Everything you should know before Michigan Gov. Whitmer’s second COVID briefing this week

Whitmer, Khaldun cited concerning COVID trends during Wednesday update

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Dec. 29, 2020, COVID-19 briefing
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Dec. 29, 2020, COVID-19 briefing

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will provide an update on Michigan’s handling of COVID-19 on Friday -- the second briefing in three days.

Click here to watch the briefing live, starting at 1:30 p.m. Friday.

Here’s everything you should know about COVID-19 in Michigan before it begins.

In-person learning

Whitmer is expected to “strongly encourage” that Michigan public schools reopen for in-person learning by the beginning of March, according to the Associated Press.

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Public schools in Michigan were shut down during the fall due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. Their buildings have been closed for about two months -- since the state reported thousands of COVID-19 cases per day in November.

In-person learning at high schools and colleges was specifically banned Nov. 18.

Whitmer will recommend schools resume in-person instruction by March 1, according to the AP, citing sources.

COVID restrictions

On Wednesday, Whitmer suggested a decision on whether or not to extend the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ COVID-19 order would be made next week.

But she also said she wouldn’t hesitate to act, if necessary.

“I think it’s very clear that the pause has worked,” Whitmer said. “Our numbers came down at the initiation of the pause, just as they did in the spring when we took action and curtailed our person-to-person activities.”

Whitmer said there was increased traveling during the most recent holiday season, so officials are watching the COVID-19 numbers closely.

TIMELINE: How COVID trends have actually changed since Michigan issued, extended, revised order

“The order that has been in effect from MDHHS goes through (Jan. 15), so I would anticipate some more days of data before a determination is made on what the next steps look like,” she said Wednesday.

Concerning metrics

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive for MDHHS, updated the state’s top three COVID-19 metrics Wednesday, and cited some concerning trends.

Michigan is at 237 COVID-19 cases per million people statewide, from 198 cases per million in the Traverse City Region to 342 cases per million in the Jackson Region.

Unfortunately, the case rate has started to plateau over the past week after a clear decline that lasted for 46 days, according to Khaldun.

The state’s positivity rate, down to 8.2% on Dec. 27, rose significantly, she said. It’s now up to 9.6%.

Khaldun said hospitalizations are still trending downward, though. While 19.6% of inpatient beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients as of Dec. 4, that number is down to 12.6%, as of Wednesday’s update.

Most recent case update

On Thursday, the state reported 4,015 new COVID-19 cases and 176 additional deaths. Since the start of the pandemic, Michigan has confirmed 512,751 cases of COVID-19 and 13,094 virus-related deaths.

Michigan eclipsed the 500,000 case mark on Monday.

“The state of Michigan recorded our 500,000th confirmed case,” Whitmer said Wednesday. “More than 12,000 Michiganders have died from this virus, and that’s more than 12,000 families and friends and coworkers and loved ones who came into this new year without someone they love.”

‘New variant’ of virus

Whitmer also mentioned a new strand of COVID-19, which has been reported in the UK and some states in the U.S.

Whitmer said the virus has mutated. Khaldun said the new variant might be easier to spread than the one that’s been in the country previously.

“While we have not identified that variant in the state of Michigan, it is very likely that it’s already here, or it will be here soon, so that is concerning,” Khaldun said.

New phase of vaccinations

Michigan is moving on to a new phase of COVID-19 vaccinations, including teachers, first responders, childcare providers and residents over 65 years old.

MDHHS announced the new phase of vaccinations will begin Monday (Jan. 11).

The frontline essential workers in this phase of vaccine distribution include police officers, first responders, frontline state and federal workers, jail and prison staff members, Pre-K through 12th grade teachers and childcare providers.

Khaldun said 152,511 vaccines have been administered in the state, as of Jan. 5. More than 8,326 of those doses were used in long-term care facilities, and more than 800 providers are enrolled in the vaccine program.

The expectation in Michigan is that 90% of doses received by any facility in the state should be used within seven days.

“We are seeing progress in the speed of vaccinations, as well,” Khaldun said.

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