Everything to know about Michigan’s COVID situation before Gov. Whitmer’s briefing

Governor hinted last week at further re-engagement of Michigan economy

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a Feb. 24, 2021, COVID-19 briefing. (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is providing an update Tuesday on the state’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic -- shortly after she promised to re-engage more of Michigan’s economy “in the coming days.”

UPDATE: Here are the 14 changes to Michigan’s COVID rules: Restaurants, gyms, stadiums, retail, gatherings

Here’s everything you should know about the virus in Michigan before her update (the update is here now).

Reopening Michigan

Whitmer said Wednesday (Feb. 24) that more of Michigan would reopen in the “coming days,” with the loosening of some COVID-19 restrictions.

“We’re expecting to make more announcements on additional re-engagements in the coming days,” Whitmer said. “Our case numbers and public health metrics are trending in the right direction, and we’re very pleased to see that.”

Nursing home visits and gathering restrictions are among the issues being considered.

“I’m feeling very optimistic, so let’s keep it up,” Whitmer said.

Extension of MDHHS order

Even if some additional restrictions are loosened, Michigan will still be under a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services order for most of March.

Two weeks ago, the MDHHS order that was previously scheduled to last until Feb. 21 was quietly extended to March 29 without a public announcement.

Typically, any extension or revision of the order is accompanied by a press release or announced by Whitmer as a prominent part of her weekly COVID briefings.

“I was a little surprised by the reaction, to tell you the truth,” Whitmer said. “Anyone who’s just even casually watched over the last 12 months knows we have a tendency to have about a three-week cadence. We make a change, see how it’s going, watch the data, report on the data, make changes along the way. But usually, three weeks or longer increments, and that’s no different in this case.”

Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Over the weekend, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for an emergency use authorization.

The one-dose vaccine joins Pfizer and Moderna to give Americans three options.

The state of Michigan is expected to receive 82,700 doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine this week.

The J&J vaccine doses are expected in Michigan by Wednesday, an MDHHS spokesperson said Monday. These doses will go to health departments and hospitals.

COVID metrics

All three of Michigan’s key COVID-19 metrics continued to improve last week, according to Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.

“We continue, as the governor said, to see positive trends in the key metrics that we are tracking for COVID-19,” Khaldun said.

Michigan’s case rate was at 95 cases per million people -- marking a six-week decline. Wednesday was the first time since the fall peak that the state’s case rate dropped below 100 cases per million population.

The percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive in Michigan dropped to 3.5%, and just 4.9% of available inpatient hospital beds statewide were being used to take care of people with COVID-19, Khaldun said.

“Our case counts and positivity rates remain among the lowest in the country,” Whitmer said.

B117 variant

There are now 314 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 B117 variant confirmed in Michigan across 19 counties.

Two weeks ago, Michigan had confirmed 157 cases of the variant across 12 counties, Khaldun said. Seven days later, the state was up to 314 cases across 19 counties.

“There are possibly more that we have not yet identified,” Khaldun said. “Models and national experts predict that this new variant could be the dominant one in the United States by the end of March.”

In-person learning

Monday was the deadline set months ago by Whitmer and the state for schools returning to “as much in-person instruction as possible.”

Whitmer and Khaldun said the believe it’s crucial for students to return to the classroom, and they offered data that supported their recommendation to districts statewide.

Here are the 20 reasons Whitmer gave for Michigan schools returning to in-person learning.

Here are the nine COVID guidelines she offered for Michigan schools returning to in-person learning.

Detroit public schools officially announced they will reopen for in-person learning March 8.

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.