Apr 29, 2021
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript April 29
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s April 29, 2021 coronavirus press conference. Read the full transcript of her COVID-19 news briefing speech with updates on vaccine distribution here.
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Governor Whitmer: (00:00)
… Director Elizabeth Hertel and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Janae Khaldun. So that we can give you an update on our vaccine rollout and talk about our path out of the pandemic. To date, Michigan has administered 6.7 million doses of the safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines. We will likely hit 7 million this weekend. Nearly one and two Michiganders have received their first shots. And over one in three are fully vaccinated, including two out of three seniors. We have the second most effective FEMA community vaccination site in the US and we are ninth by doses administered. And 96.4% of Michiganders are showing up for their second doses, above the national average. We’ve surpassed 230 million doses nationwide, meeting President Biden’s ambitious goal for his first 100 days in office. These are hopeful numbers. So if you haven’t already, get your shot. Dr. Khaldun will be giving my daughter and me our second doses later today. And I’m really looking forward to my full immunity date, two weeks out on May 13th.
Governor Whitmer: (01:10)
The vaccine remains the most effective way to protect you and your family from COVID and help us all return to normal sooner. As we keep ramping up vaccinations, we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s getting brighter, but I want to remind you, we’re still in the tunnel. We have a lot of work to do as we continue rebuilding our economy. Don’t worry. I won’t go overboard on the sports metaphors today. Someone let Stephen Colbert know. Last night, President Biden announced policies he’s pursuing to uplift families, small businesses and communities across the country as we build back better from the pandemic. His agenda so far has centered on three bold proposals. The American Rescue Plan, the American Jobs Plan, the American Families Plan. Each of these will jumpstart our economic recovery by tackling some of the biggest challenges that we face.
Governor Whitmer: (02:02)
The American Rescue Pans sent checks to millions of Michigan families, boosted small businesses, invested in schools, and turbocharged our vaccine drive. The American Jobs Plan will create tens of millions of good paying jobs, build up our crumbling roads and bridges, and replace all lead pipes nationwide. And the American Families Plan announced yesterday will offer Americans free community college, institute universal pre-K, and implement a national paid family and medical leave program for all workers. President Biden has proposed paying for these plans by making sure the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share so we can make important investments and job creation, education, childcare, and healthcare. Because Michiganders and Americans aren’t anti wealth or anti-corporation. They’re just anti not paying your fair share. Together, these cornerstones of President Biden’s agenda will improve millions of lives, speed up our recovery, and make lasting change. I’m so grateful to our partner in the White House.
Governor Whitmer: (03:03)
Two weeks ago, I stood where we are and we were facing a spike in COVID cases. It was caused by a variety of factors, including highly infectious variance, pandemic fatigue, and increased mobility. Our seven day average was the highest it had been at any point during the last 15 months. We urged all Michiganders to voluntarily double up on their personal efforts to mask up, socially distance, and wash their hands. I also asked people to avoid dining indoors and encourage a two week pause for in-person learning for high schools and school sports and activities. I want to thank all the people that stepped up and did their part by taking this seriously. Thanks to you, our numbers are starting to come down again. Two weeks later, our seven day case, average hospitalizations, and ICU numbers are all coming down.
Governor Whitmer: (03:52)
While the daily case count, test positivity, and hospitalization numbers are still not where we want them to be, we’re headed in the right direction. A week ago, I told you I would never stop fighting for more treatments, more tests, more vaccines, anything I can to keep you and your family safe. 12% of all monoclonal antibody treatments nationwide are being administered here in Michigan. We’re saving lives and keeping people out of the hospital. We’ll continue to make progress toward putting this pandemic behind us if we follow basic public health protocols and get vaccinated. First let’s chart our path out of the pandemic with some top- line metrics. There are approximately 8 million Michiganders 16 and up. Our goal remains equitably vaccinating 70% of this group, which would be roughly 5.67 million people. So far just over 4 million have gotten their first shots. That’s great. Now that 4.29 million are fully vaccinated, meaning they are two weeks out from their second shots of Pfizer or Moderna or from the single shot of J&J.
Governor Whitmer: (04:57)
Now I want to introduce the my vac to normal challenge. Yes. Vac to normal, which is our plan to reach vaccination goal and emerge from this pandemic. Let’s walk through the steps, so we can take a look and see the metrics that we need to hit to get Michigan back to normal and have the summer we all crave.
Governor Whitmer: (05:17)
Step one, two weeks after 4.5 million Michiganders or 55% of our eligible population have received their first shot, we will lift the state’s requirement for employers to require remote work when feasible. I want to thank the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, their Return to Office Work Group, and the many business leaders, labor leaders, health experts who participated for their recommendations. I’m also grateful for the Federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration for taking the lead to keep workplaces safe. We’ll make sure that our rules remain consistent with national standards. At our current rate, we will likely reach 55% by the end of next week, meaning we could reach step one just two weeks later before the end of May. But it’s counting on all of us to keep pushing, to make sure we get vaccinated.
Governor Whitmer: (06:09)
Step two. Two weeks after we hit 4.9 million Michiganders or 60% have received their first shot, we’ll increase indoor capacity at sports stadiums, conference centers, banquet halls, and funeral homes to 25%. We’ll increase capacity limits at gyms to 50%. And we’ll lift the curfew on bars and restaurants. For this step and the next, MDHHS may delay implementation in a certain region if the seven day average of new cases is greater than 250 a day per million Michiganders. We believe this is unlikely, but it’s an important safety valve if something unexpected were to happen.
Governor Whitmer: (06:48)
Step three. Two weeks after 5.3 million Michiganders or 65% have received their first shot, we’ll lift all indoor capacity limits, only requiring social distancing between parties and relax the limits on residential social gatherings.
Governor Whitmer: (07:06)
And finally, step four. Two weeks after 5.7 million Michiganders or 70% have received their first shot, we’ll lift the MDHHS gathering and face masks order. And MDHHS will no longer impose broad mitigation measures unless an unanticipated circumstance arrives, such as the spread of vaccine resistant variants. That is Team Michigan’s challenge. Let’s get back to normal. And to those family, friends, and neighbors who still have questions about the vaccine, let me answer some of them and speak directly to you. The vaccine is safe. It’ll protect you, your family, and other people from getting COVID. It has gone through rigorous testing and over 140 million Americans have taken it. The COVID vaccine like others before it for polio and smallpox is trusted by doctors.
Governor Whitmer: (07:58)
Vaccines are our best chance of putting this pandemic behind us and returning to normal. They represent hope and healing. If you want to learn more, I encourage you to talk to your family doctor, learn about the safe, effective vaccines, how they can save your life and the lives of those you love. If we work together, we can get this done. It is very real. We have to have a set of clear goals to accompany every step of this process. As we drive toward our eventual goal of returning to normal, we will pass checkpoints along the way that will allow us to gradually lift more limits. And eventually, we’ll get over that finish line. As early as tomorrow, we envision issuing a revised epidemic order that encourages Michiganders to gather safely outside by relaxing our rules for outdoor gatherings. We’ll also incorporate the CDC’s new guidance on wearing face masks outdoors.
Governor Whitmer: (08:55)
Now, I can’t predict with certainty when we’ll hit 70%. If we all do our part, I know we can get there together. Once we hit 70%, we will keep working to ensure everyone who is eligible gets vaccinated as soon as possible. Because more people we vaccinate, the safer we will be for the long haul. Together, we’ll get back to normal. As I finish up, I want to urge you once again, if you haven’t already, to get your shot and make sure you go back for your second shot. 96.4% of Michigan owners have returned for their second shot. That’s above the national rate. And that’s great. If you walk in and get your shot today, you can be at full immunity in a matter of weeks and have the peace of mind to know that you won’t be putting yourself or your loved ones at risk.
Governor Whitmer: (09:41)
If you get your shot and it’s the Johnson & Johnson shot today, you are one and done and you can enjoy full immunity in just two weeks from now. Same as five weeks if you get your Pfizer shot and six weeks from your first Moderna shot. I encourage you to go to vaccinefinder.org to find an appointment. Two weeks after I get my second Pfizer shot later-
Governor Whitmer: (10:03)
… an appointment. Two weeks after I get my second Pfizer shot later today, I’m going to have a small gathering with a handful of my close friends who I haven’t seen in months. We’re going to have a few Oberons, we’re going to share some laughs and share strategies on how to best embarrass our children. It’s going to be terrific. It’s what moms do. This summer, we can all throw some burgers on the grill, catch a Tigers game and hit the lake with our friends. We can enjoy a Michigan summer. As I’ve said a couple of times now, there is light at the end of the tunnel, but we’re still in the tunnel. The only way out is forward and together. So, thank you, and I’d like to turn it now over to our Lieutenant Governor.
Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist: (10:46)
Thank you, Governor, for having me today join this COVID-19 update to share this important progress. I also want to acknowledge Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, our Chief Medical Executive, and Director Elizabeth Hertel. Thank you both for your service and your leadership. When I last participated in one of these press free things, it was to discuss the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services releasing race data when it came to vaccinations within our state. I am proud to say that since I last spoke with you all, we have made tremendous progress. While black residents make up just over 13% of Michigan’s population, we represented a staggering 29.4% of the cases in the early days of tracking COVID-19 data based on race about a year ago. In the past two weeks of available data, the state has maintained the progress in limiting the disparate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, with black residents accounting for less than 11% of the cases.
Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist: (11:47)
We are approaching almost seven million vaccine shots in arms. That is seven million doses of hope for people across our state. Every dose brings us closer to reaching our goal of equitably vaccinating at least 70% of Michiganders ages 16 and up as soon as possible. But as we get closer to achieving our goal, we have to remember that we are still in this fight against this virus. I am proud to be counted amongst those almost seven million doses. Two weeks ago, I received my first dose of the safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine at a church in my hometown of Detroit. And I’ve got to say, it was glorious, frankly, to see a church full of people lining up to get vaccinated. But even now, I am still having conversations every day with family, with friends, with neighbors about the vaccine, its safety and its effectiveness. People have questions, and that is nothing to be ashamed of. It is okay to ask questions. It’s also important to know that those questions have answers.
Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist: (12:58)
Our administration, along with help from the Protect Michigan Commission, which I’m proud to serve as a co-chair, we are doing everything we can to make sure that people have the answers, resources, and information that they need from people and institutions that they trust. Last week, along with the members of the Michigan Coronavirus Taskforce on Racial Disparities, we recognized the one-year anniversary of the taskforce. As I stated at the beginning, we’ve made significant progress toward reducing COVID-19 disparities in communities of color, specifically in the black community in particular. We recognize that our work must continue to address the disparities in vaccine adoption in communities of color. That is why I am launching the Making Real Change tour across Michigan to ensure that our work continues and allows for direct community interaction on these important issues.
Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist: (13:53)
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus has shined a light on health, economic, and educational challenges that the black community and communities of color face every single day and have for generations. When Governor Whitmer and I observe these deadly transfers [inaudible 00:14:10] to themselves in the COVID-19 pandemic, we took immediate action to protect public health. Again, we chose to act. And yes, while cases still may be present in communities across our state, it is more important than ever that we continue the work of the Michigan Coronavirus Taskforce on Racial Disparities. The Making Real Change tour will enable Michiganders in cities across the state to see our recommendations being implemented, adapted, and adopted to save lives.
Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist: (14:42)
This taskforce will continue to focus on making real and timely changes that’ll make a difference in people’s lives right now, just like we set out to do. We’re planning to make several stops across the state, including cities like Flint, Grand Rapids, Saginaw, and Detroit. The tour will highlight our continued efforts to flatten and eliminate racial disparities during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will be encouraging everyone to get a vaccination appointment scheduled if they have not done so already. Together, we will emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever.
Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist: (15:19)
We can end this pandemic on our own terms by following the protocols that we are putting forward, encouraging everyone in your life to do the same, and ensuring that everyone eligible to receive a vaccine gets one. I want to encourage everyone to connect with friends, family members, neighbors, and coworkers to make sure that they’ve made their appointment. What we and others around the country I’ve observed is that the thing that moves a person to choose to get vaccinated is hearing from someone who they know about why it is so important, about why they chose to get vaccinated. That means that every person who has not yet chosen to get vaccinated is one conversation away from making that choice. You can make that happen for them and for all of us.
Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist: (16:08)
The COVID-19 vaccine has been tested. It is safe and it is trusted by doctors like our very own Dr. Khaldun. Smallpox, polio, now COVID-19, vaccines have a long history of hope and healing. And many of them have a history that is grounded here in the state of Michigan. Getting vaccinated is the best thing that you can do to protect yourself, protect your family, and protect our collective community. It paves the way for us to get back to doing the things that we love together. The Protect Michigan Commission, our biggest, broadest, most representative commission ever, exists for the sole purpose of making sure every person in Michigan has the information and resources they need to make the choice to get vaccinated.
Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist: (16:55)
So I’m asking for you to work with us, to join this team. The bigger the team, the bigger and better and quicker our victory will be over COVID-19. Together, we’ll become the state that can end this pandemic on our terms because we can do any and everything in Michigan when we do it together. So let’s stand tall, let’s get vaccinated and let’s go forward. It’s now my honor to turn the podium over to our state’s Chief Medical Executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (17:32)
Good morning, and thank you, Lieutenant Governor and Governor. So our COVID-19 cases remain high, but I’m pleased that we are starting to see key metrics trend in the right direction. As of this week, Michigan has 493 cases per million people. That’s 30% lower than it was two weeks ago, but still four times where we were at the middle of February. Data still indicates that we have broad community spread. This includes spread of the more easily transmitted variants that have been identified across the entire state. The percent of tests that are positive is about 13.2%, nearly three times where we were in the middle of February, but down by 4.3% from where we were just two weeks ago.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (18:21)
We’re also still tracking outbreaks. There are over 1,272 outbreaks in counties across the state, and that number is holding steady. 19% of hospital beds are being used for COVID-19 patients, and the total number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 is trending down. This is better, but this is still not where we want it to be. These are good trends in the right direction, and I want to thank all of the Michiganders who are doing the right thing, wearing masks, socially distancing and getting tested if you’ve been exposed or have symptoms, and getting a vaccine as soon as you can. We are making significant progress with our vaccinations. As has been mentioned, we now have over 6.6 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the state, and we expect to surpass seven million doses this week. Over two-thirds of Michiganders over the age of 65 are fully vaccinated, and 36% of all adults over the age of 16 are fully vaccinated. Almost half of all adults over the age of 16 have gotten at least one dose. This is incredible.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (19:29)
We have come such a long way over the past four months. Vaccines are the best and quickest way for us to end this pandemic, and it’s important that everyone is vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccines are the path forward to do what you want to do. I was very … gatherings outdoors without masks, not needing to routinely get tested in some circumstances, and not needing to quarantine if you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19. This is a big deal. Getting vaccinated means fewer days of missed school because of illness-
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (20:03)
Getting vaccinated means fewer days of missed school because of illness or quarantine, fewer missed days of work. It means a family vacation without needing to test or to quarantine, and it means going to more of the events that we all love. And today, we are excited to announce the steps we are all going to take together to engage in more and more of the things that we all love to do, based on our vaccination rates. I think the one thing that we’ve learned from this pandemic is that we are all in this together, no matter your age, your race, your ethnicity, your income, or what side of the political aisle that you’re on. None of us is in a bubble, and what happens in one community or one age group, impacts everyone.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (20:47)
Getting a vaccine helps us all be able to do more things and feel safer. So please get your vaccine as soon as you are able. Vaccines are now available in many places across the state, pharmacies, community health centers, your local health department, and private doctor’s offices. We will continue to focus on bringing vaccines into neighborhoods through mobile clinics, partnering with community-based organizations, and bringing vaccines directly to people’s homes. We are committed to making sure everyone has access to a vaccine in the state.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (21:24)
Now, I also know that a lot of people are seeking to celebrate end of year events, graduations, proms, and other events. I know how important these events are, especially after such a challenging school year, but it’s also really important that we do these things safely. We don’t want any of these events to cause outbreaks and undo the great progress that we are making. MDHHS has updated guidance on how to host these events in the safest way possible. So things like testing, masking, and doing activities in smaller cohorts can make these activities much safer. You can find information in this guidance on our website, michigan.gov/coronavirus on the K-12 guidance page.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (22:08)
These past couple of months have been a reminder that we are still very much fighting this virus. Our numbers are trending in the right direction, but there is still much more work to be done. But there’s a plan and there’s a path forward. Let’s all keep doing what we need to do, wearing mask, social distancing, and getting a vaccine as soon as possible so that we can get back to a sense of normalcy. Thank you. And with that, I will turn it over to Director Hertel.
Director Hertel: (22:48)
Thank you, Dr. Khaldun. I’m so happy to say we are both two weeks past our second dose, and when we saw each other today, we were able to give each other a hug, and it was great. I want to start today by thanking our healthcare providers. Thank you to the hospitals, health systems, doctors, nurses, aids, first responders, and other staff who have remained so dedicated this past year. It has been difficult, and I know you are exhausted physically and mentally, yet you stepped up to care for our community members and help keep our healthcare systems running. This year, hospitals and providers across the state stepped up again when it was time to administer vaccines, safe and effective vaccines that are stepping stones in our path forward and our best chance to end this pandemic. I don’t know if we can ever sufficiently thank you, but thank you for your work, your sacrifice, and that incredible dedication.
Director Hertel: (23:51)
I also want to thank our state and local health partners. Michigan is lucky to have such a strong network of local health departments, including our local health officers and their teams. Since December, local health departments were working with us, not only on education, case investigation and contact tracing, but also on vaccine distribution, the most complex in our lifetime. And when supply increased, our pharmacy partners were also there to help move us forward. So thank you to all of these individuals, facilities and organizations.
Director Hertel: (24:27)
As we’ve said earlier, our state has administered more than six and a half million doses with nearly 40% of our residents fully vaccinated. We are so close, and increasing these numbers is how we will put this pandemic behind us. It’s how we will keep people we love safe and return to a more normal life. And it is how we will get back to roaring stadiums, concerts, safe workplaces, full dining rooms, and big in-person celebrations. Each of us has a reason that we choose to get vaccinated. For most of us, there are many reasons. And despite the divisions we’ve unfortunately witnessed over the past year, many, most of those things, we have in common.
Director Hertel: (25:13)
The four vaccination-based milestones that have been laid out today are that path forward to take us away from public health restrictions and closer to all of those reasons. And as we continue, I look forward to reaching these milestones that will eventually allow us to safely re-engage in additional areas and getting to 70% of Michiganders 16 and up having received their first dose, so we can lift these gatherings and mask orders. We’re also exploring options to ease restrictions for summer events, such as festivals, fairs, and golf tournaments. Changes coming soon also include official changes to the epidemic order to reflect and align with the new CDC guidance.
Director Hertel: (25:59)
We are so close, and I am optimistic that we can get there. Our ability to take all of these steps forward, steps all of us want to take as soon as possible, will be decided by every Michigander helping to reach those vaccination milestones by encouraging family and friends to get vaccinated, and by keeping our COVID-19 numbers down in the process. Before we take questions, we would like to show you a commercial where people are explaining their why for getting vaccinated. Thank you.
Speaker 1: (26:36)
I want the world to open back up.
Speaker 2: (26:38)
To protect my grandchildren.
Speaker 3: (26:39)
I’m ready to be back to normal.
Speaker 4: (26:40)
I want to be in person for college next semester.
Speaker 5: (26:42)
I want to see my grandparents.
Speaker 6: (26:44)
I want to stay safe.
Speaker 7: (26:44)
Because I care.
Speaker 8: (26:45)
Can I ask you a question? Why did you get vaccinated?
Speaker 9: (26:48)
Because I am 24 weeks pregnant and we wanted to protect our baby boy.
Speaker 10: (26:52)
I vaccinated to protect my family, protect my friends, and help our community.
Speaker 11: (26:56)
To keep my family members healthy and traveling the world.
Speaker 8: (27:00)
Why did you get vaccinated?
Speaker 12: (27:01)
Because I believe in the science.
Speaker 13: (27:04)
I want a happy, healthy world.
Speaker 14: (27:06)
My best friend couldn’t. She caught COVID, and passed away the day before her birthday. That is my why.
Speaker 15: (27:14)
Be able to hug my mom again. Hadn’t been able to hug her in over a year.
Speaker 16: (27:23)
I want to hug my grandma again.
Speaker 17: (27:25)
This was a dose of hope.
Speaker 18: (27:27)
I’m ready to get back to somewhat normal.
Speaker 19: (27:29)
I’m vaccinated. I’m coming to give you a big hug. I love you, mom.
Governor Whitmer: (27:38)
I love that commercial. All right. So with that, happy to open it up for a few questions. I think we’re going to start with Tim Skubick.
Tim Skubick: (27:50)
Governor, has your relationship with Mike Shirkey gotten better over the past couple of weeks, and are you encouraged that you and he can work together?
Governor Whitmer: (27:57)
I’m not going to assess our relationship. I will tell you that we are having a communication. We are talking with all four leaders in the Michigan Legislature. Our teams are working together, and it is our hope that everyone sees the promise and opportunity in front of us. We have taken and listened to and gotten a lot of feedback from the legislative leaders, some of which is incorporated in this re-engagement. We’re pleased about that. And at this juncture, we’re very optimistic about our forward path out of the pandemic, but also toward getting the business of the people in the State of Michigan done here in Lansing. So I think it’s important to be encouraged and focused, and that’s precisely what I am. Let’s see. Next question is Rick Albin.
Rick Albin: (28:54)
Governor, I know you’ve laid out these metrics, which are interesting to look at. Two questions: Do you have any guess… I know it’s hard to know because you don’t know what people are going to do, but have the professionals who looked at this given you any estimate of when you might hit some of these milestones? And secondly, when, under which of these numbers, do restaurants go back to full capacity?
Governor Whitmer: (29:28)
So first and foremost, I will share with you that we’ve had a lot of conversation across our economy with our public health experts. We are focused on trying to encourage people to make sure that they avail themselves of these vaccines. We always knew that there was going to be a moment when the supply would eclipse demand, and that’s where we are. We expected to be coming to this moment around this time, so things are proceeding as we enter-
Governor Whitmer: (30:03)
Moment around this time, so things are proceeding as we anticipated. But it also, I think, reaffirms for all of us how important it is that every one of us does our part to educate our coworkers, our family, our friends, our neighbors, to help people go and access a vaccine and for employers to ensure that they are encouraging their workforce as well. We’ve all got to be in this together, and the path out, we will achieve our goals if we all work together. As we look to the first step, which is 55% of our 16 and up population, our modelers, and we’re working with some incredible people from Dow who have been helping us as well as Meijer, who’s done a phenomenal job with vaccines … What we’re really anticipating is we could get to that 55% in the next seven to 10 days.
Governor Whitmer: (30:54)
Fourteen days thereafter, all of the re-engagements that are under that first step would be triggered, and that’s a great thing for returning to in-person work. I know that that’s what so much of our effort is toward, and I think that that’s a very real timeline, so perhaps by the end of May. But it’s all contingent on vaccines, and that’s why partnering with people across government, but obviously, partnering with people, community leaders, ecumenical leaders, business leaders, is going to be crucial for us to get not just at that 55, but to the 60, to the 65, to the 70, when we can drop just about most of the actions that we’ve had to take over the last 15 months. And I know every one of us wants to get to that point, and we’ve all got to, we’ve got to do it.
Governor Whitmer: (31:43)
Now, President Biden said by 4th of July, his hope is that we are largely returning to the kind of gatherings that we all want to see on the 4th of July. And that’s a very real possibility. It’s dependent on us working together to get the majority of our population vaccinated, the vast majority. Anything you wanted to add, Dr. J? Okay.
Governor Whitmer: (32:07)
Jonathan Oosting: (32:11)
Yeah, thanks, Governor. You’ve resisted setting specific metrics in the past, citing the need to be flexible in a pandemic. Why change that approach now? And what would you do if there were outbreaks or major case incidents moving forward? Would there be a process to reinstate restrictions as well?
Governor Whitmer: (32:36)
For 11 out of the last 15 months, we didn’t have vaccines, and so we couldn’t tie something to a metric that really is the best tool that we have to get back to normal. That’s why we’re calling it “vac” to normal, right? We vaccine to get back to some normalcy. Getting to these numbers, and I think if you talk to, obviously, our public health experts who have been just phenomenal in our health systems, we’re so fortunate to have the incredible expertise and dedication we do in this state. But you talk to national health experts, I think you’re going to see this is a creative way of challenging us to rise to this moment and to meet it. And every one of us can play a part in doing that, and it benefits the whole state when we do, so we believe that this … We’ll continue to watch, of course, positivity rates. We’ll continue to watch variants.
Governor Whitmer: (33:27)
We’re very concerned. The whole world should be concerned about what’s happening in other places because we know that this virus doesn’t observe state or country lines, right? And so variants are the big concern. That’s the big unknown. At this juncture, it looks as though these … There’s evidence to show that these vaccines are effective against known variants that are present, and that’s why really tying to increase the number of people that get vaccinated is a metric that makes sense and I think can give people the challenge that we all need to rise to but the hope that every one of us wants and needs to see. And it’s a very realistic goal that we’ve set.
Governor Whitmer: (34:13)
Zack [inaudible 00:34:13].
Hi, good morning, Governor. You sort of hinted at earlier that you would take in some input from the legislature on this. Can you provide a little more detail as to what they contributed that’s incorporated here? And for much of the past year, you’ve said you’re not going to negotiate on public health. Can you sort of explain how this, whatever happened, whatever work you did with them to put this together didn’t turn into a negotiation on public health?
Governor Whitmer: (34:49)
Taking input and negotiating are two very different things. I think that we all share the goal of getting our state out of this pandemic. What we have articulated here is the path out. And I know that that’s been important to, whether it’s business leaders or legislative leaders, we have, I think, had robust conversations. You always learn something when you’re talking to people, and that’s why I’ve held quadrant calls every other week since I took office. We’ve got to at least be talking to one another. It doesn’t guarantee you find common ground, but if you’re not talking to one another, it guarantees you don’t find common ground. I’m grateful for the time and energy that the legislative leaders, all four, have put in towards sharing their thoughts, and we’ve shared a lot of information. And I think this product represents some of the best of the work that we have been able to do together. Rod, I guess, and then we’re done. Rod Maloney.
Rod Maloney: (35:52)
Excuse me, governor. I was typing at the time for an email. I have a question in terms of, okay, say we don’t get to 65 or 70%. What if we don’t get there? What happens to schools, to sports, to businesses? And also, are we the first state to tie vaccines to reopening?
Governor Whitmer: (36:13)
I don’t think that we’re the first state to tie vaccines to some re-engagement. I think we may be one of the first that really has put together a plan of this nature, and we’re proud of this work. We think that it really is the kind of goal and hope that we need, and it’s an opportunity for us to all join arms and to make sure that we get to this goal. Now, it is dependent on people, though, of course. Just like everything in the last 15 months, it’s dependent on Michiganders availing themselves of these incredibly important vaccines. And it’s incumbent on employers to support their workforce to go and make sure that they are vaccinated. It is incumbent on every one of us to take this seriously and to ask the questions if we still have questions about vaccines.
Governor Whitmer: (37:03)
There’s nothing wrong with having questions. We just want to make sure that we give, you get the opportunity to get your questions answered so that you can protect yourself and your community. Seventy percent is an operational goal. We know that we’re going to work to vaccinate everyone that we can. The more people that get vaccinated, the better, the more likely we can put this virus behind us and forestall the possibility of variants. And so we’re going to continue to work. We know that Pfizer has applied for authorization to inoculate teens between 12 and 15. When younger kids become eligible, we’ll continue to push our energy into our efforts to make sure that they get vaccinated as well, and that ultimately our work will not be done when we hit one of these goals. But we can enjoy a lot of things that we’ve all been craving when we do. All right. Thank you, everybody. Stay healthy, and let’s get “vac” to normal. Bye.