DETROIT – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she is concerned that people attending political events in the state this week will not be following social distancing and mask-wearing mandates, particularly those that will attend an event for President Donald Trump.
During a live interview Wednesday morning on Local 4 News Today, Whitmer right away addressed both scheduled visits to Michigan from presidential candidates Joe Biden and Trump. Biden is scheduled to speak in Warren on Wednesday while Trump is scheduled to speak Thursday in Freeland, near Saginaw.
Whitmer said she is concerned about how well attendees at the events will follow social distancing and mask-wearing safety measures amid the coronavirus pandemic. She said she was particularly concerned about the Trump event because of what she’s seen happening at such events in other states.
“I’ve been talking with the Biden campaign and I know that they have plans to observe all of our executive orders, social distancing and mask wearing," said Whitmer. "On the contrary, we know that President Trump has been traveling the nation and hosting events where people are not social distancing, in large crowds, and people are not masking up. And that’s my concern. I don’t care which party you support, which group you’re going to go see. I want Michiganders to be safe, whether you’re Republican or Democrat, or someone who doesn’t identify as either. My job is to make sure Michiganders are safe.”
Whitmer issued a statewide mask order in July, months after coronavirus (COVID-19) cases began to rise in Michigan back in March. Whitmer said the order wasn’t issued until July because not enough was known about the virus at first.
“This is still a novel virus ... we’re learning more every single day. As we learn more we need to be nimble and adopt best practices," said Whitmer. "Michigan still was on the front edge of mask mandate. We’ve been able to push our curve down because we’ve been following the science, and working with the business community. We want to keep our economy engaged, we want to protect lives, and that means following the best science and working together to make sure we do that.”
The governor said mask mandate compliance has been on the rise.
“Our positivity rate is lower than most other states in the nation, and certainly the lowest in the Midwest, which is a stronger region in the nation than many other parts of the country. So we’re leading and we’re making a big difference, saved thousands of lives," she said. "Our economy has re-engaged. We’ve got some of the best numbers in the country, and we want it to stay that way. We made a lot of sacrifice to get to this point.”
Whitmer stressed the importance of wearing a mask and getting a flu shot before flu season is in full swing.
“It’s important that we look at this as a dial and we re-engage in steps. That’s precisely why this next one is really important. It’s going to be good to get people back into some physical exercise inside gyms, but we need to be careful," said Whitmer. "We know if you’re breathing heavily and you’re in an enclosed space and you’re close to people, that’s a premier way that COVID-19 spreads and that’s why these protocols are really important.”
Whitmer has allowed school districts to craft their own reopening plans this fall. Districts were able to decide whether they would be returning to in-person classes or virtual learning, or both. The governor offered guidelines for the districts -- the MI Safe Start plan -- but allowed the final return plans to be crafted locally by district leaders.
“We’ve got over 800 districts in Michigan. From the Upper Peninsula, to Downtown Detroit, to the west side of the state, there are different challenges and different resources available to these districts. And that’s why at the local level these decisions really need to be made,” she said.
The governor said other states have been looking at Michigan’s success in containing the virus, but the fight isn’t over.
“We’ve got to be smart, and we’ve got to do our part,” she said.
- View: Michigan COVID-19 data