Apr 9, 2020
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Coronavirus Briefing Transcript April 9
Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan held a press briefing on April 9 on coronavirus. She extended the Michigan stay-at-home order through April 30. Read the full transcript here.
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Gretchen Whitmer: (00:00)
I want to begin by wishing everyone who celebrates a happy Easter as well as happy Passover to our Jewish residents who are celebrating as well.
Gretchen Whitmer: (00:09)
I know that there are a lot of Michiganders who usually come together to celebrate holidays or weekends for that matter with family and friends and that this is a unique and challenging time. I hope that you are finding other ways to reach out to loved ones during during this time as we celebrate, as we cope and as we navigate these unsettling times.
Gretchen Whitmer: (00:35)
Since Monday, we announced that the state of Michigan has selected the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi with collaboration with Ascension Health as the site of the second alternate care facility to expand medical capacity during the state’s response to COVID-19. After conversion, the Suburban Collection Showplace will provide bed space to accommodate up to a thousand COVID-19 cases and as we announced that the Henry Ford Health System, McLaren Health Care, Beaumont Health and the Detroit Medical Center, will serve as partners providing critical support and staffing resources at TCF Regional Care Center, scheduled to accept its first 25 COVID-19 patients this Friday.
Gretchen Whitmer: (01:25)
The United States Army Corps of Engineers has built this hospital from scratch in a matter of days with the Michigan National Guard and we brought competing healthcare systems together, joining forces, to help get this up and running. It is truly a remarkable thing that has been accomplished and I appreciate the Army Corps, the National Guard, and the leaders of these health systems for stepping up to make these announcements and this care possible.
Gretchen Whitmer: (01:54)
I also sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence about the severe shortage of critical medications used in providing care to COVID-19 patients in Michigan. We are faced with a dangerously low levels of the medications required to safely place patients on ventilators and ensure sufficient sedation and pain relief while they remain on ventilators. These medications are just as important as the ventilators themselves. Specifically, I asked the vice president to improve coordination across all agencies to ensure a steady supply of these essential medications as quickly as possible and to direct the DEA to allow for more of these drugs to be produced.
Gretchen Whitmer: (02:42)
I was pleased to see that following my request, the DEA announced that it will temporarily allow for increased production of medications, useD in treating COVID-19 patients and that they would approve increased imports of medications as necessary for patients are on ventilators. We’re grateful because that’s critically important.
Gretchen Whitmer: (03:03)
I’ve also signed a few executive orders. I signed one to temporary suspend requirements for regarding licensing and regulation of emergency medical services and I signed one to reduce unnecessary, in-person contact through the use of electronic signatures, remote notarizations, remote witness attestations and acknowledgements and remote visitations.
Gretchen Whitmer: (03:29)
We’re doing everything we can also, to get food benefits to Michigan families and people who need it. The USDA’s food and nutrition services has approved Michigan’s plan to provide pandemic EBT SNAP benefits to children who are approved for free and reduced lunch in our schools. Michigan is the first in the nation to get this approval and we are incredibly pleased about that. This approval will allow us to provide SNAP benefits to our kids to cover the cost that school meals would have provided had they been in school. This is a value of about $193 per month, per child. $172 million per month will be going to Michigan families and kids and this gives the Department of Health and Human Services the ability to serve approximately 895, 000 children, ensuring that they have access to increased food security and these funds will be in addition to meals that are being distributed at school sites.
Gretchen Whitmer: (04:42)
We’re working around the clock to help those who are still trying to navigate the technical issues in filing unemployment. The UIA has nearly quadrupled staffing levels over the last several weeks and has extended call center hours by an hour every day; 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM Monday through Friday and remains open on Saturdays, 7:00 AM to 2:00 PM.
Gretchen Whitmer: (05:05)
The last three weeks from March 15th through April 4th, Michigan has seen 816,785 total claims. We know we’re not alone in this high unemployment. In fact, every state in the nation is confronting the same thing that we are. 6.6 million Americans in the last week alone have applied similarly. Compared to the three weeks ending February 29th, March 7th and March 14th, prior to COVID-19, this represents a 5000% increase.
Gretchen Whitmer: (05:42)
I’m committed to making sure that every eligible Michigander receives their unemployment benefits. I appreciate your patience. We’ll have an update on numbers.
Gretchen Whitmer: (05:53)
As of today, we have 21,504 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19. Sadly, we have lost 1076 Michiganders to COVID-19 fatalities. The number of deaths has increased and will continue to increase and that’s precisely why we’ve got to continue taking this so seriously. So I want to talk a little bit about models of what could happen in Michigan over the next couple of months based on a number of factors.
Gretchen Whitmer: (06:24)
If Michiganders do their part and stay home and stay safe and wear a homemade mask when they do have to leave the house, while they’re practicing the other social distancing and hand-washing, we can see how many businesses maintain safe work environments for essential employees, that’s another factor, and the third factor is the amount of PPE we can get from our own procurement, from the federal government and from private donations and ramping up here in Michigan to help our essential employees stay safe. These are the factors that go into the models that determine how long we’re going to be in this posture. Now on this graph, the purple line is the IHME from the University of Washington model that the White House has been working off of. That model predicts our peak this week, actually in the last couple of days. We believe that they’re basing their distribution of PPE on this model.
Gretchen Whitmer: (07:23)
It assumes a very high level of adherence with a sheltering in place, Wuhan, China style, that is not happening in Michigan or anywhere in the country. So that’s one assumption that we think is contributing to this timeline that we don’t see happening here on the ground. This model also doesn’t represent the reality of what is truly happening, the number of cases, the number of people in critical care and the number of deaths that we have continued to see rising every day.
Gretchen Whitmer: (07:56)
The more likely scenarios based on the data that we have seen and what is actually happening here on the ground in Michigan, is the blue and green line on that same chart. The green line is what can happen if everyone does their part. If we act now and we continue to stay at home under really aggressive scenario, you can see that the line will start to flatten.
Gretchen Whitmer: (08:20)
The blue line is what will happen if only some of us observe those rules and the red line is what would happen without any stay home, stay safe order and without social distancing. You can see that we are in control of our fate here and it depends on every one of us doing our part.
Gretchen Whitmer: (08:39)
I’ll go to just make a couple of observations. These lines aren’t just colors on a graph. If we can go back to the last one. They’re not just colors on a graph but this represents people’s lives. It represents your grandmother, your child, your sister, your brother, your co-workers. When we all take this seriously, we will save lives in Michigan. We will save the frontline healthcare providers that are struggling to keep up with the need and if we will come out of this in a more robust way where we can get our economy re-engaged.
Gretchen Whitmer: (09:14)
I would like to go to the University of Michigan model that my team and I have been using, modeling that comes out of the U of M. It’s helped inform a lot of our decisions as it is based on information that is coming right out of here from the state. This model shows what can happen when all Michiganders stay home and stay safe through May 3rd that is the blue line. That’s what the curve can look like if we stay socially distant through April 30th. The red line through April 13th. So that’s what our curve will look like if we stopped social distancing now. The black line is what we would have looked like if we hadn’t done it in the first place. As you can see, these actions make a big difference. By observing social distancing, by adhering to the stay home order, we’re going to protect more families, we’re going to save more lives and we’re going to help ourselves get back on our feet sooner, which will be better for our economy in the long run.
Gretchen Whitmer: (10:16)
So this has been a hard month. We’ve got to take the lessons that we’ve learned from it and use them for the betterment of our state and the betterment of our people. A couple of important observations that we’re seeing play out nationally, but we’re seeing right here at home. 14% of our population is African-American, yet over 40% of the COVID-19 deaths in Michigan are African-Americans. This virus is holding up a mirror to our society and reminding us of the deep inequities in our country, from basic lack of access to care, to access to transportation, to lack of protections in the workplace. These inequities that hit people of color and vulnerable…
Gretchen Whitmer: (11:03)
Inequities of that hit people of color and vulnerable communities the hardest. Over the past four weeks, I’ve signed a number of executive orders to help ensure safety and security of the people of our state; especially focusing on the most vulnerable. We’ve banned evictions and tax foreclosures. We’ve expanded unemployment benefits. We’ve taken an action to get water restored. And today I’m announcing the Michigan Coronavirus task force on racial disparities, which will be chaired by Lieutenant governor Garlin Gillcrest.
Gretchen Whitmer: (11:34)
Members of this task force will consist of leaders across state government and healthcare professionals from communities most impacted by the spread of Corona virus. The task force will start meeting this week and will be charged with providing recommendations on how to address racial disparities in health care during the COVID-19 crisis. Members of the task force will regularly gather feedback from within impacted communities.
Gretchen Whitmer: (12:03)
Now this is a start and we’re going to continue to keep running. I talked about moms and babies during my state of the state and disparate outcomes and healthcare. It should not have to take a crisis like this for us to really address this, but here we are. It is an opportunity to examine it, to understand it, and to do better. It’s an opportunity for us to expand unemployment benefits or perhaps paycheck protections and protections for workers who are sick or ensure access to quality affordable health care.
Gretchen Whitmer: (12:39)
We’re going to come out of this, but we have got to come out of this smarter having learned some things from this tough moment about the deep problems in our economy that we need real meaningful solutions on. As we recover from the impact of COVID-19 my administration will continue to work on longterm solutions for every family in Michigan.
Gretchen Whitmer: (13:02)
I will work to ensure that if another crisis comes our way, everyone, no matter what community, no matter race or socioeconomic status has the support they need to take care of themselves and their families. These are the issues we’ve been focused on from the start, but they’ve come into real focus in recent days.
Gretchen Whitmer: (13:24)
This is why we created the task force to inform steps that we can take to lift families out of poverty. Why we’re working with providers and universities to establish implicit bias training in curriculums, and it’s why we raised asset test limits to ensure more families can afford to raise their family and pay for things like food and rent and utilities. I’ll continue working to ensure that every day of the year, Michiganers from Detroit, to Flint, to Marquette, to Grand Rapids, can put food on the table, can get to work safely, and can have workplace protections they need.
Gretchen Whitmer: (14:01)
So today I have signed an executive order to extend and expand Michigan’s stay home, stay safe. Order. Yesterday, Dr. Fauci, Who we’ve all come to see in our television with great regularity, said we need to keep pushing mitigation strategies because there is no doubt that they’re having a positive impact on the dynamics of this outbreak. Now is not the time to pull back at all. It is the time to intensify.
Gretchen Whitmer: (14:34)
That’s exactly what we’re doing as before the order limits and gatherings and travel and requires all workers who are not necessary to sustain or protect life to stay home until April 30th. Workers who can leave the home for work include those in healthcare and public safety, law enforcement, grocery store workers, public health and more. All public and private gatherings of any size are prohibited. People can still leave the house for outdoor activities. You need to take care of yourself.
Gretchen Whitmer: (15:13)
Hiking and running, walking, canoeing, kayaking or other recreational activities are still permitted so long as they are taking place within six feet of anyone else. The order also imposes more stringent limitations on stores to reduce foot traffic and to slow the spread of Corona virus and save lives. Any large store must limit the number of people in the store at one time to no more than four customers for every 1000 square feet of customer floor space.
Gretchen Whitmer: (15:48)
Smaller stores have to limit foot traffic to 25% of the total occupancy limits. Stores will also have to limit and established lines to regulate entry with markings for patrons to enable them to stand that safe six foot distance apart from one another. Michiganers are also encouraged to limit the number of household members running errands to the maximum extent possible. We want them to limit to the minimum extent possible.
Gretchen Whitmer: (16:23)
Unless you have no other choice, your whole family shouldn’t be running errands with you. The fewer the people, the better big box stores will also have to close areas of the store that are dedicated to things like carpet or flooring, furniture, garden centers, plant nurseries, or paint. If you’re not buying food or medicine or other essential items, you should not be going to the store.
Gretchen Whitmer: (16:52)
Your grocery stores will remain open, your pharmacy will remain open so you can get your prescriptions filled. Your banks and credit unions will be functioning. You can still fill your car with gas, and you can find the full list of critical services that remain open at Michigan.gov/coronavirus. This doesn’t mean that everything’s going to go back to normal on the 30th. However, we do know for the next three weeks we have to take these important actions.
Gretchen Whitmer: (17:24)
Based on the data that we have right now this is what is needed in an appropriate window for the extension through April 30th. But I want to be clear the extension almost certainly won’t be the last we have to say about how we protect the safety of people of our state. It’s going to take us some time to get through this crisis. And while we hope to re-engage parts of our economy, we must always do so driven by what the best science and best practices for our health dictate.
Gretchen Whitmer: (17:58)
It will take some time to safely and responsibly reopen the Academy, which is why we will continue to provide critical unemployment support and assistance to small business during this challenging time. We will get through this. We will get through it with less people getting hurt in the process of everyone continues to do your part. Now I know this is a hard time for families.
Gretchen Whitmer: (18:21)
I want to give a special acknowledgement to caregivers. If you’re a caregiver, pick up the phone, make a call or send a text; stay connected. Let people know that you’re thinking about them and ask if you can do something to help them, even if it’s just listening. I also want to highly encourage older adults to stay home at this time. If you can use a grocery delivery service or a telephone or online order for your prescriptions.
Gretchen Whitmer: (18:51)
If you’re looking for resources and you’re 60 years old or older, call your area office agency on aging, they stand ready to assist. We can all do our part by helping one another in this time. Our older citizens are home bound. Those who are struggling with depression or those who’ve got disabilities, it is important that we reach out and lend one another a supportive ear over the phone or over face time.
Gretchen Whitmer: (19:21)
We can all do our part and lend a hand to someone who needs a little help right now. With that, I’m going to turn it over to Dr Janae Caldu.
Janae Caldu: (19:30)
Thank you Governor Whitmer. We continue to see high numbers of COVID-19 in Michigan and many deaths. Today, as the governor mentioned, we are announcing 21,504 total cases and 1,076 total deaths. We are seeing some very early data that suggests the growth rate for positive cases may be slowing, but there’s still not enough testing happening across our state.
Janae Caldu: (19:59)
We’re working very hard to address that and you’ll be hearing from us in the upcoming days about where we think we can expand testing capacity. We already know that there are some parts of the state where there is community spread. This means now more than ever we have to double down and do everything we can to fight this disease.
Janae Caldu: (20:21)
Too many people are getting sick and too many people are dying. I have an elderly relative in New York state who has the disease and I’m very concerned about them. All model projections are clear that without sustained social distancing measures, meaning if we loosen up too soon, more people will die and hospitals will become overwhelmed. Today’s extension of the governors stay home, stay safe order is the most important thing we can do to slow the spread of this disease.
Janae Caldu: (20:57)
It will make sure we have the time to build our hospital capacity and that our hospitals have the staff and the supplies and equipment to take care of the people who need them. We are pleased that this Friday, our TCF regional care center, will be able to start taking patients who have COVID-19 and are medically stable. We will see our first 25 patients starting on Friday and we’ll be ramping up in the upcoming days. This is a very important piece of our public health response.
Janae Caldu: (21:29)
However, we still need medical professionals to staff our alternate care sites as well as our hospitals who are currently handling this surge in COVID-19 patients. We especially have a need for respiratory therapists and registered nurses. We encourage those individuals, whether they’re here in the state of Michigan or across the entire country to reach out and help us. They can go to our website, Michigan.gov/fight COVID-19 to sign up. Our team at MDHHS has also been working very hard to analyze data-
Dr. Joneigh : (22:03)
MDHHS has also been working very hard to analyze data to inform our public health response, but to also make sure the public knows how we are doing when it comes to fighting this disease in our state. We now have new information available on our website on hospitalizations, ventilator use, discharges, and those who have recovered. As of yesterday with 89% of hospitals reporting, there were 3,826 inpatients across the state with COVID-19, 1,628 of those were in critical care, and of those 1,434 were on ventilators, and this data continues to change by the hour.
Dr. Joneigh : (22:46)
We also know that there were 786 people who are discharged from emergency departments yesterday with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. The data on hospitalizations and inpatient cases will continue to help guide our public health response. As the governor mentioned, we also know this disease is impacting communities of color disproportionately. 33% of cases and 48% of deaths in our state have been in African Americans. We still need to get more robust data, but this is consistent with what we’re seeing across the country.
Dr. Joneigh : (23:26)
If people are disproportionately impacted by poverty, working in lower wage jobs, unable to work from home, needing to use public transportation, lack the ability to isolate sick individuals in their home appropriately, or disproportionately have a higher rate of chronic health conditions, they will be more significantly impacted by this disease. And that’s why the measures that the governor has put in place are so important, and why I’m excited to work with the Michigan coronavirus task force on racial disparities, so that we can tackle this crisis in an equitable way. It’s also why extending the stay home stay safe order is so important.
Dr. Joneigh : (24:12)
Finally, while we are focusing on keeping people physically healthy, we know this is taking a toll on the emotional and mental health of people across the state. Mental health is so incredibly important and we don’t want anyone to feel like they are alone in this. If anyone feels they need help dealing with the emotional toll the crisis is taking on them, they should not be afraid or ashamed to reach out for help. There is a national disaster distress hotline that is available seven days a week, 24 hours a day. You can call 1-800-985-5990 again, that’s 1-800-985-5990, and you can speak to someone and get connected to resources.
Dr. Joneigh : (25:03)
As the governor mentioned, the upcoming weeks are going to continue to be incredibly difficult, but I am confident that we are doing the right things and we really must not let up if we’re going to successfully fight COVID-19 in Michigan. With that, I’ll turn it back over to you, governor.
Gretchen Whitmer: (25:19)
Thanks Dr. Joneigh. All right, I’m happy to open it up.
Governor, will there be any modification of the stay at home order to accommodate certain businesses? You’ve heard a lot from landscapers, you’ve heard a lot from golf course and also from different regions of the state that have few, if any cases, I wonder if there’s any modifications for those?
Gretchen Whitmer: (25:46)
One of the things that we know in looking at what’s happening in Michigan with COVID-19 is that, since I did a press conference just three days ago, we’ve lost about 116 people a day, or a thousand Michiganders have died. In the last week more than 500 people alone have died. These are not just numbers on a screen, these are husbands and wives and daughters and sons and grandparents who’ve lost a battle with a disease that is incredibly aggressive and contagious and deadly and my heart aches for every one of them.
Gretchen Whitmer: (26:27)
I think that it’s important to be clear that while we could come up with all sorts of scenarios where we could make an argument that someone’s safe and in whatever activity it is they want to do, every single exception to a stay home, stay safe order makes this more porous, it makes it less likely to work. It means more people are going to get sick or people are going to die and more our economy is going to suffer for longer.
Gretchen Whitmer: (26:55)
Golf landscaping, and I’ve heard these seem to be the ones that we hear the most from the legislature, some of the Republican legislators, you know what, it’s not critical infrastructure. It’s just not. They are not necessary to sustain life. And to be candid, just by engaging in it can expose people to risk, serious risk. Every time you ask a low income person to come out and fill up their gas tanks, go get food. It’s additional opportunity for exposure and for spread. And that’s what happens. When you go to the golf course, what happens to you? You have to pay someone. So someone’s had to show up to take your money, handing money. You have to go and get your tee time, and hand someone your clubs possibly afterward you get out of the cart after you’ve touched it.
Gretchen Whitmer: (27:45)
There are people who have to show up and go to work for your recreation, and we’re exposing all of them to COVID-19 as well as the golfer. And so for the sake of the health our state, it’s really important that we remember we’re all in this together. That creating all sorts of exceptions to what is going to last for three more weeks is what this stay at home order is. Every exception we make makes it more porous and less likely to be successful. We know that these tactics work. The man who stands next to president Trump every night on his briefings, Dr Fauci, has said, this is the most important thing we can do. We’ve seen it have some reason to be successful in other States. We have to double down right now to save lives.
Gretchen Whitmer: (28:36)
People that want to get exceptions, I understand what their thought is, but I’m in the business of saving lives, and that’s precisely what this order is going to do. Let’s abide by it. Let’s get through the next three weeks and then we can actually thoughtfully talk about possibly starting to reengage in an economic sense.
Speaker 1: (28:58)
Governor, have you thought about making your stay home stay safe order regionals, since about 80% of the cases are in three urban counties and they’re still about 10 rural counties where it’s not even traceable?
Gretchen Whitmer: (29:10)
So I think, kind of along the same lines of how I answered Kathy’s question, COVID-19 does not observe County line, it doesn’t observe party line, it doesn’t observe state line. It’s why we really need a comprehensive policy. I’ve been advocating for a comprehensive policy nationally. When eight States still aren’t even doing stay home orders. It subjects us all to risk because people don’t observe State line and neither does the disease. But what we can do in Michigan is observe a statewide orders so that we protect everyone.
Gretchen Whitmer: (29:42)
COVID-19 is present all across the state. It might not have been detected, it might not have been tested for yet, we might not have had a fatality in every part of the state, but it is present statewide, and the more people move around, the more likely it is going to show up. I’ve talked to rural hospital CEOs who are very concerned about people traveling to a second home to go to travel. They are not equipped to deal with a COVID-19 spread in large magnitude by people that are coming into the community. So they’re asking people to stay home. Let’s get through this crisis we’re asking for three weeks.
Gretchen Whitmer: (30:22)
So I know it’s a sacrifice, everyone is struggling with being isolated. But the fact of the matter is we’re going to save lives by observing this order. And by initiating these serious provisions, we don’t want people traveling to second homes. We don’t want people engaging their landscape or going to the golf course for these reasons. The more people that are moving, the more likely spread and the harder it is for us to have the flattening that we’re trying to do for the health of all of our economy and most importantly to save lives.
Speaker 1: (30:58)
So you mentioned that the suburban showplace is now going to be a second facility that’s going to open up to treat patients with the Cobo center being the first. Is there a date you want those to open up by and did you have your eye on a third facility?
Gretchen Whitmer: (31:12)
So TCF will be opening by Friday. I’ve been on the phone with the FEMA administrator, the secretary of the army, as well as… I have been on the phone with everyone in Washington D.C. I think. But we know that we will be up and able to accept patients on Friday at TCF in Detroit. With regard to suburban collection, I’m not quite sure. Dr Joneigh?
Dr. Joneigh : (31:39)
We expect in the next few weeks it will be available to start seeing patients as well.
Speaker 2: (31:46)
[inaudible 00:31:46] the field hospital in New York has been almost empty. Is there any thought that we’re not going to need those additional beds in the field hospitals?
Dr. Joneigh : (31:59)
So we continue to monitor. We re talking everyday with our hospital leadership about the number of cases that they are seeing, and we will continue to plan and build out our alternate care facilities as needed. Right now at the TCF regional care center, we’re going to start with 25 patients. We’ll start ramping up as we need to. And again, pivoting as we see the data and hospitalizations moving forward.
Gretchen Whitmer: (32:22)
It’d be a great problem to have, not to have to use all those beds. And that’s precisely why the stay home stay safe order is so important to extend right now. It’s interesting the Javits center that you referred to in New York changed their model to look more like TCF where it is a COVID base as opposed to taking everyone who’s died of COVID out. We had confidence in our model, and now I think people have seen the wisdom in it. And so it’s something to be proud of that we were very different than any other state had done, and now everyone’s replicating. If we abide by the say home order and there’s evidence that Michiganders are taking the seriously, from the maps I showed the last press conference.
Gretchen Whitmer: (33:02)
Start taking this seriously, from the maps I showed the last press conference, we can see a much flatter curve and maybe we won’t have to use all of those. But we have to be prepared in the event that they’re necessary. And so we’ll go where the facts, the science and the need takes us.
Speaker 5: (33:19)
So in some of the graphs that we saw, a lot of these went until end of June, mid July. Could you see it going that far, if we don’t take the right precautions soon enough?
Gretchen Whitmer: (33:31)
Dr. J. Khaldun: (33:32)
Well, there’s no question. The better social distancing you do and the longer it happens, the better your state will be. We’ll continue to look at the data and look at how our hospital capacity is doing, looking at how our testing is going across the state, and we’ll reevaluate. But you’re right, social distancing is important and we may need to look at extending it.
Gretchen Whitmer: (33:53)
Just make an observation. We’ve got two crises that we’re confronting right now. One’s a health crisis and one’s an economic crisis. If we don’t get the health crisis under control, the economic crisis will go on and on and on. Singapore was considered the gold standard for combating COVID-19, but then they stopped. And now they’ve got a second wave. That would be the most devastating thing for our state if we think that on April 30th, that we just flip a switch and life returns to how it was, it’s not going to be how it was. We just all have to come to terms with that. And that’s the harsh truth. I’ve had to have a conversations within my own family about we’re going to have to be very smart about how we re-engage.
Gretchen Whitmer: (34:40)
We’re going to have to have all sorts of protections in place, and we’re going to have to have a lot more testing. And frankly, I’m hopeful in the next three weeks of the stay home order that we get access to a lot more testing. So we know precisely who’s recovered, who’s at risk, who is someone that we should isolate. All of these things are really important, but we also have to worry about our economy. There’s no question this is going to hit us hard. And I watched my colleague, governor Cuomo, with whom I’ve been texting the last couple of days, say, “9/11 was hard on New York. It’s nothing like what COVID-19 is going to mean for New York’s budget.” And that’s the same for every state in the nation.
Gretchen Whitmer: (35:23)
We’re all in this together and we’re all suffering because of it. What we can do is be really smart about how we re- engage so that when we do re-engage, we are on the real track to recovery and we don’t have to go come back to this posture again this fall. That would be the worst case scenario. And that’s why we’ve got to be really smart on both fronts, tackling the economic crisis and tackling the healthcare crisis.
Speaker 3: (35:50)
How has the UIA expansion going with the computer system? Is it having an impact, and is there any thought of reopening employment offices with social distancing to help ease that overcrowding there?
Gretchen Whitmer: (36:08)
So, we’ve quadrupled the staff. It’s interesting, I’ve watched all my colleagues answer the same question because we’re all confronting it. This incredible number of 6.6 million people in last week across the country who are trying to file for unemployment has crashed state systems across the nation. I don’t give that as an excuse because we got to get it right, but I do give that for perspective. This is a unprecedented number of people that are looking for help.
Gretchen Whitmer: (36:38)
And so we’re rebuilding the system. I think that we’ve gotten it in a pretty good place from what I understand. I also know that we have quadrupled the staff to take phone calls and going online is always the best way to get in. But, I did cut red tape because I think it’s important. People know you don’t need all the paperwork you used to need from your employer. You’re eligible for more unemployment now, than you were prior to COVID-19 because of the actions that I’ve taken and some of the help we’ve gotten from the federal government.
Gretchen Whitmer: (37:10)
And so we’re making progress. If people are listening or reading and they’re still frustrated, I hope that they’ll give us a little more grace as we get to them, but we will get to them and everyone will get the unemployment benefits that they’re eligible for.
Speaker 4: (37:30)
So President Trump said that he’s relying on states to create their own stockpile, and said that the national stockpile is just a backup. I was wondering how is that stockpile going? And just if you’re asking for anything else, like more PPE?
Gretchen Whitmer: (37:44)
Well, yes, I’m asking for everything. I was on the phone, as I said with the Secretary of the Army today, asking for more medics to come into Michigan and he said, “What else do you need?” And I said, “I need N95 masks, I need surgical masks, we need gowns and gloves.” The same things we’ve needed from the start. As for the thought of a stockpile, that’s a dream at this moment because we’ve got hospitals that are going day to day on the PPE front. I did a Zoom call with a number of nurses earlier today and one had the N95 mask that she used for a whole day. Another was explaining that with COVID-,19 patients, it’s really important to keep the door closed and to have as few people go into the room as possible just to conserve PPE.
Gretchen Whitmer: (38:37)
So our RNs are going in, and they’re doing the work that a phlebotomist usually does. They’re doing the work that janitorial service usually does because we have to conserve masks. So one person is doing the jobs of so many people that would ordinarily be in and out of these rooms because we can’t afford to go through more masks than absolutely necessary. And I just share that because I think listening to these nurses talk about the incredible strain that they’re under, they weren’t complaining, they were just sharing it because I asked. I said, “I want to understand what PPE means to you, and the job that you’re doing.”
Gretchen Whitmer: (39:15)
And one of them described a patient that had to say goodbye to their spouse, and maybe never going to see him again because of how badly they were infected with COVID-19 and so this is tough stuff. And the thought of a stockpile is a dream right now because we’re just trying to get our hands on every mask, every N95 and surgical, every gown and every glove we can get. Some hospitals have a few days worth. And that’s a vast improvement from where we were a week and a half ago where we were literally worried about getting through a weekend. But some are still having to conserve as I just described. And that’s generally the general rule right now.
Speaker 6: (39:59)
Speaker 3: (40:02)
Have you made any decision about the April 10th candidate filing, and if that might be extended along with modifying how many signatures people have to get in order to file?
Gretchen Whitmer: (40:13)
We’re having an internal conversation on that so I’m sure that we’ll be able to share with you more in the coming days.
Speaker 3: (40:24)
Have you been keeping track of the violations that have been written against businesses and individuals out there? And what do you think about the Senate Task Force that was set up to try to figure out ways to open up the economy quicker?
Gretchen Whitmer: (40:43)
Of course we’re keeping track. I think it’s been something that I’m grateful for the Attorney General for all of her help. She’s been remarkable. And her whole team has been amazing. And then with regard to the Senate bipartisan group, we welcome input from all different vantage points. I’ll just say this, we have two crises on our hands. One is an economic crisis, and the other is a health crisis. I am talking with a lot of thought leaders on the economy and in business, but I’m going to always be making every decision based on my conversations with Dr. Khaldun and our medical community, because we’ve got to be smart on both fronts. And you can’t re-engage on the economic side without knowing that you’re doing the right thing on the health side.
Speaker 6: (41:40)
Thank you everybody. Thank you, Governor.
Gretchen Whitmer: (41:40)
All right. Thank you.