Apr 6, 2020
Gretchen Whitmer Michigan COVID-19 Briefing Transcript April 6
Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan held a press briefing on coronavirus on April 6, 2020. Read the full transcript of her update speech.
What is Rev?
Gretchen Whitmer: (01:44)
Hi. Well, welcome to, this is my Capitol office in the State Capitol building. It is Monday, April 6th. I’m joined by of course Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, our chief medical executive. Since Thursday, I signed an executive order that prohibits all employers from retaliating against an employee for staying home from work if they or one of their close contacts has tested positive for COVID-19 or has symptoms of the disease. The order also strengthens the Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order by declaring that all Michiganders who test positive or show symptoms, or who live with someone who tests positive or shows symptoms, should not leave their homes unless absolutely necessary.
Gretchen Whitmer: (02:29)
And we saw leaders from the Detroit Pistons, the Lions, the Tigers and the Red Wings come together to ask health professionals from across the country to come to Michigan to help us fight COVID-19. We are running dangerously low on PPE. At Beaumont Hospital, we have less than three days until N95 masks run out. At Henry Ford Health System, we have less than four days, and at the Detroit Medical Center, less than 10 days. At all three health systems, there are less than three days until face shields run out, and less than six days until surgical gowns run out. Now this data does not include private donations that are going straight to hospitals, for which we are incredibly grateful.
Gretchen Whitmer: (03:15)
I think it’s important to note that while these timelines are very serious, they are a vast improvement from where we were just a week ago when we were living more like day to day. But I highlight them because we must continue to do more. We are doing everything that we can at the state level to secure more personal protection equipment. Today we will begin distributing 1.2 million surgical masks that the state has procured on the open market, and FEMA has sent to Michigan 400 ventilators, 1.1 million surgical masks, 232,000 face shields and two million gloves. We’re grateful too that FEMA will be shipping a million more N95 masks to Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties this week.
Gretchen Whitmer: (04:07)
I spoke with Vice President Pence both on Saturday morning and on Sunday morning, and we are grateful and continue to work with FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as the Michigan National Guard to get TCF Center up and running to see patients by Friday. Ford and the United Auto Workers have already donated thousands of face shields to Michigan hospitals, and yesterday the state issued a purchase of one million face shields from Ford over the next three weeks. We’re making some progress, and that is a good thing, but we need more PPE to continue fighting this virus.
Gretchen Whitmer: (04:49)
While fighting COVID-19, we’ve seen an unprecedented rise in unemployment claims. When this first started a month ago, I took steps to expand benefits for Michiganders who are out of work because of COVID-19, and ease rules to make it easier to apply for unemployment. Now, the high volume that we have seen outpaces any even in the toughest week during the great recession. The hardest week during the great recession, for perspective, was 77,000 claims. Two weeks prior to COVID-19 first presenting in Michigan, we were averaging around 5,000 claims for a week. Now just for perspective, to know that that’s what it was and now since COVID-19, the week of March 15th through the 21st there were 127,000 new claims. It was 5,000 and now it’s 127,000. The week of March 22nd through 28th it was 300,000 new claims.
Gretchen Whitmer: (05:53)
These numbers are staggering, and they will continue to climb. We’ve had almost as many people in one day file for unemployment as any of the longest week of the great recession. Many people have applied in two weeks. I’m sorry, more people have applied in two weeks than all of 2019. Accordingly, we’ve been completely inundated in our UIA system. We are continuing to work to redouble our efforts, quadruple our efforts actually, working with DTMB around the clock to increase our website capacity. For 1099 employees and workers, for independent contractors and gig economy workers, the additional $600 per week that we are hoping to be able to include, we are still waiting on the U.S. Department of Labor to give us the rules and authorization to pay.
Gretchen Whitmer: (06:51)
I just want to say, I understand how frustrating this can be. I’ve talked to a number of people who have been trying to navigate the unemployment system. I know that there are 800,000 claims, and I want you to know we will get to you. This is hard, but we cannot proceed until we’ve got the guidance from the federal government, and until we have the ability to get everyone into the queue. I’m going to be dedicating some of my time this week to help with that effort personally, and I invite anyone who would like to chip in and put their time into it, to join me.
Gretchen Whitmer: (07:28)
I’ll continue to update Michiganders on where we are with unemployment benefits as we navigate these times, and please know I have done a lot to cut red tape and make it easier to apply for unemployment, whether it is eliminating the paperwork that used to be required, or it is alleviating the date certain for which to accrue benefits. Those things will not hold you back. We will help you get the unemployment that you deserve and that you need.
Gretchen Whitmer: (07:54)
So, I want to give you an update on COVID-19 cases. It’s been just under one month since we saw the first cases of COVID-19 in Michigan. Since we announced those first two cases on March 10th, our cases numbers have jumped to 15,718 [inaudible 00:08:12]. And as of today or as of yesterday at the same time, 617 people have died from COVID-19. As of today, nearly 80% of the positive COVID-19 cases are in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties. [inaudible 00:08:28] lives in the same area. This virus moves easily from person to person, especially in the areas with higher density. COVID-19 does not contain itself to city limit, to county line or to state line.
Gretchen Whitmer: (08:43)
When the question is about what’s happening in Michigan or what’s happening in Detroit, it’s really about the region where we have the most populated density. While we still don’t have enough tests, we will continue and have continued to do more testing. Even if you don’t feel sick, I want to make sure people remember you can be carrying this virus. Dr. Fauci I think said that they anticipate up to 50% of the people with COVID-19 might not even know that they’re carrying it right now. Just one person who is carrying COVID-19 can infect 40 people in a day, who in turn go on to infect thousands.
Gretchen Whitmer: (09:19)
That’s why every one of us has to do our part. Every one of us has to do it for the loved one that we’re worried about, the grandparent in a nursing home, the child or siblings on the front lines at a nearby hospital, the coworker who helps you get through the long days, who’s at higher risk because they have a chronic illness, or the neighbor who works at the checkout at the grocery store or at the pharmacy. It’s on every one of us to do our part to protect them.
Gretchen Whitmer: (09:46)
And now I want to talk about masks. The executive order I signed on Friday also states that when symptomatic people or their close contacts leave their home, they wear some form of covering over their mouth such as a homemade mask, a scarf, a bandana or a handkerchief. This is a Detroit Tiger mask that someone generously sent to me. I encourage everyone to wear some sort of a face covering on those few trips that you need to leave the house. During this time, it’s crucial that you only leave your home when absolutely necessary, like going to the grocery store or picking up a prescription. Limit those trips. Make them quick and limited to precisely what you need and return to your homes. When you must leave, Dr. Khaldun and the CDC are recommending that you wear a mask. Because there is a shortage of N95 and surgical masks, we ask that you wear one like this, so that those critical masks are left for the people on the front line trying to take care of the sick. Let me be clear, though. Wearing a mask does not mean that you are immune and that you don’t need to observe all of the other CDC guidelines. You still need to stay six feet away from people when you’re out in public, washing your hands, coughing into or sneezing …
… away from people when you’re out in public, washing your hands, coughing into or sneezing into the crook of your arm. It’s crucial that just wearing a mask doesn’t give you a false sense of security and you think that you can resume normal life. It’s just an added protection.
Michiganders must still stay home and stay safe, in order for us to slow the spread. Now, I’ve been asking people to post how they’re doing, and what they’re doing, and how they’re doing their part during this crisis. Thousands of people have contributed. People are using their time to clean up their local parks, or finding fun activities to do at home while they’re with their kids. Some have given blood by going online and scheduling a trip to the Red Cross.
And so many people have sent photos of their homemade masks, that they’ve made for themselves, or nursing home residents, or for healthcare professionals. We’re grateful for that and making a homemade mask is simple. If you’re not creative like me, there are no-sew options online. Or if you are creative, you can make a really nice one like the one that my friend gave me. I encourage you to take the time to educate yourself and then to post it with #DoingMIPart, doing my part.
This is an unprecedented time in our history and we’ve got to do everything we can to help each other get through it. We will get through this. We’ve heard stories from people across the state who hold onto the little things to help them cope. Healthcare professionals, like Lori, who is a nurse at St. Mary Mercy in Lavonia, who sings Amazing Grace to her patients. Or Katie, a nurse at Sparrow Hospital, who uses dry erase markers to draw pictures on her face shield. Or the eighth-grade math teacher who writes problems on students’ driveways in chalk, as they go for their jog. Or Colleen, from Hamtramck, who created a theater, where she performs from her balcony and streams on social media, to share laughter with people. Or these two heroes, these are relatives of people who work on my staff. This is Ghidda Dager’s sister, Dr. Batoohl Dagger and Ron Owens’ mom, Fashdada Erwin. They are on the frontline and we’re highlighting them because we’re amazed by their incredible dedication [inaudible 00:02:21].
As we continue navigating this crisis, I’m proud to live in a state where we’re doing everything we can to limit the spread of COVID-19. The New York Times released this graphic, in the last couple of days. It shows where, in America, people are complying with stay at home orders. And I think it’s important to look at Michigan. Michiganders are taking this seriously. A lot of people in the Great Lakes area are. The vast majority of us are staying home and staying safe. And also according to the New York Times [inaudible 00:13:56] in 10 of 10 Michigan’s most active counties. Several hospitals are reporting that discharges of patients are picking up. It does not mean the number is going down, but it does mean that we’re slowing the rate of increase. That’s why we all have to continue doing our part and being aggressive. I’ve also received data that confirms that Michiganders are traveling less for retail, recreation, groceries, trips to the pharmacy, and work. We’re traveling less than our neighbors in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, and this is good, but we must keep it up. We must encourage our friends in other states to take this seriously as well. If you know someone in a state that hasn’t been as aggressive as we, encourage them to be so, by calling them. Even if their leaders aren’t being as aggressive, they can still do their part to keep themselves and their family members safe.
Most of us know and have loved ones in other states. I know that my dad is a snowbird, who is still in Florida and he’s got compromised lung function and I’m worried about him, so I keep calling and harassing him. And I hope that you all do that with your loved ones as well, because this isn’t just Michigan’s fight. To get through this, we have to be united as a country against this virus. It doesn’t discriminate between state lines and it doesn’t discriminate between party lines. Every one of us is susceptible and we must fight this virus together.
We are still looking for volunteers at our website, michigan.gov/ fightcovid19. If you’re a hospital professional or a healthcare professional that can provide your expertise at a nearby [inaudible 00:15:39] sign up. If you’re someone who can donate to your local food bank, donate blood, or help manufacture medical supplies, I urge you to reach out. If you’re an employer in Michigan who has healthcare people on your team, and you want to encourage them to sign up and you will help them through this by continuing to pay their salary like some of our employers have, I urge you to do that as well. [inaudible 00:16:02] and we will get through this together.
I thank you for the hard work that you’ve done. I thank you for the sacrifice that you made. I know that every one of us is making a sacrifice and it does not come easily, but it is incredibly important to the health of our state, the health of our people, and the health of our economy in the long run. With that, I’ll turn over to Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, for a few comments as well.
Dr. J. Khaldun: (16:29)
Thank you, Governor. The next several weeks are going to be very challenging as we fight COVID-19 here in Michigan. We continue to see more than 1,000 cases daily in the state, 1,000 new cases. As of yesterday, as the governor mentioned, Michigan had 15,718 cases and 617 deaths.
Dr. J. Khaldun: (16:51)
Based on our preliminary data, we see that it appears to be impacting minority populations greater, with 33% of cases and 40% of deaths being in African Americans. We do not fully understand the scope of how COVID-19 is impacting every community and we will continue to track and analyze this data. That will be incredibly important. But what we do know is that every Michigander, regardless of their race, regardless of where they live, must have the resources and tools available to be able to fight this disease. We’re working very closely with community leaders to make sure we are doing everything we can to support those efforts.
Dr. J. Khaldun: (17:34)
We’re also expanding testing across the state. Testing capacity has grown significantly, even in the past 10 days. On March 25th, Michigan reported about 9,000 cumulative tests for coronavirus. 10 days later on April 4th, we reported over 40,000 cumulative tests. At least 15 laboratories in the state are now able to run these tests, as opposed to one about a month ago, our state laboratory.
Dr. J. Khaldun: (18:02)
We’ve also learned that several Michigan hospitals, as well as the city of Detroit, will receive rapid testing supplies from Abbott Laboratories, which produces a result in 15 minutes or less. We will continue to make testing a priority and more easily accessible for Michiganders, and simpler for our medical providers who want to provide this test for their patients.
Dr. J. Khaldun: (18:25)
We know, as the governor mentioned, we are not out of the woods yet. Our hospitals continue to be overwhelmed, particularly in Southeast Michigan. Every day we ask all 173 acute care hospitals to share data with us on the patients they are taken care of who have COVID-19. The data is still incomplete, but based on the information we have received, on April 4th there were at least 3,768 patients hospitalized for COVID-19 across the state. 1,383 of those were on ventilators. 89% of those hospitalized were in Southeast Michigan. We’re working incredibly hard to make sure hospitals get the support they need, equipment, ventilators, masks, gowns and medications. We’re also working around the clock to ready additional alternate care sites, like the TCF Center in Detroit and we expect this facility to be ready to start seeing patients later this week.
Dr. J. Khaldun: (19:28)
While we work to expand testing and make sure our hospitals are supported, I can’t stress enough. The most important thing to do is heed the governor’s stay home, stay safe, order. Do not go out of your home unless it is absolutely necessary to get food, medicine, or to do critical infrastructure work. And if you must go out, you should wear a mask to protect yourself and others. We’re asking people to join the My Mask Challenge. Make a mask from a cloth or bandana and wear one every time you go out. Just remember, that we have to leave the surgical mask and N95 masks for our frontline healthcare workers.
Dr. J. Khaldun: (20:09)
COVID-19 is incredibly serious. It’s infecting and it’s killing people across the state of all ages. No one is immune and there is no treatment. I implore all of us to remain vigilant and to stay home as much as possible, to do your part to fight this disease. And I’ll turn it back over to you, Governor.
All right. Thanks, Dr. Khaldun. With that, happy to open it up.
Speaker 2: (20:40)
Governor, do you plan to extend the stay home, stay safe order?
We are looking at an additional order with regard to the staying home and staying safe. We know that people are taking it seriously and I think that that’s a good thing. I think that to see the real benefits of the work that we’ve done, it takes a few weeks to know what that really means. But we do know that the most effective tool that we have right now, as our hospitals are overwhelmed and we don’t have enough PPE, is to slow the spread of the virus. And that’s precisely why we did the stay at home order as early as we did. We were aggressive, we beat… We were on the front edge of setting that policy. We are not close to the apex yet. We haven’t hit that yet, and until we do, I think is absolutely essential that we’re continuing to be aggressive. I would anticipate an additional order, probably in the next week, and you’ll have more information on that, so stay tuned.
Speaker 2: (21:39)
What do you plan to do if your request to extend the state of emergency is shot down tomorrow, or if it’s only approved for a short time?
Well, the action tomorrow with the legislature is really only to extend it by one day. I think that’s what is creating so much consternation amongst legislators. When I issued the emergency order and…
Governor Whitmer: (22:03)
When I issued the emergency order and also the disaster declaration, that actually started a 28 day clock. If they take action that’s less than what they’re talking about in the press, it’s really only a one day extension and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to come in just to extend for one day. Now if they’re coming in, I hope that they will seriously look at going 70 days because I would hate for them to have to come back at the height of the crisis that we’re confronting. These are legislators that come from all parts of our state, so to congregate and then go back to all parts of our state is contrary to all of the best medical advice that we’re getting from epidemiologists.
Governor Whitmer: (22:38)
I recognize and value the work of the legislature, but I am concerned about their health and I do know that another legislator today was found to be positive for COVID-19 and it’s precisely why in the wake of Representative Robinson’s passing that I’m very concerned about any efforts to come back more than actually necessary.
Governor, over the weekend there was a reboot, an update on the system for unemployment. Do you have any sense if that is going to have a positive influence on getting some more of those unemployment benefits filed more quickly?
Governor Whitmer: (23:15)
Yeah, that’s the goal, Rick. I highlighted in my comments the incredible surge on the unemployment system. Even in the height of the great recession, it dwarfed anything that we’re seeing right now and that’s precisely why I thought it was really important to go from 20 weeks to 26 weeks unilaterally giving people another month of unemployment because of the executive order that I issued. I’m grateful for the work that’s happening on the federal level. Gary Peters has been a big part of that, but what we need to do is make sure everyone gets an opportunity to file. There is no penalty for not filing by a date certain. I changed that. I cut the red tape so that it’s going to be easier for folks to actually get the unemployment. But navigating the system is a challenge.
Governor Whitmer: (23:57)
And I share and feel the frustration that people are having. They’re anxious and that’s understandable. I just know that we are rebuilding the system. We are doubling and then quadrupling the number of people that are helping at the agencies so that we’re able to get everyone signed up.
Speaker 3: (24:20)
Governor, thank you. Aside from your role as head of government, I’m wondering if you could speak personally about how this has affected you and how you can relate to the millions of Michiganders who are looking to you not only for leadership, but to try and understand where the light is at the end of the tunnel and how to cope with this.
Governor Whitmer: (24:39)
Yeah, so I appreciate the question. Like everyone, this is a challenging time and I see it in my kids’ eyes and in my husband’s eyes as they’re all trying to figure out what is the right thing to do? How do we navigate this one? Will life ever get back to normal? Are we going to be okay? And we don’t have the added pressures that I know a lot of Michiganders do about how are they going to keep a roof over their heads. And so I am reminded every day how great the sacrifices that so many people are making right now. I am always searching for sources of inspiration and I see it in the people that we’ve highlighted today and the people on the front line who are putting their own lives at risk to take care of others.
Governor Whitmer: (25:27)
And I think that the thing I know about Michigan and the thing I know about the United States of America is that we are tough. We will get through this. And ultimately everyone doing their part is what’s going to be necessary for our ability to navigate that at the quickest possible time. It’s hard and being at home and not being able to get out and to be with friends and family is hard.
Governor Whitmer: (25:54)
From the Queen of England who mentioned it yesterday to real people just trying to get by day to day. We’re all confronting this and we’re going to get through it together.
Speaker 4: (26:06)
Governor, can you respond to Beaumont’s complaints about lack of accurate and available data to manage hospital load balancing?
Governor Whitmer: (26:15)
Sure. We know that Beaumont Health System has been inundated. They were the first to get to capacity, and every hospital is required to be submitting data to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Governor Whitmer: (26:29)
Beaumont actually has done a really good job in complying with that. We’re working closely with others to ensure that we’ve got accurate data and that the reporting is up to date. We’ve got a way to go, a ways to go, but I will acknowledge that FEMA has praised the state for getting them better data than some other states so that they can make decisions. And so we’re doing some things well. We’ve got incredible challenges. None of us has ever been in a situation like this, but I recognize that there’s incredible work that’s being done and we’ll continue to lead on that front.
Speaker 4: (27:06)
That said on Sunday, 58% of hospitals were reporting PPE and that doesn’t really provide an accurate picture of what we have statewide. What’s the plan for hospitals that don’t comply?
Governor Whitmer: (27:22)
I’m going to ask Dr. Joneigh step in as the chief medical executive.
Dr. Joneigh: (27:26)
So you’re absolutely right. We want to be as comprehensive and transparent as we possibly can and accurate quite frankly when it comes to our reporting. We’ve come a long way. As you mentioned, PPE is on our website. We’ve got beds available, tracking that. We are one of the only states actually in the country who’s reporting data by race and ethnicity. We’ve got cumulative tests on the website as well. We have to do more and we’re working closely with the Michigan Hospital Association to make sure our hospital CEOs know and have the ability report appropriately. We’re going to be looking over the next several days as far as what additional data we can get out there. It is incredibly important to be transparent and complete.
Speaker 5: (28:12)
Governor, do you believe that the precautions that are being taken in the state legislature tomorrow will be enough or do you think that holding session is a health danger?
Governor Whitmer: (28:21)
Well, I think that any grouping of people that are coming from different parts of the state and then returning to different parts of the state is concerning and that’s precisely why the stay home order’s so important. I don’t run the legislature, the speaker of the house runs the house and the Senate majority leader runs the Senate. I’ve made sure that they understand how serious the situation is and what my thoughts were, but ultimately that’s their determination. What steps they’ve taken, I can’t weigh in on, as I’m not familiar with all of the precautions that they’ve taken. I just know this, the more people that are out and about moving, the more likely that there’s spread.
Governor Whitmer: (29:01)
And because of that and because of what our epidemiologists and all of our healthcare experts are telling us, we know that coming in for a one day extension probably isn’t the wisest thing to do and coming back in a few weeks will probably be when we’re close to the apex and the height of this crisis and it would be contrary to all medical advice. So if they are coming in tomorrow, I would hope that they extend the state of emergency for longer so they don’t have to come back in the height of when the crisis is really hitting Michigan.
Governor, I appreciate that your focus is on health, the health of people, Michigan hospital care, all of the things that you’ve outlined, but at the same time that this is happening, the state is seeing a big hit on revenue even as legislators are meeting by Zoom trying to put together a budget based on your recommendations. How big of a problem do you anticipate this being and how concerned are you about that?
Governor Whitmer: (29:58)
It’s going to be immense and I’m very concerned about it. I know that the worst thing we can do for our economy though is to have a porous set of policies that mean that we’re confronting this crisis longer and having more people lose their lives from it and devastating our healthcare system even more than it already is going to be.
Governor Whitmer: (30:18)
That’s precisely why we got to be aggressive. It’s much better to have an aggressive initial action than to just have things peter on for a longer period of time where more people get sick, more people die, and our economy can’t get back to normal for a longer period of time. And so I think that’s precisely why as people have studied the issue and understand the incredible costs that we’re confronting, realize that being aggressive is actually the best thing for our economy and that’s precisely what we’re doing. It is going to have an impact though. We’re going to have to make some tough decisions around the state budget. We’re going to have to make tough decisions as people are going to have make tough decision in their personal lives and in their businesses. We are all going to be confronting these challenges and yet there’s no choice other than to be as aggressive as we can now to mitigate the extent of the problem on the other side.
Speaker 3: (31:12)
Governor, you showed that New York Times map and how well Michiganders were doing relative to many other places in the country, and yet the caseload continues to grow. And as you said, it’s not a matter of the numbers diminishing, it’s just growing a little less slowly. So people might hear that and feel discouraged that we’ve been doing everything right and yet this thing continues to get worse. Do you get concerned at any point about a sense of exasperations setting in and people just throwing up their hands and saying, you know what, we’ve been doing everything they’ve been telling us to do and there’s still no sign of this getting any better. How much worse could it get? Is it time to just go back to normal?
Governor Whitmer: (31:54)
Well, of course. I think anyone who gets asked that question, I would think across the country, we would have to say yes, of course we’re concerned about that. But the fact of the matter is COVID-19 has been spreading in our safe for a lot longer than we ever detected it. We’ve never had enough tests. We still don’t have enough to do robust testing to be able to articulate precisely who has it and who doesn’t have it. Two people in a household who are both in their thirties and very healthy can have COVID-19. One can experience a slight fever and feeling a little bit like the flu. For the other, it can be fatal and I think that’s precisely the message I hope that people are paying attention and understanding here.
Governor Whitmer: (32:36)
We don’t know how our bodies are going to react to COVID-19. We know that if you’re elderly, you could possibly have a tougher time with COVID-19> We know that if you have a preexisting condition like asthma, like one of my children does or COP like another family member does, it’s going to be harder for you to deal with COVID-19. But there are people out there who are healthy and are carrying COVID-19 and don’t even know it.
Gretchen Whitmer: (33:03)
Healthy and are carrying COVID-19 and don’t even know it. There are others who might get COVID-19 and it will be fatal for them. And that’s precisely why we’ve got to continue to take this incredibly seriously. With this comes a lot of sacrifice. We know that and it’s not easy. Some of the actions that we’ve had to take, they all weigh heavily, every decision that I’ve made. But I can tell you when you listen to the health experts and the epidemiologists, there is no question that saving lives, mitigating the pressure on our healthcare system that is already stressed and watching, after some time goes by to see really what a difference it’s made takes dedication. It takes grit, it takes fortitude. And ultimately, I think we’re going to find that a lot of these actions really contributed to a better outcome.
Gretchen Whitmer: (33:54)
It’s going to be hard to be grateful for the outcome no matter what it is because it’s already been tough. But the fact of the matter is each of these actions has been really important to support the nurses and the doctors and everyone on the front line as well as the health of the people of our state and the longterm economic outlook of our state.
Speaker 6: (34:13)
Dr [Khaldun 00:01:14], you mentioned that the field hospital at the TCF Center will open for patients later this week. Do we have enough doctors and physicians and respiratory therapists and nurses to be able to staff that? And if not, where are we going to get those medical workers?
Dr. Khaldun: (34:30)
Right, so we believe at the end of this week we’ll be able to start seeing patients at the TCF Center. It doesn’t mean we’ll immediately see a thousand patients, but we will have enough staff to start seeing patients as they’re transferred from other hospitals.
Dr. Khaldun: (34:44)
We still need medical volunteers. There’s no question about that for the TCF Center and other centers that we will need to stand up. So we’re still asking medical volunteers to go to our website, www.michigan.gov/fightCOVID19 to sign up.
Speaker 6: (34:59)
And is FEMA available to provide any kind of staffing assistance for that center or any field hospital?
Dr. Khaldun: (35:05)
FEMA has been very supportive of us when it comes to staffing and supplies and building out the facility. But we still will need, there’s no question, we need volunteers. We’re working with national staffing agencies to bring in nurses and doctors and we’re still going to be needing that over the next several weeks.
Speaker 7: (35:26)
Is Michigan participating in Governor Newsome’s state consortium? So States don’t have to bet against each other.
Gretchen Whitmer: (35:32)
So we’ve actually had a consortium that we’ve been working with: Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois for a while on actually. So I was glad to see that other states are pursuing working together and increasing their buying capacity. But we’ve been doing that here in the Midwest for a while and it’s been beneficial. And we’ve also been sharing our best practices and referring additional vendors. So we’ve been together as a geography, for a bit.
Speaker 8: (36:04)
Governor, perhaps for you, doctor, one of the questions that’s frequently asked to us is what about people who have recovered? People who have been diagnosed, hospitalized, non hospitalized. Do we have any database on that? Do we know how many people have had beaten the virus and is there any value in keeping that kind of information?
Dr. Khaldun: (36:27)
Absolutely. So we will actually later this week be able to start posting data on the number of people who have recovered in the state. I will say, as the governor mentioned, it’s been less than a month since we identified the first cases and so it takes time for someone to have recovered. So we have to go back 30 days, see who’s doing well, not in the hospital. Hopefully have not passed away. But we will, we believe we will be able to start posting that data very soon.
Gretchen Whitmer: (36:54)
And it is very important. I mean to your question, we want to know who possibly has antibodies, right? Who can be safely out in the public or back to work. I think it’s also going to be important that we continue to work on an antibody test that is available in a robust way. There are a lot of people that may have had COVID-19 and didn’t have dramatic impacts enough that they needed a test to confirm that they’d had it. But we want to confirm they did and to know that they’ve got antibodies.
Gretchen Whitmer: (37:21)
You can’t take the COVID-19 test to determine if you have COVID-19 later to determine if you had it. And that’s why the antibody test is really important. And so we are working on that front, as well. We want to build that kind of a database so we know who among us has got those antibodies. But even if you can identify all of them and you’re the doctor, so correct me if I’m going too far out here. But even if you can identify all of them, it doesn’t necessarily mean you know how long they will have their immunity because of the novel aspect of the virus.
Dr. Khaldun: (37:52)
That’s right. And we don’t know if the virus is going to mutate. So even if you have the antibody, how effective is the antibody in fighting the disease and will you be immune next year if the coronavirus is still around? So all of that still has to be studied.
Speaker 7: (38:06)
Governor, given the President’s remark recently that for governors to receive assistance from him, they’d better be nice to him essentially. There may be some people concerned about what could be perceived as political tit for tat, but you’ve mentioned any number of times that you’ve been interfacing primarily with the Vice President, and I’m wondering if you could elaborate on that a little bit to discuss maybe the contrast in your interactions with the Vice President versus the President himself.
Gretchen Whitmer: (38:36)
Well, President Trump called me last Tuesday, I think it was. I’ve talked to the Vice President both days of this past weekend. I’ve got regular conversations with the FEMA administrator. My team’s been working incredibly well with all of our counterparts at the national level and the bipartisan group of congressional delegation that we have has been fantastic. Fred Upton is one of people that I talked to the most. I think the ranking Republican in our congressional delegation as well as our two US senators. And so we’ve gotten a lot, I think, accomplished in terms of building a good relationship. The stuff that happens on Twitter is… I haven’t spent a lot of energy on that because frankly, we all have to be focused on fighting COVID-19. We’re not one another’s enemy. The enemy is a virus that does not distinguish between party line or state line or any other divide for that matter.
Gretchen Whitmer: (39:33)
And so I do think that, while people like to focus on that other stuff or not, we just keep rolling up our sleeves and working with anyone who will help. I think that also the Vice President having been a governor, that is something, a perspective I think that has been really useful in terms of kind of getting down to the nitty gritty of what we, as state leaders, need.
Speaker 9: (39:58)
Federal health officials said over the weekend that they’re predicting the peak of cases will likely come in about a week. And you’ve been saying that this is going to happen in late April or early May. What is the reason for that difference and what models are you looking at to inform your decisions? And have you been seeing changes in those models?
Gretchen Whitmer: (40:21)
So a couple of things and then of course, Dr. Khaldun will probably step in and share some thoughts as well. But first and foremost, we’ve never had enough tests to have the kind of robust testing so that we’ve got data that we can feel informs a model that is reliable. That’s just a fact and that’s not unique to Michigan. That’s kind of a countrywide issue that we’ve all got. Number two, when the federal modeling looks at what’s happening in terms of when the peak is, they can articulate an average or a general. But we’re going to have peaks in different parts of Michigan at different times.
Gretchen Whitmer: (40:59)
And so the modeling that we’re looking at is done by people here in Michigan at the University of Michigan. It is, of course, not perfect because of the testing issues and the data collection, but that is what we’re working off of. And we anticipate that the peak is end of April, beginning of May at this juncture, which is a handful of weeks out.
Dr. Khaldun: (41:21)
That’s why our model is looking at Michigan specific data. We’re working with the University of Michigan. Our model is getting more and more accurate, we believe. But again, anyone who says they know the specific date where it’s going to peak, I just don’t believe that’s true at this point. But as we get more testing, I will be able to get more precise with our modeling.
Gretchen Whitmer: (41:42)
All right, thanks.