Michigan’s hospitals are overwhelmed, leaving health officials concerned about what could still be coming.
Despite that, the state has refused to issue any new restrictions.
It was those restrictions in the first waves that were put in place to keep Michigan’s hospitals from going through what’s happening now.
While things have changed over the course of the pandemic -- such as what we know about the virus, how it spreads and how to treat it -- there are still striking similarities between now and when the pandemic started in March 2020.
“This will be temporary,” Whitmer said on March 23, 2020. “This intervention is important to buy time so we can create surge capacity in our hospitals.”
Days later, Michigan would hit its first daily case peak of just under 2,000 cases. Seven months later, Michigan was heading into the winter holiday season and cases began a steady rise into the thousands each day.
After seasons of political fights, threats and a lack of compliance with social distancing, Whitmer cited science and national models as she called for more restrictions.
“These steps are what the public health experts say we must take to avoid overwhelming hospitals and death counts like we saw in the spring,” Whitmer said Nov. 15, 2020. “Rapid spread of this virus requires that we take aggressive action now to save lives.”
Five days later, Michigan would have its highest daily case count of the pandemic with 9,779 cases.
Michigan’s late 2020 three-week pause was widely praised and has been credited with saving lives.
As the state creeps toward that record count again, Whitmer has changed course. State officials have opted instead to lean on vaccination, therapeutic treatments and calling for more personal responsibilities.
“Instead of mandating that we’re closing things down, we are encouraging people to do what we know works as the most important thing that we can do,” Whitmer said Tuesday. “It’s not the policy problem, it is a variant and compliance problem.”
Health experts don’t agree. The heads of the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both said Michigan will not be able to vaccinate its way out of the latest spike.
“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.” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.
Hospitals are warning that personal responsibility may not be enough.
“I think that the people who were going to do the right things are already doing the right things and the people who are not doing the right thing, will not be doing the right things,” said Beaumont Health CEO John Fox. ”I think some of that is preaching to the choir, unfortunately.”
The personal responsibility measures Whitmer is asking Michiganders to double down on do work. Social distancing, mask wearing, washing our hands and getting vaccinated are proven to help slow the spread. Whether people will listen this time will remain to be seen.