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Michigan Gov. Whitmer ‘not going to be bullied’ into reopening businesses that are still closed

Whitmer says science will determine when COVID-19 rates are low enough to reopen businesses

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a news conference Aug. 25, 2020.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a news conference Aug. 25, 2020. (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday that she’s “not going to be bullied” into reopening businesses that are still closed because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Whitmer was asked during her COVID-19 briefing whether she had an update for business owners who have been trying to reopen for months. On Wednesday, the governor said she could likely share more information on that topic when she spoke again this week.

READ: Michigan’s top medical official updates how COVID-19 cases are trending in all 8 regions

“I’m not going to be bullied into making that decision,” Whitmer said. “I’m going to follow the science. I’m going to work with Dr. (Joneigh) Khaldun, but we are looking very closely at those businesses that have been closed for the duration to determine if those protocols are there and if the seven-day averages and the number of positive cases per million per day would support doing a little more on those fronts.”

Khaldun, the chief medical executive and chief deputy director for Health for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, updated the state’s region-by-region numbers during the briefing. The Detroit Region is still seeing the highest case rates, with three other regions reporting more than 50 cases per million people per day.

You can see Khaldun’s full update in the section below.

“There’s no decision that I’m announcing today,” Whitmer said. “It’s something that we’re continuing to scrutinize and determine if it’s safe to move forward. I am in earnest looking at that, working with the department, working with Dr. Khaldun on those fronts. It’s too early to say yet.”

The governor acknowledged that there’s immense pressure on business owners, public health officials and decision makers as a result of the pandemic. But she said she still has to make decisions based on the advice of the state’s medical experts.

“We’re going to continue to make decisions based on facts and data and recommendations from health experts like Dr. Khaldun and the University of Michigan Public Health,” Whitmer said.

MORE: Here’s what 6 Michigan businesses did to get fined thousands for breaking COVID-19 protocols

She said early aggressive action against the pandemic helped Michigan go from one of the hardest-hit states in the country to 40th in the nation in terms of seven-day average of new cases per capita and the number of people testing positive on diagnostic tests.

“Those are good pieces of information, positive pieces of information,” Whitmer said. “It’s a testament to the work that we’ve done. It’s a testament to following the science, and it’s a testament to the people of Michigan taking this seriously and doing the right thing.”

She said the economy is operating at 87% of where it was in early March, before the first stay-at-home order was issued.

LATEST: Michigan Court of Appeals rules Gov. Whitmer has authority to use emergency pandemic powers

Officials continue to assess if protocols are in place to safely reopen the businesses that remain closed, Whitmer said.

“We are assessing if there are sufficient protocols around businesses that have not yet been engaged to see if we can start to reengage at some level on those fronts,” Whitmer said.

Numbers by region

Khaldun broke down how each region was trending in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases per million people per day as of Friday (Aug. 21).

For the second week in a row, Khaldun said the Detroit Region has the highest case rate, at 69 cases per million people per day. The trend has been decreasing over the past week, she said.

The Upper Peninsula and Saginaw Region are at 57 cases per million people per day, Khaldun said. The Upper Peninsula has seen a decrease in case rate over the past week, while the Saginaw Region’s has increased.

In the Kalamazoo Region, officials are reporting 53 cases per million people per day. The trend is decreasing over the past two weeks, according to Khaldun.

The Grand Rapids Region is at 40 cases per million people per day. The trend has been decreasing over the past two weeks, Khaldun said.

She said the Traverse City Region is at 32 cases per million people per day. That region has seen an increase over the past two weeks.

The lowest case rates in the state are in the Jackson and Lansing regions, which are both around 25 cases per million people per day, Khaldun said. Both regions have seen decreases over the last week or two, she said.

Khaldun also said that overall, 3.3% of tests are coming back positive in the state. That number is holding steady, but she would like to see it drop below 3%, she said.

State officials are also investigating 70 new COVID-19 outbreaks from the last week.

The Upper Peninsula was at 47 cases per million people per day -- a slight decrease over the previous week, Khaldun said.

The Grand Rapids Region saw a slight decrease over the previous two weeks and was at 34 cases per million people per day at the end of last week, she said.

Khaldun lumped the Traverse City, Jackson and Lansing regions together Wednesday, saying they were all between 20-30 cases per million people per day. The Jackson and Lansing regions were in the midst of recent decreases, while the Traverse City Region was seeing a slight increase, she said.

More coverage

Here’s much more recent coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whitmer’s handling of pandemic:

Reopening Michigan:

Health questions, advice:

Vaccines:

Outbreaks:

Unemployment:

Individual stories:

Changes:


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