LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has extended the Michigan state of emergency through Sept. 4, citing an uptick in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and the looming return of in-person learning at schools.
“We are in a crucial time in our fight against COVID-19, and we must do everything we can to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and the brave men and women on the front lines of this crisis from a second wave,” Whitmer said. “Today, I signed new emergency and disaster declarations using independent sources of statutory authority to continue saving lives. I will continue to use every tool at my disposal to protect Michiganders from the spread of this virus.”
The state of emergency was previously scheduled to expire Tuesday (Aug. 11), but it has been extended by about a month.
Whitmer said every region in Michigan has seen an uptick in new cases over the past several weeks, and daily case counts in late July exceeded 50 cases per million statewide.
Michigan’s statewide positivity rate has also increased, from a low of 2% in mid-June to 3.5% in late July. The increase in cases reflects a national trend: COVID-19 cases are growing or holding steady in 40 states and deaths from COVID-19 are increasing in most of those states as well, state officials said.
While cases in Michigan have increased since June, numbers are still below the national average, with roughly a 3.5% positivity rate in Michigan compared to 9% nationally, and considerably lower than surrounding states, according to the state.
Michigan unemployment rates are higher than they’ve been in decades, and Whitmer said many families in Michigan are struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table.
Many Michigan students are also nearing a return to in-person instruction over the next month, increasing the risk of outbreaks.
Cases begin to plateau
The number of new daily COVID-19 cases in Michigan is starting to plateau, and there are some positive trends in seven of the eight geographical regions, the state’s top health official said.
“We are seeing a plateau of cases,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said Wednesday during a press briefing with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Whitmer said she’s “trying to avoid” moving the state back a phase in her coronavirus reopening plan.
“We’re trying to avoid moving back a phase,” Whitmer said. “That’s, you know, something that I’m hopeful we can prevent from happening. But it’s all going to be dictated by what people do, and we will see in the numbers in the next week, the next two weeks, the next three weeks.”
Whitmer was asked Wednesday during her briefing whether there was any chance the state could see any changes or loosening of restrictions before the school year, regardless of what happens with the numbers.
“I think it’s really important that we stay focused on the fact that this virus still doesn’t show up in numbers until a couple of weeks later,” Whitmer said. “The dangerous, insidious thing about COIVD-19 is that you can be carrying it and not even know it.”
Whitmer cited health experts, saying one-third of the people who have been infected with the coronavirus don’t even know it, but they can still spread the disease.
Khaldun said five things need to happen for restrictions to start loosening in Michigan:
- Get the state under 10 cases per million people per day.
- Decrease the percent of positive tests at least below 3% and maintain it for some time.
- Maintain a low hospitalization rate.
- Maintain a low death rate.
- Make sure testing capacity is what it needs to be to keep cases under control.
“There are many things that we’re looking at to determine how we move forward with the phases across the state,” Khaldun said.
Here’s much more recent coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whitmer’s handling of pandemic:
Health questions, advice: