Hospitals Say Governor's Claims About Protesters Blocking Ambulances Aren't True
Lansing, MI – Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer accused protesters who disagreed with her stay-at-home-order of blocking ambulances from being able to access hospitals during last week’s demonstration, but police and emergency medical personnel said that never happened.
Approximately 4,000 people attended the April 15 demonstration.
“The blocking of cars and ambulances trying to get into Sparrow Hospital immediately endangered lives,” Whitmer told reporters. “While I respect people’s right to dissent, I am worried about the health of the people of our state.”
But police, hospital and ambulance officials said they received no reports about patients being unable to access medical facilities, The Detroit News reported.
Sparrow Hospital spokesperson John Foren said that the ambulance entrances at the hospital remained clear during the demonstration, and that none of the ambulance crews reported having any problems moving through traffic.
Foren did note that some hospital workers were late getting to work on the day of the protest due to congestion around the facility, The Detroit News reported.
Lansing Police Department (LPD) spokesperson Robert Merritt said that protesters even moved out of the way for ambulances out on non-emergency runs.
"There were NO complaints from any emergency services vehicle being held up while on an emergency run [lights and siren]," Merritt confirmed in an email to The Detroit News.
“There are many photos/videos floating around that show an ambulance moving slow within the vehicles in the rally,” he added. “This ambulance and some other emergency services vehicles [not on emergency runs] were seen driving through parts of the rally."
Mercy Ambulance President and CEO Dennis Palmer said that some units used alternate routes to avoid traffic, but that none of the ambulances were delayed due to the demonstration.
“In fact, we were more prepared because we were given advance notice,” Palmer told The Detroit News.
Palmer said the routes the units used were no different than those they generally utilize during other mass gatherings, construction projects, or crash scenes.
The Michigan State Police, who oversaw the Capitol ground during the demonstration, said that the crowds were generally respectful and polite, The Detroit News reported.
They made just one arrest during the gathering.
The demonstration was initiated by the Michigan Conservative Coalition (MCC) under the hashtag #OperationGridlock, according to the Michigan Star.
"We are all concerned for those afflicted with COVID 19. Yes, many of the personal behaviors we have been reminded to use are good practices. Wash your hands. Cover your cough. Stay home if you are sick. That said, Michiganders are fed up!" MCC’s website read, according to WJBK.
Roads were packed by 9 a.m. for the noon protest on April 15, and most traffic ground to a halt in Lansing by mid-morning.
Not everyone stayed in their cars once they arrived, though, according to WJBK.
Several people in attendance who were not social distancing told reporters that they did understand the health risks but that it was their right not to follow the governor’s order.
“When you see a…political rally like that where people aren’t wearing masks and they’re in close quarters and they are touching one another, you know that that’s precisely what makes this kind of a disease drag out and expose more people,” the governor said.
After converging in Lansing, protesters returned back to their homes throughout the state, thereby spreading the virus further, Whitmer declared.
“It’s that kind of irresponsible action that puts us in this situation where we might have to actually think about extending stay home orders, which is supposedly what they were protesting,” she told MSNBC.
In a letter to Lansing Mayor Andy Schor on Sunday, the MCC said that the individuals who got out of their vehicles to protest on the lawn of the Capitol were from “an unrelated group,” The Detroit News reported.
MCC President Rosanne Ponkowski said that the group does not plan to hold any other demonstrations.
"Our goal was to bring attention to the irrational rules in place that were putting over 1,000,000 workers on the unemployment line," Ponkowski said, according to The Detroit News. "We feel the governor has heard the people's message at Operation Gridlock and she needs time to act to restart the economy. Now."
During a briefing on Monday afternoon, Whitmer said that the next 10 days will help her to determine whether or not she will extend the stay-at-home order past its current scheduled expiration of April 30, WJBK reported.
As of Tuesday, 32,000 Michigan residents had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, and 2,468 had died, according to Bing’s COVID-19 Tracker.