LANSING, Mich. – Despite COVID-19 cases that are rising at an alarming rate, Michigan officials still aren’t planning to mandate new restrictions. But why is there a reluctance to do so now, considering there have been two shutdowns in the past?
That question was posed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Wednesday (April 14) during a COVID-19 briefing. Her answer hasn’t changed since last week.
Simply put, Whitmer thinks Michigan has the tools to slow the spread of the virus without another shutdown.
“We know a lot more about our common enemy than we did a year ago,” Whitmer said. “We know that masking up is crucial. We know that social distancing is crucial. We’re asking everyone in Michigan to do their part. Utilize this knowledge to keep yourself safe, to keep our community safe.”
Whether or not Michigan needs new restrictions has been a hot topic over the past week, with Whitmer saying she doesn’t believe we need another MDHHS order, but national experts claiming that would be the best way to slow the spread of the virus.
“The answer to (slowing the spread) 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.
Walensky said Michigan can’t just use vaccines as a way to slow the spread because there would be a delay. But Whitmer continues to tout vaccines as the most important tool in this fight.
“At this juncture, we know that the tools at our disposal that can most dramatically improve outcomes for people in this state are vaccines, and that’s why we’re moving so swiftly to get people vaccinated,” Whitmer said.
She said her personal recommendation is that Michiganders avoid eating inside restaurants, gatherings and other risky activities. But there aren’t any plans to put those recommendations back into law.
“We’re having a lot of conversation about what makes sense to contribute to bringing down the spread, but here’s what we know: The national experts with whom we consult said you don’t have a policy problem,” Whitmer said. “Michigan still has some of the strongest protocols in place -- capacity restrictions, we’ve still got a mask mandate. Other states have dropped all of these things. We still have them in Michigan, and yet, we have high positivity.
She said it’s not a question about whether the policies need to be changed or strengthened, but a combination of more contagious variants, residents without antibodies and how much Michiganders comply with those policies.
“That’s precisely why instead of mandating that we’re closing things down, we are encouraging people to do what we know works,” Whitmer said. “That’s the most important thing that we can do. It’s not a policy problem. It is a variant and compliance problem, and that’s why we really need everyone to continue taking this seriously, to do your part.”