Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer defended her response to the state’s coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday.
The segment follows a briefing from the White House coronavirus task force on Saturday, where President Donald Trump called on all governors to "unlock the vast testing capacity that exists in their states.”
However, in Sunday’s Meet the Press, Whitmer and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said they are unable to ramp up their states’ COVID-19 testing due to the lack of swabs and reagents -- a mixture used for chemical analysis in the test. The governors said that the states could increase the number of tests conducted by two or three times, but first require assistance from the federal government to acquire the needed supplies.
“We have the capacity to double or triple the number of tests that we’re doing, but we need some of these supplies," Whitmer said. "If the federal government would use the Defense Production Act and say ‘we’re going to make every swab people need and we’re gonna expedite creation of the reagents,’ we would be able to know how prevalent COVID-19 is. It would take down the risks associated with taking action to reengage parts of our economy, because we would have a lot more data about how prevalent COVID-19 still is in our states.”
Across the country, states are facing a critical shortage of supplies needed to increase their COVID-19 testing capabilities. Experts say that testing must increase significantly to contain the virus.
In addition to supply shortages, Whitmer is facing backlash for her stay-at-home order amid the state’s COVID-19 crisis.
Thousands of Michigan residents congregated in Lansing on Wednesday to protest the order, claiming its restrictions are excessive.
Whitmer defended the stay-at-home order during Meet the Press, noting there are still high numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Michigan.
“Michigan has the third highest number of deaths from COVID-19 and yet we’re the 10th largest state. We have a disproportionate problem in the state of Michigan -- and so we can take the same kinds of actions that other states have, but it doesn’t rise to the challenge we’re confronting; and that’s precisely why we have to take a more aggressive stand," Whitmer said.
"It’s working. We are seeing the curve start to flatten. But as people come in from across the state and gather and congregate -- without masks, without standing six feet apart, without those important protections -- it means that they might have gone back to these parts of our state and perhaps brought COVID-19 along with them. Our rural hospitals are not equipped to handle a big surge, and that’s why the important steps that we’ve taken are critical to continuing to flatten that curve.”
The governor showed understanding for residents struggling with the stay-at-home order, but noted her actions are necessary to prevent a “second wave” of COVID-19 in the state.
“These stay home orders weigh incredibly heavy because I know there’s an economic cost — I know there’s a mental health cost. People are struggling with this isolation that we have on top of all the other stressors," Whitmer said. “But the fact of the matter is: We have to be really smart about how we proceed.”
Whitmer said her team is working every day to develop a plan to reopen sectors of the economy in phases, once it is safe.