Democracy Now reports that water shutoffs — due to unpaid bills — continue in Detroit even though people are told to wash their hands amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 1,500 people in Michigan.
Forty percent of those who have died are African-American, despite making up just 14% of the state’s population.
According to Bridge Magazine, documents obtained through the Michigan Freedom of Information Act say that the city has disconnected service to 141,000 poor Detroit households since 2014.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced in late March that Detroit would stop water shutoffs and temporarily reconnect water services for all residents, noted The Guardian, but only for 30 days:
The state is stepping up to cover the cost of water restoration for the first 30 days, because it’s the right thing to do to keep families safe and protect public health.
As of March 30st, the Detroit had only restored water to 1,000 of the 10,000 people who contacted the city to report their lack of water.
Dr. Abdul El-Sayed — former director of the Detroit Health Department — told Democracy Now how dire the situation is:
So, I started at the city after this policy had already started. It was one of the most frustrating policies to get to city leadership and to the Water Department and say that the public health starts with water.
Public health started the moment we figured out how to make sure that people’s water was clean. And the fact that we don’t have clean water, as the reverend rightly points out, what does it mean to tell somebody to stay at home and then to wash their hands with warm soapy water for 20 minutes, when they don’t have running water in their home? It is absurd in the context of a pandemic. It was absurd even before the pandemic started.