With Sparrow Hospital’s emergency room overflowing with patients and the hospital’s in-patient count very high according to several healthcare providers who spoke with ELi, East Lansing Mayor Jessy Gregg is looking ahead to this weekend and begging people to stay as safe as possible.
When asked by ELi yesterday what she would tell East Lansing residents and those planning to visit for the Michigan-Michigan State game, she replied, “Don’t be an idiot.”
Standing next to Gregg just after yesterday’s Downtown Development Authority meeting, City Manager George Lahanas agreed.
“I would tell people to take steps to protect their health and safety and to not unduly burden an already overburdened healthcare system.”
East Lansing’s emergency service chiefs have already arranged for mutual aid from neighboring municipalities in the hopes of managing needs in terms of police officers and EMTs.
On Wednesday, in advance of the upcoming game and Halloween, the City of East Lansing sent out a press release to encourage safe celebrations this weekend, including recommendations ranging from making sure to eat before consuming alcohol to avoiding setting fires (although couches were not specifically mentioned).
But we know from years past that the system is going to be strained by the addition of over one hundred thousand visitors to town.
And the local healthcare system is already under tremendous strain from so many people being in the hospital and the emergency room at Sparrow.
The City of East Lansing has long struggled with the challenges of managing emergency services when the population swells to three times its normal size, and with so many people engaging in risky behaviors.
For example, ELi reported in 2016 that when the Michigan-Michigan State game was played here that year, the system grew dangerously strained, as about half of all emergency calls originating from East Lansing involved people who were intoxicated and/or incapacitated.
Then-Chief Jeff Murphy of the East Lansing Police Department told ELi, “If you were in East Lansing between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. [on the day of that game], you would have heard almost constant sirens. For the most part, these sirens were not the sound of public service officials responding to serious accidents, robberies or other crimes, they were the sound of our fire department responding to help people who had become incapacitated from consuming too much alcohol.”
“Ambulances need to remain available for people who are experiencing accidents and medical problems,” Lahanas told ELi yesterday, expressing the wish that people avoid drinking dangerous quantities of alcohol.
For her part, Gregg questioned those who have “the idea that drinking until you black-out is fun.”
The use of mutual aid by East Lansing can mean that surrounding towns and counties also feel the strain, as their crews are diverted here. This is something about which emergency chiefs have expressed concern over the years.
Messages sent out by Michigan State University this week have asked people to stay safe with regard to disease transmission, to not destroy property, and, in the words of MSU Senior Vice President Vennie Gore, to “watch out for your friends and yourself and [make] a plan to get home safely.”
Gore also asked that people be “mindful of Halloween costumes that perpetuate stereotypes and culture appropriation.” He did not speak specifically about the overloaded situation at Sparrow Hospital, an issue about which leaders at MSU and the City are definitely concerned.