Flint, MI – Mayor Sheldon Neeley announced in a second press conference on March 12, 2020, that the city is now under a state of emergency, allowing Flint to tap into funds coming into the state of Michigan for the coronavirus.

“Money has been dispatched to the state of Michigan,” Neeley. “We will need those dollars to perform activities and levels of service… to protect the health, life and welfare of our residents inside the city of Flint.”

Neeley said he is seeking funds to help ease the financial burden while the country works to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including funds to help restore water services to residents who have had their water shut off and for equipment needed for first response teams.

“We are engaging in the process of reconnecting (water) because (it’s) critical in washing, bathing, and making sure the transmission of any particular virus can be remediated right there in the home with the water.”

Neeley said the homes must be occupied for reconnection. He also added that no water had been shut off in the last five months.

In addition, public meetings will be limited to 30 people per meeting, and residents are being encouraged to watch meetings online. Neeley also said that residents should use online services when possible, including to pay water bills. Over the counter, payments will still be taken, but the city will put a number of precautions in place to protect staff, and online fees will be waived during the state of emergency.

“We are operating with a heightened sense of awareness just short of paranoia,” Neeley said. “We’re not paranoid, but we know this virus is amongst us somewhere in the state of Michigan… This is about being smart…The ideal situation is nobody in Flint contracts this virus; that’s the ideal situation.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a state of emergency for Michigan on March 10 and confirmed that there were two cases found in Wayne and Oakland Counties. So far, no cases have been confirmed in Flint or Genesee County.

Fire Chief Raymond Barton and Police Chief Phil Hart said they are use to handling situations with precaution, including the flu virus and hepatitis. More funding would help with additional training if needed and with the purchase of protective gear.

“As far as the fire department, we also provide the [emergency medical services],” said Barton. “We walk in, never knowing what we are walking into. That’s why it’s important for us to … try to get additional personal protection equipment such as masks, gloves and those things we foresee using more of because you can’t just treat it like a routine run anymore. We gotta be equipped and prepared for when we dispatch to a person’s home.”

Neeley said after meeting with health officials and getting updates on the continued spread of COVID-19, they made some adjustments, including advancing the emergency alert. The city has teamed up with medical professionals including Flint-pediatrician Dr. Lawrence Reynolds.

“This is a rapidly evolving situation,” Reynolds said. “We may say something today and have to step it up tomorrow based on the new information we’ve learned. This is my first pandemic. I’m sure it’s everybody’s first pandemic in the United States. It will be a constant learning process.”

Jiquanda Johnson

Flint Beat‘s founder and publisher, Jiquanda Johnson is a Flint-area native with more than 16 years of experience in journalism including print, television and digital media. She has worked for The...