First Shipments of COVID-19 Vaccine

Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will review Pfizer’s application for Emergency Use Authorization for its vaccine, followed by Moderna’s vaccine on Dec. 17. With the vaccine arrival now only days away, we are turning a corner in this global health crisis. 

FDA approval takes into account the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine. We will all have an opportunity to get in line when it is our turn to be vaccinated according to the prioritization set by the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). It is important that our colleagues and medical staff who are face-to-face caring for and supporting care for patients and residents with COVID-19 have the opportunity to receive the vaccine first. We are encouraging our families and friends to get it as soon as supplies are available for them, too.

We are following CDC ACIP and MDHHS guidelines on vaccine distribution and prioritization. Distribution is expected to begin within a few days of FDA approval. Vaccination locations will initially be limited to those selected by their state governing body. Vaccine supplies are limited, and we are following CDC ACIP and state governing bodies’ guidance on phased distribution. Trinity Health is following CDC’s recommendations for prioritizing health care personnel (including all roles in all locations across the continuum, including – for example, ambulatory sites, home care, etc.) to receive the vaccine as follows:

Priority PhaseHealth care Personnel (HCP) Roles across the continuum
1a(i)  HCP who provide direct patient care to – or are face-to-face with – large numbers of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients.
1a(ii)  HCP who provide direct patient care to – or are face-to-face with – large numbers of patients NOT suspected of having COVID-19. This includes all direct patient-care-facing roles and those interacting directly with patients including registration, transportation, dietary, etc.
1a(iii)Other HCP providing essential services throughout the health care delivery system: HCP who handle infectious materials (e.g. Environmental Services, laboratory workers) who are not direct patient care facing and cannot work from home.
1a(iv)All other HCP, including those who can currently work remotely.

The vaccine will be offered to all colleagues and credentialed medical staff, but not mandated.
At this time, the COVID-19 vaccine will not be mandated for colleagues as an employment requirement, nor will it be mandatory for credentialed medical staff. We strongly encourage colleagues and medical staff to get the voluntary COVID-19 vaccine, following the phased prioritization approach, as the best way to continue to protect themselves and to help end this pandemic. Everyone, including our colleagues and their dependents enrolled in our Trinity Health medical plan, as well as our credentialed medical staff can receive the vaccine with no out-of-pocket costs. We will partner with community leaders to ensure people have access to the vaccine as soon as it becomes available to them following the phased prioritization. 

Diligence to safety must continue
People who are vaccinated must also stay committed to the safety guidelines. It is crucial that we all remain vigilant with avoiding crowds, physical distancing, mask wearing and hand hygiene – and continue upholding our personal safe living and decision-making responsibilities.

Preparations for Distribution.
Our hospitals and medical groups have designated representatives who are participating in a statewide vaccination workgroup to address local plans for vaccination handling and distribution, logistics, scheduling and registration, and colleague communication / education. More information on local plans will be shared via email, e-newsletters, intranet, town halls and e-newsletters.

Thank you for everything you are doing to support our communities, and please continue to lean on one another. Continue to review the many resources available to you and your family.

More Information

Vaccine page on Trinity Health COVID-19 Resources site

Vaccine FAQs for Colleagues

COVID-19 Vaccine Information for the Community

CDC COVID-19 Vaccine Information

COVID-19 Message from Trinity Health Michigan CEO Rob Casalou

Friends and colleagues,

Thank you all for your response to this unrelenting virus.  Everyone in our health system – from frontline caregivers to colleagues working from home – are essential heroes in our efforts to save lives.

As we deal with a second “marathon” surge this year, you and your teams are doing what you can in the face of severe staffing shortages made worse by more than 546 colleagues statewide in quarantine. As new cases set records daily, more colleagues are being exposed to community spread, stretching our hospitals thin.

Michiganders everywhere need to buckle down and do their part to bend the curve, which is why we publicly support the new state restrictions that take effect Nov. 18. Regardless of our personal feelings about the new orders, this is a public health crisis. All of us need to do our part through masking, physical distancing and frequent hand washing to slow the spread and keep our essential health care workers healthy.

Our efforts include requiring 3,000-plus “distributed colleagues” to continue working from home through June 2021. And in accordance to the state’s new orders, anyone else working all or part of the time onsite, who are able to perform their duties from home, should talk to their leader about a smooth transition to distributed work, as early as tomorrow. Remote Work Agreements are available to support the transition, and colleagues should also update their status in Workday once they shift to remote work.

Not like the first time

As we deal with this surge, we need to put our creativity into action as we absorb the demands on our system. We must accept accountability to protect ourselves, our community and our patients. By working together, we can slow this down.

I’ve heard some compare this surge to the first one, fearing that we might be forced into another round of closures and furloughs. I want to reassure everyone that we are better positioned to avoid difficult transitions – but the rise in quarantined colleagues is our biggest threat right now. It takes all of us working together to slow the spread both within our workforce and in communities we live. Today’s challenges are different from those we faced early in the pandemic.

In April, the state shut down most services – including elective health care – for several weeks. Thanks to resilience and hard work, our services have come back strong. Our emergence, combined with rigorous expense management, helps ensure continued operations and staffing through this current surge.

+ We have configured facilities to segregate care, and set up processes to screen and protect staff and visitors.

+ We are generally better off with PPE and testing, with some spot shortages that are being addressed in high volume areas.

+ Overall, we now have effective treatments and the experience that comes from caring for thousands of patients. We have seen good trends in mortality and length of stay for COVID-19 patients, including less use of ventilators.

+ There is hope for an endpoint in sight. At least two companies are projected to have a COVID-19 vaccine ready before the end of the year or by early 2021.

As we deal with this surge, are putting our creativity into action as we absorb the demands on our system. We must accept accountability to protect ourselves, our community and our patients. By working together, we can slow this down.

In good health,

Rob Casalou
President and CEO
Trinity Health Michigan

SMML Emergency Department Helps Mother and Daughter Feel Safe During Pandemic

SMML Patient Story

Anna, who was very pleased with her care during the COVID-19 pandemic

LIVONIA – When local resident Nancy dropped her mother, Anna, off late one evening at St. Mary Mercy Livonia’s Emergency Department, she couldn’t help but feel nervous. It was April 22, near the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and her mother was approaching her 90th birthday. Nancy was unable to come in with her mother at that time due to COVID-19 visitor restrictions.

Meanwhile, Anna was thinking of her daughter. “I was more concerned about her than myself, since she had to go back home to wait for me, and I didn’t want her to worry,” Anna shared.

Thankfully, neither needed to worry. St. Mary Mercy Livonia’s staff worked to make the visit as safe and positive as possible. Nancy noted that there was “great signage as we approached the ER.” When they arrived, a colleague in a “spaceman” suit came to help Anna into the building. Anna said that seeing the amount of personal protective equipment staff wore was reassuring, especially since she had been staying home to protect herself from the virus.

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CEO Rob Casalou Discusses Close of FY2020, New Year of Renewal

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Mercy Health, St. Joe’s and our Medical Groups,

I wish to take a moment to speak to you as we now begin our fiscal year – a time of renewal.

The simple fact is that FY 2020 had unprecedented financial losses due to the unforeseen circumstances of COVID 19.  Together, we immediately stepped up to mitigate the impact that the ongoing financial crisis is having on us. 

These last few months have felt like a blur – both at work and at home.  I know many of you have worked incredibly long hours and dedicated yourself to our patients to battle this disease.  Many of you are working from home to support our health system and caregivers or have been furloughed and now are concerned by an announcement on resizing of our health system and wondering if your job is secure.  All this combined with the impact of the pandemic itself on you and your families has been stressful.   This has been hard and my heart is truly heavy knowing all this. 

But I do know some things that will help us and guide us in the coming months and years:

  1. You are all health care heroes. ALL of you.  We can be proud of how you stood side by side to care for the communities we serve. This is our mission and you have been steadfast in this commitment.
  2. We are a high performing ministry and have lead the way for years.
  3. We are preparing ourselves and designing for the future including a strong emergence plan.
  4. We remain dedicated to the health of our communities, patients, physicians, and colleagues.

Looking back on this year, our thinking will be dominated by COVID. But let’s not forget what happened on January 25, 2020. We launched the largest single instance of Epic in history. The year of intense preparation showed that when we work together we can do anything.  TogetherCare is no doubt a tool for us as we navigate and care for COVID patients.

The pandemic has tested us in new ways and together we have risen to the challenge of our lifetimes. Some days can feel uncertain, but please look ahead with hope. Our patients and communities need us – and we need each other.

On behalf of the entire Michigan Executive Team, I’m extending heartfelt thanks for the contributions you have made with your time and tireless dedication to this organization and ultimately our patients. I am truly inspired by all of you. THANK YOU.

Please continue to be safe and well as we enter into a new fiscal year.

New Executive Order Won’t Change Current Visitation Policies

This week, Governor Whitmer issued a new executive order extending hospital visitation restrictions to July 24, but that won’t change the current visitation policy at Mercy Health and St. Joe’s.

Hospitals are permitted by an MDHHS order to ease visitor restrictions if certain guidelines are followed. This order gives health care facilities the ability to adopt policies that meet safety, screening, masking and other patient-safety standards.

Across all of our facilities, everyone must wear a mask and be screened for COVID-19 symptoms. Hospital visitation is restricted to one visitor per patient, per day, and two visitors for minors or birthing center patients. No visitors are permitted for COVID-19 confirmed patients. In all cases, special considerations are permitted for extenuating circumstances as long as screening, masking and safety guidelines are followed.

The visitation rules vary among some specialty and outpatient areas.

Message from Rob Casalou about Michigan’s Re-Opening

SmallerVersionDear Colleagues,

By now you know Michigan’s stay-at-home order has lifted, along with the reopening of restaurants, outdoor pools and sports, and the ability for larger gatherings starting next week. This is great news for all of us who are anxious to enjoy these days of summer.

For those of us in health care, the news comes with a healthy dose of concern for a possible resurgence of coronavirus. As our state re-opens at a safe pace, I want to provide you with an update on our journey forward.

Ready for a second surge

When the first cases of COVID-19 appeared in Michigan, we answered the call and faced the greatest health care crisis of our lifetime. At times, we feared our hospitals would be overwhelmed, but we persevered and redirected resources to care for patients and protect our colleagues and communities.

This pandemic has presented many challenges, demanding unique and difficult decisions to slow the alarming spread of COVID-19. We weathered the first surge when it peaked in mid-April and have since seen hospitalizations decrease to their lowest level across Michigan.

Our preparedness is an important early victory for the state and a major reason why Michigan is beginning to re-open businesses and allow activities to occur in phases. While we hope it doesn’t happen, we do have the capacity, supplies and safety protocols in place to absorb a rise in acutely ill COVID-19 patients.

Keeping our guard up

With declining cases, the worst thing we can do is to let our guard down. Social distancing has kept us safer and I urge everyone to continue protecting themselves. That includes washing your hands often, maintaining safe social distancing, wearing a mask, sanitizing surfaces often and staying home if you’re feeling sick.

Of these necessary measures, wearing a mask is essential for health purposes. Until we have achieved immunity in the population, we all must remain committed to doing our part to stop the risk of spreading this deadly virus, which currently has no specific (antiviral) treatment to date.

Colleagues who are working from home should continue doing so at least through July 31 while we work to enhance physical distancing and safety procedures in our buildings.

Co-existing with COVID-19

While the crisis has abated, we are prepared to co-exist with COVID-19 as we resume elective surgeries and general health care for our communities. Hospital visitation rules have been modified under State guidance to allow more flexibility in visitation for our hospitalized non-COVID patients. Visitation in outpatient settings and cancer treatment areas remain unchanged at this time.

We remain committed to keeping our patients, colleagues and community safe through a variety of measures:

  • Enhanced cleaning in accordance with CDC standards;
  • Restricted entry with no symptomatic workers and remote work when possible;
  • Entry screening for checking temperatures and symptoms, and for distributing the masks required of everyone;
  • Pre-procedure testing to identify COVID-positive patients for additional measures and specialized processes;
  • Dedicated COVID-free zones for patients not known to have COVID-19 or COVID symptoms.

These precautions will continue into the foreseeable future, aligned with the latest CDC and health department recommendations.

This has been a difficult season, but it’s far from over. There is still much to learn about this disease. We are prepared to continue caring for patients with COVID-19, along with those who don’t, until an effective treatment and eventually a vaccine is available.

Until then, hospitals and outpatient centers remain safe places to receive care. No one should hesitate to visit their doctor. Our mission of service as a compassionate and transforming healing presence has not wavered throughout these challenging times.

I am grateful for the incredible dedication of frontline workers, our remote work-from-home colleagues and the countless people who lift us up with donations of supplies, food, gratitude and encouragement.

Thank you for your continued support of our ministry.


Rob Casalou
President and CEO
Trinity Health Michigan
and Southeast Regions


A Family Affair: Mother-Daughter Duo Helps Fight COVID-19 at SMML

Mom 4W and Daughter ER at SMML_Shannon Dorchak

Linda (left), an RN on 4 West, and her daughter Shannon (right), an RN in the ED

LIVONIA – For many colleagues, the staff at St. Mary Mercy Livonia feels like family. For daughter Shannon Dorchak, an RN in SMML’s Emergency Department, and her mother Linda McGrath, an RN on 4 West, the connection is more than a feeling. This mother-daughter pair has worked together at SMML since 2004, and continue to cheer each other on through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Though some may be hesitant about working with family, Shannon and Linda enjoy working together. According to Shannon, “Both of us have worked there for so long and truly have worked all over the entire hospital – we feel like we know everyone! It’s also nice to have someone that understands the things going on so you can decompress.”

Linda agreed, mentioning that she loves working alongside her daughter, and that she “could not have been more proud when [Shannon] told me that she wanted to be a nurse.”

When asked how work has changed since the arrival of COVID-19, Shannon said that while things have been stressful, the situation is improving. She stated, “I think we all collectively agree that you feel like you haven’t done enough, held enough hands, or said enough prayers for patients… Thankfully, these last two weeks have eased up, and some stress has been lifted.”

The pandemic has struck especially close to home. Linda was diagnosed with COVID-19 and has been home resting. Fortunately, she is recovering and doing better every day. Linda shared that while the virus has been “physically and emotionally draining,” she wants to help others fight it. She wrote, “My calling in life is to take care of people, and I need to get back to help others… I think this illness will make me stronger and give others encouragement that if I can beat it, they can too. I need to be back on the front line helping my coworkers.”

According to Shannon, Linda has always been her “ultimate motivator.” She wrote, “Mom entered back to school when all five of her kids were in school full time. Even though I was so young I remember being so proud and excited for her. She has always been a huge support and motivator for me in my personal and professional life!”

St. Mary Mercy Livonia is thankful for colleagues like Linda and Shannon, and is proud to have generations of families caring for our community.


Stay Home or State of Emergency? Clearing Up Executive Order Confusion

Update: Gov. Whitmer extended the stay at home order to May 28, 2020

If you’re confused about the projected end date of Michigan’s “stay at home” orders, you’re not alone. A flurry of government activity caused some controversy at the State Capital and left many people scratching their heads.

Despite conflicting media reports, there is no change to the end of the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, which remains May 15.

Last week Gov. Whitmer issued three new orders that ended the original State of Emergency and State of Disaster (set to expire April 30) and re-issued the order through May 28. Extending the State of Emergency would give the governor the ability to speed up state agency assistance to communities in need. However, the orders are running into opposition and could ultimately be decided by the court.

No doubt, there will still be some restrictions once the order ends, but the governor appears to be committed to an incremental and careful reopening of our state.  She has the support of the health care community in taking this approach.

Sean Gehle, Vice President of Advocacy for Trinity Health Michigan, provides more background on the recent activities in Lansing:

  1. What is a “Declaration of Emergency and Disaster? A State of Emergency means an E.O. or proclamation that activates the emergency response and recovery aspects of the state, local and interjurisdictional emergency operations plans applicable to the counties or municipalities affected.  Emergency is defined as any occasion or instance in which the Governor determines state assistance is needed to supplement local efforts and capabilities to save lives, protect property and public health and safety to less or avert the threat of a catastrophe in any part of the state. The Governor declares a State of Emergency when it is believed a disaster has occurred or may be imminent, and is severe enough to require state aid to supplement local resources in preventing or alleviating damages, loss, hardship or suffering.
  2. When was it declared in Michigan and what does it authorize the Governor to do?  A State of Emergency was first issued in Michigan on March 10. This declaration authorizes the governor to speed state agency assistance to communities in need. It enables her to make resources immediately available to rescue, evacuate, shelter, provide essential commodities like heating fuel and food.
  3. What happened to bring this issue back into the news?  State of Emergency and State of Disaster expired on April 30.  There is a disagreement in the Capital whether the Governor can unilaterally extend State of Emergency and State of Disaster,  or if she needs the approval of the Legislature. Two different state statutes are being referenced; one that allows the Governor to unilaterally extend and the other that requires Legislative approval to extend beyond 28 days. The Governor moved forward with extending her State of Emergency and State of Disaster. Legal challenges are expected.
  4. What is an executive order (EO) and how is this different from the Declaration of Emergency?  
    The EO is a specific order that the Governor issues on a certain issue and the Declaration of Emergency gives her broader authority to issues EOs. The Michigan Constitution of 1963 vests the executive power of the state in the Governor. That power can be exercised formally by executive order. Executive orders may reorganize agencies within the executive branch of state government, reassign functions among executive branch agencies, create temporary agencies, establish an advisory body, commission, or task force, proclaim or end an emergency, or reduce expenditures authorized by appropriations. Once signed by the Governor, executive orders are filed with the Secretary of State, where the orders are sealed and retained by the Office of the Great Seal.
  5. Does extending the Declaration of Emergency to the end of May mean the “Stay at Home” order is also going to be extended? The Governor has reaffirmed that the current Stay at Home order remains until May 15.
  6. Could she decide to extend the Stay at Home order beyond May 15? Yes, she could but, right now, her discussions lead many of us to believe that she will look for measured ways to gradually re-open more services on May 15 or earlier. For example E.O. 2020-70 opens up construction services more broadly on May 7.




Open Mic: Call for Songs to Inspire Frontline Workers

Open Mic: Call for Songs
Music is good for the soul. Last week we shared a music video of various artists singing St. Joe’s/Mercy Health’s theme song in tribute to the colleagues battling COVID-19 in our communities.

Now it’s your turn! If you have talent to share with fellow colleagues, we invite you to record your own rendition of our theme song. We provide the sheet music and lyrics below. Click on our playlist for examples from local artists.

Email your video or audio file to We will premiere the songs during National Nurses Week and Health Care Week, from May 4-8

We hope it lifts the spirits of frontline workers and everyone doing their part to keep services running while flattening the curve.

You and I Together – Sheet Music

You and I Together – FULL LYRICS


Don’t Forget to Breathe

By Jennifer Buehrer, LMSW

Don’t forget to breathe…a phrase commonly used in the practice of meditation, yoga and, of course, childbirth. Outside of those circles this phrase can sound cliché, and much too simple to take seriously. But the truth is, it works.

Right now – take a minute or two to stop what you’re doing and take 2-3 deep, slow breaths. Once you’ve done that, pause another minute to notice how your body feels. Do you feel it? When I take the time to do this, I can feel my pulse slow down, and even feel the endorphins flow from my brain down through the rest of my body. There’s a reason that when we’re stressed, we tend to sigh. It’s our brain telling us to breathe.

Breathing is something most of us take for granted every day. I mean, how could we function if we were always paying attention to such a constant, essential function of our bodies? But watching what so many of our patients are going through during this pandemic gives me reason to pause and consider it a bit more often. How an invisible, microscopic organism can rob us of our most basic life-giving function is a mystery to me. But each breath I take is another reminder of how fleeting this most basic function can be.

Last week I wrote about slowing down and being intentional about how we resume our lives after this pandemic. It struck a chord with a lot of you, and I am grateful for that. Now let’s talk about extending that intention to the idea that life itself is not something to be taken for granted. The delicate nature of our breath is a metaphor for the delicate nature of life… and awareness of that can bring everything into perspective.

We’re all working our tails off to get our community through this crisis. Coming out of this alive is a big win, for all of us. Stop, take a breath or two, and recognize that. Maybe even pat yourself on the back (if that’s hard for you to do, then yoga might help). While we’re at it, let’s take a moment each day to thank each other for the part each of us plays in helping our community survive this. Every breath is a reminder of our success.

Jennifer Buehrer, LMSW, is a palliative care social worker at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor.