What to know about COVID-19 in Michigan today

Governor holds briefing, pushes for state-based stimulus while chief medical exec expresses concern over Thanksgiving

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a coronavirus news conference Dec. 1, 2020. (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. – Here’s what you need to know to get caught up on all things COVID in Michigan.

Tuesday data update: 5,793 new cases and 190 additional deaths, including 30 from Vital Records review

Whitmer news conference

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held a news conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss the virus in Michigan. She hit on several topics with the help of Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive.

Whitmer repeated that she is seeking a state government stimulus package. She reached out to Republican legislatures last week in a letter asking for a $100 million package to help Michigan residents. You can read more about that proposal here.

The Michigan governor has also repeatedly pleaded for federal COVID relief, but is now turning her attention to what the state may be able to do itself. She spoke about it again on Tuesday.

“We have been urging the nation’s governors on both sides of the aisle, we had been urging Congress and the White House, to pass a bipartisan, and sign a bipartisan, relief bill so that we can provide for our families, protect our frontline workers, help our restaurants, support our educators and give small businesses a hand during this tough time,” said Whitmer. “But leaders at the federal level still have not been able to agree on a plan. And that’s why we need to take action at the state level. It’s crucial for us to come together now to pass a targeted state-based economic stimulus plan of up to $100 million that will provide direct financial support to families and small businesses that have been hit hardest by this pandemic.”

Khaldun spoke about a better trend she is seeing in the state, saying the state’s COVID spread rate seems to be slowing, but residents must not let down their guards. She also said she is concerned about what the Thanksgiving holiday may have done to help spread the virus.

“We’re cautiously optimistic, based on what we are seeing more people started doing, doing the right thing towards the beginning of November -- that means wearing masks mat gathering and maintaining six feet of distance from others,” said Khaldun. “And we think that is contributing to the decrease in our rate of rise in cases. We will continue to watch these trends as we have throughout the pandemic and case rates and test positivity and especially looking for those increases from the Thanksgiving holiday. That is one thing that I am very concerned about is that people may have gathered or traveled over the Thanksgiving break. Any increases in cases from a Thanksgiving holiday we would not expect to see for two to three weeks in our data. If you did gather or travel during Thanksgiving, you should really make sure you’re trying to stay away from others as much as possible for 14 days after you traveled.”

As far as any extension on the 3-week pause, which will end in about a week, Whitmer said it was too early to make a decision. Previously the state said a 3% positive test rate was the goal to lift restrictions -- it’s currently above 13%.

Gov. Whitmer: Too eartly to tell if indoor dining restrictions will be lifted

Most recent cases update

On Monday afternoon, the state of Michigan reported 10,428 new COVID-19 cases and 98 additional deaths over the previous 48 hours -- an average of 5,214 cases and 49 deaths per day.

That brought the state totals to 360,449 cases and 9,134 deaths since the start of the pandemic in March.

After reporting at least 7,000 new daily cases six times between Nov. 13 and Nov. 21, Michigan has seen slightly decreased numbers, averaging 6,416 cases per day since.

The highest single day total so far came on Nov. 20, when the state reported 9,779 new cases. There were 17,162 new cases reported for the two-day span of Thanksgiving and the day after (No. 26-27).

Three-week ‘pause’

Michigan is 14 days into a three-week “pause” that shut down indoor dining at restaurants, in-person classes for colleges and high schools, and much more.

READ: Here are 14 changes in effect under Michigan’s new COVID-19 restrictions

Under the restrictions -- which went into effect Nov. 18 and last until Dec. 8 -- all Michigan residents are required to work from home unless their jobs must be performed in person.

Indoor dine-in services will no longer be allowed for bars or restaurants. Casinos, movie theaters, stadiums and arenas must remain closed.

Bowling alleys, ice skating rinks, bingo halls, arcades and indoor water parks must also be closed.

All high school and college classes will have to be conducted remotely.

Organized sports are being shut down, not including professional sports and a select number of NCAA sports. Indoor group fitness classes are no longer permitted.

Last briefing

Whitmer last spoke Nov. 16, asking Michiganders to “double down so we can avoid a stay-home order.”

“My hope is that everyone makes smart choices to keep yourself and your loved ones and our frontline workers and our community safe,” Whitmer said. “I hope they will double down so we can avoid a stay-home order.”

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun called the Michigan COVID-19 outlook “deadly and grim,” while Whitmer cited a model that predicted a rising death rate if safety protocols weren’t followed.

“A leading model shows that if we don’t take aggressive action right now, we could soon see 1,000 deaths per week here in Michigan,” Whitmer said. “I want you to think about that: 1,000 deaths per week is what one of the models tells us.”

“If we do not act now, there’s no question that the next couple of months, next several months, will be deadly and grim,” Khaldun said.

Andiamo owner rallying restaurants to reopen

The owner of Andiamo wrote a letter to Michigan restaurants urging them to defy the state health department’s COVID-19 shutdown orders and reopen.

Joe Vicari called on fellow restauranteurs to join Andiamo in reopening Dec. 9 if Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services extend the current three-week “pause.”

“We need to band together and fight this closure,” Vicari wrote. “Our industry cannot survive another long-term closure. We are stronger if we stand together and use our strength of fight back.”

In the letter, Vicari cites a Michigan Lodging and Restaurant Association statistic that claims only around 4% of COVID-19 cases in the state can be traced back to restaurants. Michigan health officials have said it’s extremely difficult to contact trace outbreaks in restaurants because of the short duration a patron may spend inside.

“Yet, she decided to close restaurants, again,” the letter says. “The malls are packed with holiday shopping, hair salons and gyms can remain open, yet our restaurants are closed.”

Click here to read the full letter.

Whitmer said Tuesday that the decision has yet to be made on whether to extend the restrictions.

Michigan football on pause

Michigan football paused all team activities Monday due to possible COVID-19 concerns, the university announced.

“Out of caution, we are holding all team activities virtually today,” athletic department spokesperson David Ablauf said.

The Wolverines made it through six of their eight regular season games without any widespread COVID-19 outbreaks. Just two days after hosting Penn State at Michigan Stadium, the team announced all activities are being held virtually.

Michigan is scheduled to host Maryland this weekend in the final game at the Big House. A trip to Ohio State is scheduled for the following week, and then one final game against a team from the Big Ten West.

It’s unclear if the team will have to miss any games, or how long the shutdown will last.

About the Authors:

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.

Dave Bartkowiak Jr. is the digital managing editor for ClickOnDetroit.