Why Whitmer says Michigan’s low COVID rates early in pandemic are contributing to current spike

Governor discusses latest COVID-19 issues as case rate rises

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at an April 14, 2021, COVID-19 briefing.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at an April 14, 2021, COVID-19 briefing. (Michigan Governor's Office)

LANSING, Mich. – When asked why Michigan has such a high number of COVID-19 cases despite all the previous shutdowns and restrictions, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she believes the state’s success at fighting the virus early in the pandemic is actually contributing to the current alarming metrics.

READ: 13 takeaways from Whitmer’s COVID update: Michigan restrictions, why numbers are so high, vaccines

Whitmer and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, held a COVID briefing Wednesday (April 14) and once again revealed they won’t be implementing new restrictions despite the rapid spread of the virus.

A reporter asked the governor why Michigan has one of the highest COVID rates in the nation despite a long stay-at-home order last spring and a two-and-a-half-month pause in the winter.

Whitmer gave three reasons for the rapid spread in recent weeks. Two of them were straightforward: more contagious COVID variants and pandemic fatigue.

The third reason she gave is that because Michigan was able to contain the virus better than most states early in the pandemic, not as many people got infected. As a result, fewer people have the antibodies from recovering, so they’re more susceptible to getting infected now.

“We’ve got reservoirs of people that we kept safe for a long period of time who don’t have antibodies and variants that are easier to catch, and that’s a part of why we are seeing the increase that we have in Michigan,” Whitmer said.

That’s the “educated theory” on why Michigan’s case, positivity and hospitalization rates have skyrocketed. In essence, experts believe variants and fatigue have made COVID easier to spread than ever. They think Michigan is getting hit so hard because there are simply more people who haven’t been infected yet.

“We were very successful for a long period of time at pushing COVID rates down in Michigan,” Whitmer said. “(We were at) 3%. We were the envy of most other states for a long period of time. We didn’t know a lot about this virus a year ago, so we took action and we were quite successful compared to the rest of the country.

“At this point, we are now 14 months in and people are tired. Every single one of us is tired. I’m tired of this. Dr. Khaldun is tired of this. We are seeing people abandoning the protocols. We are seeing more mobility. That’s what’s happening, and the worst part is we now have the existence of variants here in Michigan that are just easier to spread.”


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