Key ways Michigan’s COVID-19 situation is different than when stay-at-home order was necessary

Whitmer says Michigan has come a long way in understanding how to fight virus

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at her Nov. 5, 2020, COVID-19 press briefing. (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan’s COVID-19 cases sharply declined during the stay-at-home order, but even with cases currently spiking higher than ever before, there are several reasons a similar order likely isn’t necessary, according to the governor.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was asked Thursday during her COVID-19 press briefing whether another stay-at-home order might help get cases under control. The state reported a single-day high 4,101 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday (Nov. 4).

“You say we know what works to stop the spread," a reporter asked. “A key part of that mix this spring was your stay-at-home order. Will you be asking MDHHS or the Legislature to put another one in place?"

READ: How COVID-19 is spreading in all 8 regions as Michigan’s statewide case rate soars

“I think that where we were in the spring versus where we are now -- a lot of the fundamentals that really necessitated the immediate stay-at-home order are different,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer said that in the spring, Michigan had uncontrolled community spread and didn’t know as much about the virus. She cited some key differences between then and now that might suggest we don’t need another stay-at-home order to decrease the case count.

  • We didn’t know how powerful mask wearing would be in fighting the virus.
  • We were running out of personal protective equipment.
  • We have better therapeutics now.

Hospitals were also overcrowded at the beginning of the pandemic, and health experts knew less about how to treat the virus.

“We, of course have come a long way on all of those fronts,” Whitmer said. “All of that being said, it does appear Michiganders have started to let their guard slip.”

Whitmer said residents are being less careful about gathering with people from other households, wearing masks and following safety protocols.

If numbers continue to climb, Whitmer didn’t completely rule out the possibility of more strict protocols.

“It doesn’t mean that if our numbers keep climbing we won’t have to do some additional aggressive actions, but I do think that those factors are really important pieces to the difference of where we are now versus where we were then,” Whitmer said.

Michigan COVID-19 numbers rising

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, of MDHHS, said the state’s case rate has risen to 261 cases per million people per day, which is more than five times the number of new daily cases than in early September.

A chart shared during Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Nov. 5, 2020, COVID-19 press briefing. (WDIV)

Some of that increase is due to testing, as Michigan performed 43,000 diagnostic tests per day over the last week. The positivity rate is increasing rapidly, though, and is now at 7.5%. That percentage has increased each of the last five weeks, Khaldun said.

Regional trends

The region with the highest case rate is the Upper Peninsula, which is reporting 509 cases per million people per day. Khaldun said the region’s case rate has been increasing for nine straight weeks.

In the Grand Rapids Region, officials are reporting 370 cases per million people per day. The Kalamazoo Region is reporting 331 cases per million people per day. Both regions have their highest test positivity rate, at over 9%, Khaldun said.

The Detroit, Saginaw, Lansing and Traverse City regions are all reporting more than 200 positive cases per million people per day, according to Khaldun. She said these four regions are all between 5.5% and 7.7% positivity.

The Jackson Region is seeing the lowest case rate at 193 cases per million people per day, as well as the lowest positivity rate, at 4.1%.


Hospitalization in the state has been increasing, and as of Wednesday (Nov. 4), more than 1,900 people statewide were in the hospital because of COVID-19. That’s nearly four times as many hospitalizations in the state as the end of August, Khaldun said.

Hospitalization numbers aren’t as alarming as they were in the spring, but they’re rapidly rising, she said. About 60% of those hospitalizations are outside of Southeast Michigan.

The seven-day average for deaths is up to 19, which is twice what it was at the end of September, according to Khaldun.

A chart shared during Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Nov. 5, 2020, COVID-19 press briefing. (WDIV)
A chart shared during Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Nov. 5, 2020, COVID-19 press briefing. (WDIV)

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.