LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has revealed the six stages of her plan to stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and fully reopen the state.
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The governor received criticism from Republican lawmakers in the state House and Senate after extending the state of emergency without their approval. One of their criticisms was that Whitmer wasn’t being transparent with her plans to pull the state out of this pandemic.
Now Whitmer has revealed the six phases of her “MI Safe Start Plan,” designed to reengage the state’s economy. Whitmer said she worked with leaders in health care, business, labor and education to create the plan.
“I am working closely with health care experts and epidemiologists to closely monitor Michigan’s progress in the fight against COVID-19,” Whitmer said. “As we move forward with the MI Safe Start Plan, I am working closely with partners in business, labor and education to determine the best way to move forward each day. All of us know the importance of getting people back to work and the economy moving again. We’ve already reopened lower-risk sectors like construction, manufacturing and lawn care.
“The worst thing we can do is open up in a way that causes a second wave of infections and death, puts health care workers at further risk and wipes out all the progress we’ve made. That’s why we will continue to monitor the spread of this virus, hospital capacity, testing rates and more as we work toward reaching the ‘improving’ phase.”
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Below are the six phases. Michigan is current in phase three, she said.
1. Uncontrolled growth
There is an increasing number of new cases every day that could overwhelm the state’s health systems.
The number of daily new cases increases by a constant rate every day, which leads to an increasingly accelerating case curve. If a community remains in this phase for an extended period of time, health care facilities could quickly become overwhelmed.
Since unmitigated behavior contributes to the exponential growth, communities can slow the growth rate and exit this phase by introducing social distancing practices and wearing masks in public.
2. Persistent spread
Michigan continues to see high case levels, with concern about health system capacity.
This phase occurs when the pandemic is still expanding in the community. There are still high case levels, but the growth rate might gradually decrease.
In this phase, the epidemic is widespread in a community and the source of infection is more difficult to trace. Even though the growth rate of new cases is decreasing, high volumes of infected individuals mean that health systems could become overwhelmed, leading to higher mortality rates.
During this phase, it is important to maintain social distancing practices in order to slow the spread to a level that health systems can handle as they are continuing to build capacity.
The epidemic is no longer increasing and the health system’s capacity is sufficient for current needs.
This phase occurs when daily new cases and deaths remain relatively constant over a time period. Often, this occurs because communities have started to use social distancing practices and transmission rates have fallen to manageable levels.
Since new cases are not constantly increasing, health system capacity has time to expand to epidemic needs and is not typically overwhelmed.
Testing and contact tracing efforts are ramped up statewide. To prevent each infected individual from spreading the virus unchecked, rapid case investigation, contact tracing and containment practices are necessary within a community.
This has often been referred to as “flattening the curve,” and it’s the stage Michigan is currently in, according to the governor.
Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are clearly declining.
This phase occurs when the number of new cases and deaths has fallen for a period of time, but overall case levels are still high. When in the “improving” phase, most new outbreaks are quickly identified, traced, and contained due to robust testing infrastructure and rapid contact tracing.
Health system capacity can typically handle these new outbreaks, and therefore the case fatality rate does not rise above typical levels. Though a community might be in a declining phase, the overall number of infected individuals still indicate the need for distancing to stop transmission and move to the next phase.
Case and death rates continue to decline, with outbreaks quickly contained.
During the “containing” phase, new cases and deaths continue to decrease for an additional period of time. At this point, the number of active cases has reached a point where infection from other members of the community is less common.
With widespread testing, positivity rates often fall much lower than earlier phases. Rapid case investigation, contact tracing and containment strategies cause new cases to continue to fall.
But if distancing and other risk mitigation efforts are not continued, infections could begin to grow again because a permanent solution to the epidemic has not yet been identified.
Reaching this phase would mean that community spread is not expected to return because of sufficient community immunity and availability of treatment.
As a result, the number of infected individuals falls to nearly zero, and the community does not typically experience this strain of the virus returning.
All areas of the economy reopen in this phase, and gatherings of all sizes can resume.