Whitmer’s COVID briefing
Talk of new restrictions began Friday, when Whitmer held her first COVID briefing in 21 days. She was asked about the possibility of a new order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, but said she doesn’t believe it’s necessary.
“We know now that we’ve got the tools we need to protect ourselves, and it is less of a policy problem that we have and more of a compliance and variants issue that we are confronting as a state,” Whitmer said.
In essence: Whitmer doesn’t plan to shut down the state this time around, even though case and positivity rates have quadrupled since mid-February.
Instead, she’s asking residents to follow a few safety protocols voluntarily. She wants high schools to return to remote learning for two weeks, especially after many students traveled for spring break.
Whitmer asked residents to avoid indoor dining at restaurants for two weeks and take advantage of carry-out and delivery options.
“Infectious disease and public health experts across the country have been quite clear that indoor dining is one of the riskiest things you can do during this pandemic,” Khaldun said. “With the numbers we are seeing now, we simply do not recommend it. You should order takeout, a drive-through service or do outdoor dining. My family orders takeout multiple times per week.”
She also asked youth sports programs to suspend activities for two weeks, and told Michiganders to avoid gathering with people from outside their household.
“You should avoid gatherings with multiple households, and if you do have a gathering, it should be small,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive of MDHHS. “It should be outside, and people should be wearing a mask.”
CDC believes Michigan should shut down
Two top national health officials took an opposing view Monday, not only shooting down Whitmer’s notion that Michigan should receive more vaccines because of its alarming COVID-19 cases, but also saying the best way to turn its metrics around is to issue more restrictions.
“The answer to that is to really close things down, to go back to our basics, to go back to where we were last spring, last summer, and to shut things down to flatten the curve, to decrease contact with one another, to test to the extent that we have available, to contact trace -- sometimes you can’t even do it at the capacity that you need,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention.
She said Michigan can’t simply rely on vaccines to stop the rapid spread because it takes weeks for those vaccines to take effect.
“Really what we need to do in those situations is shut things down,” Walensky said. “I think if we try to vaccinate our way out of what is happening in Michigan, we would be disappointed that it took so long for the vaccine to work, to actually have the impact. Similarly, we need that vaccine in other places. If we vaccinate today and we will have impact in six weeks, and we don’t know where the next place is going to be that is going to surge.”
Whitmer doubles down
On Monday evening, the governor was at a vaccine event Eastern Michigan University and talked about the state’s battle against skyrocketing COVID cases.
Whitmer said that as things currently stand, she doesn’t see a need for another full shutdown.
“Here’s where we are: Instead of a year ago, where this was a novel virus where we didn’t even know that a mask was going to give us 97% protection, we had to take strong actions to keep people safe,” Whitmer said. “We now know a lot more about this.”
Local 4 asked Whitmer if there is a trigger that would cause her to reinstate previous restrictions. Her answer was that the situation now is different than it was a year ago.
“We know that we are at the end of, close to the end of this saga, if we all do our part,” Whitmer said. “That’s why we’re going to continue to call on people to do that and not go back to those same kind of protocols, because we’re in a different moment.”
Local 4 asked for clarification after the CDC director’s comments.
“As our nation’s top health experts have said, this is not a failure of policy, but rather a compliance, variant and mobility issue, which is why it’s important for us to ramp up vaccinations as quickly as possible,” Whitmer’s office said in a statement.
Whitmer believes Michiganders have the tools necessary to slow the spread of the virus without a new MDHHS order, but she reiterated the importance of following the voluntary restrictions she mentioned Friday.