlaib said.

Gilchrist touched on some actions taken so far at the state level in an effort to limit exposure to the virus.

In addition to closing K-12 schools, he said the state has expanded access to unemployment insurance to assist those with temporarily closed workplaces. The state is also working in cooperation with Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's office to protect residents from price gouging and scams related to the coronavirus panic. "People are trying to take advantage of this scary situation," Gilchrist said.

Gilchrist also provided resources for residents to access more information about the virus. The state of Michigan has set up a webpage for residents which can be found at Data pertaining to Michigan is updated each afternoon. The webpage also includes information on the coronavirus from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "If people are feeling sick or symptomatic, the first thing people should do is call their doctor or healthcare provider if they have one," Gilchrist said, adding that if people do not have a doctor, they can call a hotline set up the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) at 1-888-535-6136. Responders at the hotline will direct callers on what to do and whether they need a test or not. He added that the United Way of Southeast Michigan hasalso set up a helpline which is available by phone, text, or live chat 24 hours at 2-1-1.

For small businesses impacted by the emergency orders, Gilchrist explained the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has set up a hotline to support small businesses. That number is 1-888-522-0103.

Austerberry, with the Wayne County Public Health Division, explained how her department worked early on to raise awareness and train community partners, county officials, and school district leadership. She added that they are partnering with health care systems and private labs to expand testing for the coronavirus.

The Tele-Town Hall included a question and answer session. Callers raised questions ranging from preventing contracting the virus to the availability of necessary household supplies. Dr. Chopra explained that respiratory droplets are the main mode of transmission of the virus and urged listeners to remain vigilant about maintaining a six-foot distance from others. Gilchrist explained that the emergency order enacted at the state level lifts weight restrictions for trucks carrying necessary household and medical supplies at this urgent time in order to keep goods and supplies flowing.

For updates on the coronavirus please see the state's webpage at


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