Under Fire, Michigan Governor Pulls Coronavirus Contract From Democratic Party-Linked Consultancy

Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer cancelled a contract with a consultant's firm after Republicans raised concerns over the company's connection with Democratic candidates.

Whitmer had originally hired Every Action VAN, a voter-contact software platform, to help compile data for a contact tracing project. Contact tracing is a way to identify people who were potentially exposed to individuals who have tested positive for coronavirus. Once identified, these people can be isolated and monitored, ideally stopping further infections.

Every Action has worked with many Democratic candidates in the past. These connections with the Democratic Party led state Republicans to question the dealings with the company.

"In addition to the fact that a partisan company should not be handling a public health crisis, the Michigan Republican Party is extremely concerned with how this data will be used," Laura Cox, chairwoman for the Michigan Republican Party, told The Detroit News. "The fact that there is now the possibility that it will be utilized for partisan ends is deeply troubling."

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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer terminated the contract with a consultant that has previously done work with many Democratic candidates. Bill Pugliano/Getty

Republican state Rep. Shane Hernandez, chairman of the Michigan House Appropriations Committee, agreed. He wrote Whitmer a letter asking her to reconsider the contract. After the contract was terminated, Hernandez said Whitmer "must answer the question of how this could happen in the first place," according to the Detroit News.

"I can't believe this is the only instance where this administration has made questionable decisions about awarding contracts that may be political in nature during this time of unprecedented executive power," Hernandez told the paper. "The people of Michigan, as well as their elected representatives, have so far been left in the dark about how our governor is making these decisions and that must come to an end."

Whitmer's office said that despite Every Action's connections with the Democratic party, no data collected as part of the coronavirus project would be used for anything else. The office also said that the non-partisan Michigan Non-Profit Association had also used Every Action's software.

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Every Action shares a CEO with NGP VAN, a similar company. However, while NGP VAN proclaims itself as the "leading technology provider to Democratic and progressive campaigns and organizations," Every Action works with nonprofit organizations, as well as corporations and governments.

Newsweek reached out to the governor's office for comment, but did not hear back by publication time.

Michigan has one of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the U.S., with 32,967 confirmed cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 2,700 deaths as of April 21, according to the latest figures from the state's health department.

This infographic, provided by Statista, shows the spread of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as of April 21.

Statista
This infographic shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases around the U.S. as of April 21. Statista

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC.
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.
Under Fire, Michigan Governor Pulls Coronavirus Contract From Democratic Party-Linked Consultancy | U.S.