LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is pushing state lawmakers to approve a COVID-19 mask mandate to show bipartisan support for mask wearing across the state.
Wearing a mask in public places is already a law in Michigan because of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services' order, but Whitmer wants Republican legislators to codify the rule in order to stress the importance of following that law.
“Fighting this virus needs to be a team sport,” Whitmer said. “One that requires leaders from both sides of the aisle to work together to keep Michiganders safe.”
Whitmer said she “remains ready” to work with the Legislature to slow the spread of COVID-19.
She said she sent a letter this week to Republican leaders, urging them to pass legislation that requires residents to wear masks in indoor places and crowded outdoor areas.
“I want to be clear: This is the law under epidemic orders,” Whitmer said. “But we do think that it would be helpful to our health, our safety and our economy if it was codified in a bipartisan way with the Legislature, and that’s what we’ve asked for.”
Whitmer said the most important weapon against COVID-19 is “the simple act of wearing a mask.”
“Something this important, this critical to saving lives, deserves the Legislature’s stamp of approval,” Whitmer said. “It will send a resounding message that every one of us has to do our part. The Legislature has said time and time again they want to have a role, and if they really want to be a partner in fighting this virus, we invite them to take this step."
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.
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.
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.