Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter declares a state of emergency in the county, activating the emergency operations center on Friday, March 13, 2020.
Detroit Free Press
Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter on Friday declared a state of emergency in the county, activating the emergency operations center.
Coulter said the county had established a hotline for questions, will issue public health orders and have nonessential employees work from home starting Monday because of the coronavirus.
Shortly after Coulter’s declaration, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel also announced a state of emergency for Macomb County, though no confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported there. The measure is being taken to further prevent the spread of the virus, according to a release.
Coulter said the state of emergency declaration isn’t to increase alarm, but to give officials broader powers to move county resources around and open the door for federal funds. The declaration has to be approved by the county’s board of commissioners every seven days.
Oakland County has three presumptive positive cases of 12 in the state, including a person who did not have foreign or domestic travel. Coulter said that means “it’s in our community now, being spread in our community.”
Coulter said the county launched a helpline — 248-858-1000 — from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to address non-health needs, such as food or housing assistance. Those without a physician who have health questions can call the Nurse on Call program at 800-848-5533.
Coulter said on Monday that only essential personnel will show up at county offices, such as the jail, Children’s Village, public health and dispatch. Nonessential personnel will be asked to work from home.
He encouraged residents to do as much business as they can online. He said the county is looking at waiving fees and delaying tax payments.
Coulter said public health orders will be issued, giving officials additional enforcement power, most likely around senior citizens, who can be most affected by the virus, and maybe day cares. There may be an executive order around crowd sizes, though Coulter said he doesn’t want to fill the jails with people who went to church.
“This is a new normal,” he said, after county health officials said they will continue to push out information about locations where those testing positive visited as they come in so people can monitor themselves for signs and symptoms. “Our lives are changing, but we’re still here.”
Oakland County Medical Director Dr. Russell Faust said “it’s clear the United States does not have enough tests, and we feel that locally.”
But testing is expected to ramp up in the next few days as more kits are provided and private labs come online.
“The issue of the number of tests is very frustrating,” Coulter said, adding that there are 1,300 kits in Michigan today and that’s not acceptable.
Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner said in a release that no one in the county will lose their property to tax foreclosure because of circumstances stemming from the public health emergency.
He said anyone with a hardship associated with the coronavirus will not face foreclosure this year and their property will be pulled from the tax foreclosure process, including people unable to visit the county offices to make a payment or to meet for a taxpayer assistance meeting to work out a repayment schedule.
Tax payments will be accepted by credit card or check online at www.oakgov.com/treasurer. There also is an outside drop box for tax payments that will be checked regularly if the treasurer’s office and county courthouse campus are closed to the public.
If full payment isn’t an option, repayment schedules or payment plans will be offered, and automatic repayment schedule renewals will be approved for property owners who are 50% or more complaint paying old payment plans.
On Friday, Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree announced that the treasurer’s offices will close to the public starting Monday until April 3. A decision will be made then on whether to reopen to the public, according to a release. Sabree’s office averages over 400 visitors per day.
Payment plan agreements will have to be made through the mail until further notice. They’ll be available online starting Monday.
“Delinquent taxes still have to be paid and interest will continue to accrue on unpaid balances,” Sabree said in the release.
The date for redemption of forfeited properties has been extended through May 13. Taxpayers have until May 13 to have all 2017 and prior year taxes paid in full or to be enrolled and compliant in a payment plan, according to the release.
Taxpayers are urged to pay taxes online, through one of the 75 kiosks in the county, by mail, by mobile app or by phone. Checks and money orders can be placed in an envelope and put in a drop box on the first floor of the treasurer’s office, 400 Monroe St., in Detroit.
Macomb County announced Friday that the circuit and probate courts and 42nd District Court will limit jury trials to only priority matters, with a minimal number of jurors to report to jury duty during the next several weeks. Hearings with vulnerable persons may be adjourned upon request of the person.
For other cases, people are being asked to conduct business with the court remotely, such as fax filing and remote videoconferencing. Documents that are not required to be e-filed may be filed by U.S. mail or fax.
The Macomb County Clerk’s Office is encouraging the use of a drop box for submission of proposed orders, including self-addressed, stamped envelopes for return copy. The Prosecutor’s Office will entertain phone and e-mail correspondence and consider stipulated adjournments, according to a release.
One service that will not be interrupted in Macomb County is the Meals on Wheels program.
In Warren, Mayor Jim Fouts said Friday in a release that he ordered all public libraries in the city to be closed effective Monday through at least the end of the month. Also, the city hall will be closed to the public effective Monday at least through the end of March.
All Warren city hall personnel will report to work and will take emails and phone calls. He said the AARP tax service will be closed until further notice.
Contact Christina Hall: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @challreporter.
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