Grand Traverse County declares a state of emergency

Mar 25, 2020

Grand Traverse County is declaring a state of emergency due to the coronavirus. Chairman of the county board of commissioners Rob Hentschel said in a letter that the declaration will make state and federal funds available to buy much needed equipment for hospitals and medical providers. 

"Based on conversations with community leaders, we know some citizens are not taking the Governor's Executive Order of “Stay Home, Stay Safe” seriously," Hentschel wrote. "To be successful we need voluntary compliance by our entire Grand Traverse County community. We also anticipate continued and growing supply chain issues and we want to continue to plan, prepare and respond to address that."

Hentschel says the situation is very fluid as the county doesn't know how much money the state and federal government could provide, but the declaration will help the county prepare for the worst.

"It's part of a two-pronged approach: number one is we want to prevent the worst case scenarios," Hentschel said. "The other part is having resources available should those worst case scenarios come to pass."

Hentschel added that he hopes the declaration will make county residents take Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's 'stay at home' order more seriously. He says crowds were still congregating in the county despite the order.

In an interview with IPR on Tuesday, County Sheriff Tom Benslee said his officers aren't pulling people over or writing tickets for being outside during the order, but the state hadn't clarified how it should be enforced.

"This is fluid, it changes all the time, what we do today may change tomorrow," Bensley said. "There may be additional guidance from the state on how to handle this."

Area hospitals and healthcare providers are already facing equipment shortages and have asked the public to donate some supplies. According to various media outlets, many other Michigan counties including Oakland, Macomb, Ottawa, Washtenaw, Houghton and Saginaw have already made similar emergency declarations.

Grand Traverse County declared an emergency in 2015 after a storm uprooted trees and downed power lines that led to widespread power outages.

As of the announcement late Wednesday night, Grand Traverse County had three known cases of COVID-19, while the state total topped 2,000.