Do the Right Thing – OpEd from Dr. Annette Mercatante

The recent Michigan Supreme Court Ruling striking down the State of Emergency and Emergency Orders from Governor Whitmer has had many people in an uproar.  It clearly brings on a considerable amount of questions regarding authority, funding and responsibility.  However one thing is fundamentally unchanged, we have a novel virus circulating that is highly contagious, causing significant illness and death.  It has the potential, if not controlled, of destroying our economy, crippling our healthcare system, and directly causing untold pain and suffering to a large portion of our society. Are you with me here? If you don’t believe me, spend a little time with the REAL medical and epidemiological literature. This is not a joke nor a hoax.

Assuming we acknowledge the real and immediate threat of this virus, what can we do?  We can’t run, it is everywhere. We can’t hide, unless you are willing to live in a bubble with ZERO social interactions.  What we CAN do is keep the spread of the virus to a level at which we can reasonably live our lives until a better therapeutic or vaccine is available. The good news is we know how to do that; social distancing and masks, as well as aggressive disease identification and disease transmission management (isolation and quarantine). People, this strategy works! St. Clair County has enjoyed a relatively low rate of spread for over 10 weeks as we (sometimes begrudgingly) complied with the Executive Orders. It’s not the Orders that worked, it is our behavior! We can still do that regardless of what the Governor, Supreme Court, or your neighbor says! When something is going well we do not purposely upend that and go in a different direction. That is irrational and reckless.

What we CAN do is the right thing. The things that will protect your family, friends and neighbors from COVID-19.  Follow the science, the evidence.  Wear your mask and make sure your children and family does as well. Don’t gather in large groups and keep meeting remotely or outdoors whenever possible. If you’re sick, evenly mildly ill, get tested for COVID-19. Don’t go to work or play with other people while you are ill. Wash your hands. Follow public health guidance; if you are told to quarantine please do so. Answer our phone calls and help us identify potential sources of further diseases spread.  All of these things work! The only reason laws are put in place is because people don’t follow these solid and effective suggestions.  If you do the right thing, we don’t need to argue about who has the authority to make the rules. The St. Clair County Health Department will follow the data. If the virus is spreading more rapidly and threatening our schools, healthcare systems, businesses, and communities, we will utilize whatever powers and resources we can to try and stop it.  Don’t let that that happen.

Yours in Health,

Annette Mercatante, MD, MPH
Medical Health Officer
St. Clair County Health Department