Dec 15, 2020
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript December 15
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s December 15 coronavirus press conference. She discussed vaccine distribution plans and economic relief. Read the full transcript of her COVID-19 news briefing speech here.
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Governor Whitmer: (01:07)
Thank you. Good afternoon. Today is Tuesday, December 15th. Thank you for joining us. Today, I am joined by, of course, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, our chief medical executive, and our Attorney General Dana Nessel.
Governor Whitmer: (01:24)
Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services announced an extension of the Pause to Save Lives epidemic order, temporarily limiting indoor gatherings where COVID-19 can easily spread from person to person. The department issued this order to prevent our hospitals from overwhelming, so that we can protect the brave women and men serving on the front lines of this crisis, so we can protect our small businesses who want to stay open, and so we can, of course, slow the spread of COVID-19.
Governor Whitmer: (01:59)
The good news is, is that we are making progress. It is working. This graph shows the seven-day average of cases in Michigan. As you can see near the end of the graph, the cases are beginning to decrease. This dip in cases correlates with the days that the DHHS’s targeted and temporary safety protocols have been in place. Simply put, what we’re doing is working. The vast majority of Michiganders are taking this seriously and doing their part to help us eradicate this virus. To the Michiganders and business owners who have doubled down on mask-wearing, social distancing, and limiting indoor gatherings where COVID-19 thrives, thank you.
Governor Whitmer: (02:51)
Over the weekend, the first shipments of the FDA-approved Pfizer vaccine left Portage, Michigan. In the next week, we expect the Moderna vaccine to be approved. I spoke with the CEO of Moderna this morning, and we are excited about the prospect of that vaccine also coming online. It was interesting because the CEO shared with us that doctors have been asking which vaccine should they take? His answer is to take whichever vaccine is available to you. It doesn’t matter which, the Pfizer or the Moderna, or maybe others that will come online. These are safe and effective.
Governor Whitmer: (03:38)
Yesterday, the first of our frontline heroes got the vaccine here in Michigan. Right here in a state built on innovation and grit, the safe and effective COVID vaccine is being manufactured by Michigan workers right here. It was so exciting this weekend to see the coverage of our state, of the workers clapping for one another; and a vaccine that is bringing hope all across the country, is coming from Michigan.
Governor Whitmer: (04:06)
We also got to see FedEx and UPS coming together to distribute this vaccine. They put their competitive nature aside for the common good of all. I think if they can do it, I’d love to see Republicans and Democrats come together as well because this is about the lives and livelihoods of Americans everywhere. Nearly three weeks ago, I sent a letter to our legislature requesting that they take action to protect the public health and to help us save lives. In the three weeks since I sent that letter, nearly 2,000 Michiganders have died from COVID-19. That’s 2,000 people who were parents or grandparents or children and loved ones, people who were taken too soon. In that time, unfortunately, the legislature has only been in session for six days. They’ve not taken action on these measures. We cannot afford to wait any longer.
Governor Whitmer: (05:10)
Yesterday, I sent another letter to the legislature urging them to work with me on priorities, like $100 million in COVID relief. We know this virus is hurting our people, it’s hurting our businesses. There are people out there who have spent a lifetime building up their small business, and they’re hanging on by a thread.
Governor Whitmer: (05:32)
Since the federal government hasn’t been able to pass a bipartisan bill to help our small business owners, we here in Michigan got to step up and take action. I’m ready to sign a bill, so it’s crucial for the legislature to find some common ground and pass a targeted, state-based economic stimulus plan of up to a $100 million to provide direct financial support to the families and small businesses that have been hit the hardest by this pandemic.
Governor Whitmer: (06:05)
I also need them to, number two, pass a permanent extension of unemployment benefits. I appreciate the Senate’s expansion of unemployment benefits to 26 weeks through March; but we really need to work together to pass a permanent extension, to protect the countless Michiganders and their livelihoods. The extension of benefits to hardworking Michiganders should not be used as some sort of a bargaining chip tied to other priorities of the legislature. We have to focus on protecting public health and the economy right now. If we don’t take bipartisan action now, thousands of Michiganders could lose benefits at the end of this year.
Governor Whitmer: (06:54)
Number three, the legislature needs to pass legislation to protect public health, including a mandate that we wear masks until the majority of us have had this vaccine. I know that there is bipartisan support for that action. I’d love to see the legislature take action. These are crucial things we can do to protect our people and our businesses here in Michigan.
Governor Whitmer: (07:21)
Now, Attorney General Nessel is here to remind Michigan consumers to protect themselves during this holiday season, and I want to thank the AG for her incredibly hard work to protect consumers, not just during the holidays, but throughout the entire year as we have battled the COVID-19 pandemic. Holidays can be a time where people let their guard down and open themselves up. So the Attorney General is here to provide some guidance on how you can protect yourself from fraud the season.
Governor Whitmer: (07:52)
And, of course, I want to remind everyone to shop small and support your favorite local businesses in every way you can this season. Our businesses need our support this winter, so let’s make sure to help out and keep our resources here in Michigan. Employ fellow Michiganders and support local business.
Governor Whitmer: (08:12)
Today, I joined a bipartisan group of governors from across our region to urge Michiganders to stay safe this holiday season. If you’re planning to travel or gather with other households for the holidays, we are urging you to reconsider. Just don’t do it this year, so we can resume doing that next year when it’s safe to do so. Because just one infection can cause an outbreak in your community, which could quickly overwhelm hospitals and put you and your loved ones at risk. As I’ve said many times, and I’ll say it many times more, each time we take actions to protect ourselves, we are also protecting the brave women and men on the front lines of this pandemic. So let’s do our part and have a really smart holiday. Here’s the video.
Governor Whitmer: (09:10)
Hi, everyone. This is Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
Governor Andy Beshear: (09:12)
Governor Andy Beshear
Governor Tim Walz: (09:14)
Governor Tim Walz.
Governor Pritzker: (09:15)
Governor J.B. Pritzker.
Governor Holcomb: (09:16)
Governor Mike DeWine: (09:18)
Governor Mike DeWine.
Governor Tony Evers: (09:19)
Governor Tony Evers.
Governor Whitmer: (09:19)
Just like we did before Thanksgiving, we wanted to take a moment to urge everyone in our region to do your part to protect our families, frontline workers, and small businesses this holiday season.
Governor Andy Beshear: (09:33)
This may be the most difficult time yet in our struggle with COVID-19, especially with the holidays approaching.
Governor Pritzker: (09:40)
Until the vaccine is available to everyone and until we eradicate this virus once and for all, we must continue working to protect one another.
Governor Holcomb: (09:50)
The science is out. The best way that we can protect our frontline workers and slow the spread of this virus is to double down on mask-wearing, social distancing, and washing our hands frequently.
Governor Mike DeWine: (10:02)
If you’re planning to travel or gather with other households for the holidays, we urge you to reconsider.
Governor Tim Walz: (10:09)
We know this is hard. Holiday traditions hold a special place in our hearts, and we all just want our lives to get back to normal. But remember-
Governor Tony Evers: (10:17)
One infection can cause an outbreak in the community, which could overwhelm your hospitals where you and your loved ones [inaudible 00:10:24].
Governor Whitmer: (10:24)
We owe it to the brave men and women serving on the front lines of this pandemic to do our part and be smart this holiday season.
Governor Andy Beshear: (10:34)
This virus does not care if you’re young or old, rich or poor, a Democrat or a Republican.
Governor Pritzker: (10:40)
It threatens all of us, so we must all join forces to protect one another.
Governor Holcomb: (10:46)
As we head into the holidays, we also want to remind everyone to support your local small businesses.
Governor Mike DeWine: (10:53)
Buy a gift for a loved one at your favorite store in town. Buy a gift card to your favorite restaurant.
Governor Tony Evers: (11:00)
Our small businesses need your help.
Governor Whitmer: (11:03)
We know we can eliminate COVID-19 when we unite together.
Governor Andy Beshear: (11:07)
Let’s get to work, Kentucky.
Governor Tim Walz: (11:09)
Mask up, Minnesota.
Governor Pritzker: (11:10)
Let’s get to work, Illinois.
Governor Holcomb: (11:12)
Let’s get to work, Indiana.
Governor Mike DeWine: (11:14)
Let’s get to work. Go, Ohio.
Governor Tony Evers: (11:17)
Let’s get to work, Wisconsin.
Governor Whitmer: (11:19)
Happy holidays, and let’s get to work, Michigan.
Governor Whitmer: (11:24)
So the good news is, as we saw happening in Portage, Michigan, there is hope on the horizon. We have a safe, effective vaccine that is beginning to be distributed to our most vulnerable populations. By the end of this week, there may be two on the market. We will see that continue to improve. DHHS’s Pause to Save Lives is working. So this is good news, but we can’t take our eye off the ball now. It’s going to take some time for this vaccine to be widely distributed, and that means we’ve all got to continue doing our part to protect one another so that we can eradicate COVID-19 once and for all.
Governor Whitmer: (12:02)
… another, so that we can eradicate COVID-19 once and for all, all of us. The science is settled, wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and avoiding indoor gatherings where the virus can spread easily from person to person will be crucial in the coming months. A study has shown that taking these actions can save as many as a hundred thousand American lives. But it’s going to take all of us, Wolverines and Spartans, Yoopers and Trolls, elected leaders, and everyday Michiganders to get it done.
Governor Whitmer: (12:35)
2020 is nearing the end. This will be a year that we will tell generations of our family about. There will be a whole college courses taught about the year 2020. Let’s make sure we are on the right side of history. Let’s protect one another. Let’s show compassion and grace. Let’s eradicate COVID-19 once and for all. With that, I’ll be turning it over to Dr. Khaldun.
Dr. Khaldun: (13:09)
Thank you, Governor. We now are at 437,985 total cases and 10,752 deaths due to COVID-19 in Michigan. We are seeing positive trends in the data. Here’s where we are with the three key metrics we are tracking. Cases are at 560 cases per million people and have been trending down for the past 22 days. Trends are declining in all areas of the state. Hospitalizations are also declining. Overall, 18.5% of hospital beds had COVID-19 patients in them. The percent of tests that are coming back positive is 12.3%. This is also trending down for the past seven days. All of this means that we are cautiously optimistic that there was not a post Thanksgiving surge in cases. That means many Michiganders did their part in keeping spread of the virus down over the Thanksgiving holiday. We showed that we care about ourselves, our families, and our community. Let’s keep doing that. But we can’t forget that our case rates remain alarmingly high and our percent of tests that are positive is still four times what it was at the beginning of September. Now is not the time to let our guard down.
Dr. Khaldun: (14:35)
Yesterday, I was honored to be a part of the historical moment when the first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine arrived at Michigan hospitals. I am so proud of the scientists and researchers at Pfizer right here in Michigan, who helped to make this happen. I’m also incredibly proud of the multiple public health professionals at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and those working through all of the logistics at our hospitals, pharmacies, and local health departments who really are making vaccine distribution a reality.
Dr. Khaldun: (15:10)
This means a new era in fighting this pandemic. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is 95% effective and is safe. It has been tested in trials, including tens of thousands of people. As more and more people get the vaccine, we will start to see fewer cases and fewer lives lost. While it will take several months, there will be an end to this pandemic. There are almost 300 providers all across the state that are enrolled and will be able to administer this vaccine. Hospitals, local health departments, pharmacies, outpatient clinics, and others will be able to provide this vaccine to everyone with no out-of-pocket cost.
Dr. Khaldun: (15:57)
Monday, we also launched our COVID vaccine dashboard, where anyone can go to track how many providers are enrolled and where the vaccine has been distributed. As we receive more information from providers across the state, we will share how many people were vaccinated and eventually the race and age distribution for those who have received the vaccine. So, please go to our website, michigan.gov/covidvaccine to see our dashboard and to find the latest information on the vaccines in Michigan. For now, because there is limited supply of the vaccine, our state is starting with frontline healthcare workers getting vaccinated this week. By the end of the month, we hope to be able to start vaccinating residents and staff in skilled nursing facilities. Eventually, depending on the supply from the federal government, we will start vaccinating other essential workers and those who are at high risk for severe COVID-19 illness. And we hope to be able to offer the vaccine to the general public by late spring of next year.
Dr. Khaldun: (17:05)
Over the weekend, the CDC released more specific information on the approved vaccine. Everyone age 16 and up should now be planning for how and when they will get the vaccine, and they should know what to expect. I know that a lot of people have questions about the vaccine and it’s good to ask questions, and it’s also important that you know the facts. The vaccine was developed using a robust scientific process and no steps have been skipped in the approval process. The vaccine cannot actually give you the virus. It only shares a specific code with your body so that your body can recognize the virus later and fight it off. Some people will have mild side effects due to the vaccine. Symptoms like a low-grade fever or sore arm or fatigue may happen after you get the vaccine. That is to be expected. It means that your body is building up its response to fight off this virus, and that is a good thing.
Dr. Khaldun: (18:11)
You should also know that you have to come back to receive a second dose of the vaccine. For the Pfizer vaccine that is now here in Michigan, people have to return to get the second dose of the vaccine three weeks after the first. For the Moderna vaccine that we expect to also be authorized later this month, you will come back to get your second dose four weeks after the first. When you get your first dose, you will get a reminder card to tell you when to come back for your second dose. You will also be given information about how you can track any side effects in a national online system called V-safe, so that scientists know exactly what people are experiencing, and they can share that important information with the public.
Dr. Khaldun: (18:56)
After you get your vaccine, you will still need to wear your mask, practice social distancing, and wash your hands frequently. While the vaccine appears to be very effective in preventing COVID-19 disease and those who come in contact with the virus, more research must be done to see if people who got the vaccine can still spread the virus to other people. So while we continue to roll these vaccines out, please make sure to continue doing your part by wearing a mask, washing hands, and social distancing.
Dr. Khaldun: (19:29)
The arrival of vaccine is so important. It means 2021 will be a better year and the end of the pandemic is coming. While I’m very excited about the rollout of our vaccines, the most important thing we all need to continue to do, even if you got your vaccine is to wear a mask.
Dr. Khaldun: (19:48)
Today, MDHHS is launching a Mask Up, Mask Right initiative. We all know at this point that we should wear a mask, but we should also know the best mask to use and how to properly wear them. You should wear a mask whenever you are around someone outside of your household. You can wear a cloth mask that has multiple layers or a medical grade disposable mask. Things like Gators, mask with vents or face shields are not as protective against COVID-19 and should not be worn. Make sure you wear your mask over both your mouth and your nose every time and make sure that it fits snugly. You can also get a free mask at many of our partner sites across the state, and you can find the one nearest you by visiting our website, michigan.gov/maskupmichigan.
Dr. Khaldun: (20:44)
This is a great week for Michigan. Our metrics to track how COVID-19 is spreading are improving, vaccines have arrive, people are doing their part. But we all have a personal responsibility to continue fighting this virus. Let’s get through the holiday season without seeing a deadly surge in cases. Let’s wear our mask and not gather indoors until everyone can get access to vaccines and we can fight this pandemic back. With that, I will turn it over to Attorney General Dana Nessel.
Attorney General Dana Nessel: (21:16)
Thank you, Dr. Khaldun. And thank you, Governor. Thanks so much for inviting me to participate in this presser today. Let me start off by saying how excited I am for the vaccine to finally become available. And I’m so proud, I’m so proud of the role that the State of Michigan has played both in the creation of the vaccine and also the distribution of the vaccine. And in fact, for the holidays, I asked my teenagers what they wanted as a present and both of them said, the COVID vaccine, which should tell you something about how important even teenagers understand the vaccine to be in terms of getting back to normal life.
Attorney General Dana Nessel: (22:13)
That being the case, Our Consumer Protection Division at the Department of Attorney General has been hyper vigilant throughout this pandemic as, unfortunately, bad actors have used this public health crisis to take full advantage of customer’s fears and consumer’s fears. Early in the pandemic, my office was made aware of retailers attempting to sell phony COVID-19 testing kits and fake COVID-19 protection patches. And now as the vaccine for the virus is starting to be delivered around the country, bad actors again are attempting to scam consumers with false claims, products, and services. So my office issued a consumer alert even earlier this month, warning consumers, and I want to reiterate to residents around the state to avoid false claims, products, and services that promise to cure, treat, or prevent COVID-19.
Attorney General Dana Nessel: (23:11)
Let me give you an example of some common scams for people to be aware of. Promises to get the vaccine very quickly. So-called treatments that include pills, herbal teas, or essential oils. Personal testimonials that are given instead of scientific evidence about one vaccine versus another. Social media messages, texts, or emails that people might receive about qualifying for a clinical trial, and that you can make some money if you do so. So advertisers offer thousands of dollars to participate, but then what they’ll do is they’ll ask you for money, or they’ll ask you for your personal information upfront and they’ll now include a link for you to download a pamphlet or a waiver, which will then open the door to malware on whatever device you’re using.
Attorney General Dana Nessel: (24:03)
… which will then open the door to malware on whatever device you’re using, so please be careful. So the bottom line really is this, do not buy a treatment or a vaccine online, and always consult a medical professional, and do not respond to text messages, emails, or calls that offer you the vaccine. Fake vaccines, treatments, test kits, and clinical trials, are just some of those examples of what scammers are going to be putting out there, so again, please before you get the vaccine, just if you get offered the vaccine in any of those ways, just call your doctor and ask about it. Or you can call us at the Department of the Attorney General and we can help verify whether it’s a legitimate claim or not.
Attorney General Dana Nessel: (24:48)
Moving into non-COVID holiday season consumer protection related issues. Due to COVID-19, of course our holiday season is going to look very different than it has in previous years, and many people have already opted for online shopping to avoid crowds and potential exposure to the virus. Now, that increase in online traffic can open the door to scams and other deceptive business practices this holiday season. So shoppers, please be on the lookout for scammers and bad actors trying to steal your personal information or steal your money. To help consumers protect themselves, my office has put together the 20 Days of Scams calendar, a helpful series of consumer alerts with tips on how to shop smart and stay safe whether you’re shopping in person or online. Am I going too fast for you? You good? Okay.
Attorney General Dana Nessel: (25:45)
Through December 23rd the 20 Days of Scams will be a special section online at michigan.gov/agholidayscams, updated Monday through Friday, where we’re sharing on the many different ways bad actors used to cheat consumers out of their money or to steal their personal information. We’re also posting to social media and issuing various news releases. And we created a series of fun holiday-themed videos, all to remind people to beware of the potential dangers out there and to provide suggestions and tips on how they can be smart and safe with their holiday purchases. So if you like your AG in festive holiday hats, then you’re in for a real treat with the informative videos.
Attorney General Dana Nessel: (26:37)
Lastly, here are a few things that consumers should be mindful of when they’re shopping this holiday season. Firstly, please shop local. Make every effort to use the small business in your community, either in person or online. The pandemic we know has been especially hard on them and they are counting on their customers to help them make it through the year. Do your research. Compare prices for both in-store and online items, read reviews from reputable sources, not only on the product but also on the retailer, to ensure you’re dealing with a reputable vendor. If you’ve never heard of this vendor before, and something pops up on your Facebook feed, and you’re like, “Well, that’s a cute sweater,” but you’ve never heard of this store before, please take a look.
Attorney General Dana Nessel: (27:23)
Just do a little online research because a lot of times it’s a fake. It’ll be something from actually another country, and when you look at it, it might be that they’re selling you very cheap products, or that it’s not real at all and you don’t receive anything in return. Very important. Protect your personal information when you’re shopping online, so keep your devices secure. Only shop on websites that have an HTTPS address. Stick to shopping apps that tell you what they do with your data and how they keep it secure. Avoid holiday offers where they might ask you to give out your financial information, no matter how tempting they are, and they might actually be trying to steal your identity.
Attorney General Dana Nessel: (28:10)
Search for coupons or discounts. Increase your savings with coupons from your local newspapers, or look for promo codes online. If possible, try to make purchases with your credit card. Minimize potential damage, and use a credit card to make your purchases. Debit cards do not cap your liability for fraudulent charges and the money is drawn directly from your bank account. So be aware also of any credit and debit surcharges you might be incurring. Ensure all your purchases are accounted for. Please keep a record of your purchases, warranties, and confirmation pages, and then compare these to your bank or credit card statements, and then report any discrepancies immediately.
Attorney General Dana Nessel: (28:57)
Know the retailer’s return policy and terms of layaway or no-interest plans. If a retailer does not have a return policy, exercise caution before you make a purchase. Pay attention when you’re purchasing gift cards. Only buy gift cards that are kept actually behind the store’s customer service counter, or are activated right when you check out. A lot of problems with those. Lastly, please go to my department’s website and check out our Dangerous Toy Guide. The guide contains a number of helpful tips for parents and things to watch out for when deciding which toys to buy this holiday season. Some of these imported toys can be very dangerous. Please, it’s very important in order to make sure that your child is kept safe.
Attorney General Dana Nessel: (29:47)
For more information about anything that I’ve mentioned here today, or to make a consumer complaint with my office, please contact our consumer protection team online at michigan.gov/agcomplaints, or you can call us at (517) 335-7599. Thank you to Governor Whitmer for having me here today, and I’d like to wish everybody a very happy and a very safe holiday season.
Governor Whitmer: (30:21)
Thank you, Attorney General Nessel. That was a good reminder for me too, so thank you. Appreciate it. Happy to open up for questions.
Speaker 1: (30:32)
All right, governor, the first question will come from Kyle Melinn, MIRS.
Kyle Melinn: (30:37)
Thank you very much. This may be for Dr. Khaldun but, is the DHHS providing guidance to medical professionals on how to establish a cause of death when a person with multiple underlying conditions has died but also tests positive for COVID-19, and if so, what is that?
Governor Whitmer: (30:56)
You are correct Kyle. That is for Dr. Khaldun, so I will let her take a crack at it.
Dr. Khaldun: (31:04)
Yeah. We have standard reporting requirements for all of our medical providers that we’ve used throughout the pandemic. If someone has a cause of death, even if they have something like diabetes or high blood pressure, if they do have a positive COVID-19 test that is associated in time with their death, then that is counted as a COVID-related death.
Speaker 1: (31:33)
Okay, governor, the next question will come from Chad [Livingood 00:31:36] with Crain’s.
Chad Livingood: (31:40)
Good afternoon governor. Detroit Chamber of Commerce just came out with a poll that they did taking the temperature of voters on the handling of the pandemic and just the economy and such. There was 68% support for a mask mandate from the legislature. There was also 58% support for helping small businesses bounce back, the number one post-pandemic priority. I’m sorry to deliver some bad news to you, but fixing roads and bridges was 2.3%. With that, I wonder whether there is a deal to be made with the legislature. Would you trade a mask mandate for a moratorium on business closures?
Governor Whitmer: (32:29)
Okay. Thank you for the education, Chad. I hadn’t seen the poll, so I appreciate your sharing that with me. That 2.3% you cited, I just want every Michigander to know we are still fixing the roads, so that is ongoing. With regard to a mask mandate, as I recall you said about 68% of the public embraces a mask mandate. I hope that the legislature is listening. We know that wearing a mask remains the single best tool we have right now in combating COVID. Vaccines are coming online.
Governor Whitmer: (33:04)
But even as we avail ourselves of the opportunity to get a vaccine, we’re still going to need to be comfortable wearing masks for a while until the majority of people, the vast majority of people, are vaccinated. It’s just going to have to be how we operate, and so I’m hopeful that the legislature appreciates that their constituency overwhelmingly supports a mask mandate. With regard to negotiating away the department’s ability to take actions that they view necessary to save lives, I’m not going to, unfortunately, be able to negotiate that away. That is paramount.
Governor Whitmer: (33:41)
That is why that law was enacted. It is why our supreme court even acknowledged the importance of that law in their ruling on the 1945 powers. So I will be eager to engage with the legislature if they want to work with me to give these small businesses some support. In fact, I’ve been asking the legislature for weeks to take this vote to allocate resources to help these small businesses. That would be a great way to help businesses that are struggling right now. We could do that and do a mask mandate, and really make a difference and better position our economy to rebound from this tough chapter.
Speaker 1: (34:22)
Okay, governor, the next question will come from Help Me Hank, with TV 4 in Detroit.
Governor Andy Beshear: (34:31)
Hank Winchester’s fine. Thank you. Governor, or whomever, two quick questions if you will. Number one is, any decision on when restaurants may be allowed to open and when that decision would be made? The other question may be for the health department and that is, when would somebody be notified and how would they be notified that they would be eligible to get the vaccine?
Governor Whitmer: (34:56)
All right. I’ll answer the first part of the question. Then I’ll ask Dr. J to ask the second part of your question. We know that our restaurants are hurting right now, and it is not their fault that COVID-19 has spread so far and wide across this country and across our state. It is the nature of this virus, and I’m trying to do everything I can to help these struggling small businesses. That’s why I’ve asked the legislature to take this vote so we can give some resources to people who are unemployed because they’re restaurant workers, but also for restaurants so that they can get through this tough time.
Governor Whitmer: (35:34)
We know that January and December are both going to be hard months. I’m really pleased to see and proud that so many people in our state have taken this so seriously. We’re doing better than a lot of states are that were on the same trajectory. We’re now doing better. But it’s all very tenuous, and that’s why we’ve got to keep taking this very seriously. But what we’re doing is working, and that is the good news. We need to help these small businesses out through this short period of-
Governor Whitmer: (36:03)
We need to help these small businesses out through this short period of time. This month and next month are going to be tough with COVID cases, but literally every single month of 2021 is likely to be better than the preceding month. February will be better than January, March will be better than February, April will be better than March. Vaccines will become more available. The weather will get warmer. We’ll have an administration that is really focused on a national strategy around COVID. All of these things are reasons to feel very optimistic about 2021. But right now, masking up and helping these businesses that are struggling is paramount. And we need the legislature to step up and work with me on this, and we also need Congress to get a bipartisan solution over the finish line. That’s how we help these businesses that are struggling right now. With regard to how people are notified when they’re eligible for the vaccine, I’ll ask Dr. Khaldun to answer that question.
Dr. Khaldun: (37:04)
Yeah. So as I mentioned, we are rolling out the phases of vaccines depending on kind of where you are. So right now, it’s frontline healthcare workers and long-term care facilities. So just like the hospital, University of Michigan where I was yesterday, they have an online kind of enrollment process so you will find out through your employer if you’re a healthcare worker. Similarly, if you’re working in a long-term care setting, if you’re a staff there, you will find out through that place, and also if you’re a resident there. As we roll it out to the more general public, and again, I hope that can happen by the late spring, there’ll be more and more information coming from the local health departments. But ideally, eventually by late 2021, you can go to a pharmacy, you can go to your own personal doctor, and eventually we’ll have vaccines available more broadly. But for right now, it’s generally through your employer.
Speaker 2: (37:55)
Great. The next question will come from Dave with the Detroit Free Press.
Hi, Governor, good afternoon. Have you heard from legislative leaders about any progress on a legislative relief package? I know this is the last week they’re supposed to be in session. Neither the House or Senate Appropriations Committees are set to meet this week. What are the odds that any sort of package happens before the end of year?
Governor Whitmer: (38:22)
Well, Dave, we had a quadrant call this morning. I of course raised it during the call. I know that our teams have been having conversation, so I remain optimistic. I am not asking, I’m not reiterating the need for the sake of it. I’m doing it because I think we do have an opportunity here. I’m hopeful that the legislature will rise to the challenge. There’s no question COVID-19 has created a lot of hardships in 2020, and it’s not my fault. It’s not the legislature’s fault. It’s not these small businesses that are struggling fault. We need to extend a hand right now to help them get through this tough time.
Governor Whitmer: (39:02)
We need to extend a hand to those who are unemployed to help them get through this tough time. This is not going to last forever, and the need is acute, and it’s right now. And that’s why I’m hopeful that the legislature will take action. We’ve been trying to get them to do that. There is the possibility it could get done, but if it’s not done this week, it’s unlikely anything will happen until January when the next legislature begins. And that’s a very scary thing for our businesses and our people that are holding on by their fingernails.
Speaker 2: (39:41)
All right, we’ve got time for just a couple more questions, so we’ll go to Jon Hewett right now with WWJ Radio.
Jon Hewett: (39:48)
Thank you, appreciate the opportunity. Governor, forgive me for maybe being redundant, but kind of dovetailing on the restaurant question, I’ve talked to several restaurant owners just following a survey today, about a third of them saying they can’t go another six months as is. One of the common consistencies in the answers being given is they feel that the restrictions are being applied inconsistently. People could go to a mall, to a food court. Some grocery stores have a Starbucks, et cetera, where people can eat. They feel it’s kind of a moving target for them. What would you say again to those that are sitting on the fence here, waiting, that feel, frankly, that it’s not being applied evenly? And if I may, one other. As this hopefully improves in the year ahead, would tax abatements be looked at? Or what other special remedies might there be besides financial aid for those in the industry? Thank you.
Governor Whitmer: (40:37)
So there is a ban on indoor dining, and I think that to the extent that these restaurants are seeing that happen in other realms, that is unfortunate, and that is something that we take very seriously. We know that this virus passes easily through respiration, and that’s why masks are so important. It’s also why not gathering more than a household in a enclosed place where people take off their masks is inherently dangerous. It’s just the nature of this virus. So we take it seriously, and the actions we’ve taken, they’re working. When you look at Michigan compared to other states in the trajectory we were all on, Michigan’s in a stronger position than any of our neighbors. And we were in the same boat three, four weeks ago. It’s not just because of this epidemic order, although that’s a big part of it. It’s because Michiganders are taking this seriously and doing the right thing.
Governor Whitmer: (41:38)
I have a lot of conversations with friends who are in the restaurant industry, and it is hard. There’s no question. They also know that we’ve got to have consumer confidence, and people have to feel safe. And so to help through this short period of time so that they can make it through and get back on their feet is really critical, and that’s why this assistance from Congress, assistance from the state, if the legislature will take some action, is so crucial right now. It would be a shame if Congress or our legislature went home for their holiday break, and all of these businesses and all of these unemployed people are left without any assistance. It’s a very scary moment for a lot of people, and while there’s incredible hope and reason to feel optimistic about next year, we need to take some action now. And I will continue working toward helping these businesses everywhere that I can take action unilaterally, but when it comes to the funding, it’s on the legislature to take some action. That’s on Congress as well.
Speaker 2: (42:47)
Okay, Governor, we’ll just take two more questions. So the next one will come from Eric Lloyd with TV 9&10.
Eric Lloyd: (42:59)
Hello, Governor. I was just wondering. Yesterday we had the Electoral College vote. There are still a lot of people with a lot of questions coming towards January 6th as we get closer. What do you say to people that still have issues with how the election went, and where we’re headed?
Governor Whitmer: (43:19)
You know what? This was a safe, fair election. I mean, it is a settled matter that Michigan cast our electoral votes for Joe Biden, as did the votes of 290 other electoral college votes across the country. He earned 306 votes, I believe. It is a victory that is undeniable, and there’s been no proven fraud in all sorts of allegations. But they only serve to undermine our democracy and shake our faith in the system that worked incredibly well, especially considering all of the flux of 2020. So it is time to move forward. If you don’t like the outcome of an election, well, there’ll be another one in four years. But right now, the people of the United States have spoken. We’ve elected a new president, and he and his vice president, she will get sworn in on January 20th, and we need to move forward as a nation.
Speaker 2: (44:26)
Okay, Governor, the last question will come from Tim Skubick.
Tim Skubick: (44:30)
Governor, if the lawmakers go home without doing anything, one, do you have the power to call them back in a special session? And two, would you?
Governor Whitmer: (44:39)
I don’t have a definitive answer to either of those questions, but I appreciate you’re asking them. I hope that they will take some action before they leave for a holiday break. It’s a tough, tough year, and this month with COVID as spread as it is far and wide across our state and our nation is of course complicating an already hard year for small business, and most importantly, for people. We’ve lost over 10,000 people in Michigan. We’ve lost 2000 in the last three weeks. This is a really crucial time that people need some help. I stand ready to sign a bill that gives them that help, but I can’t send it to myself. It’s on the legislature to get it done, and it is my fervent hope that they do that before they take a break. Thank you.
Speaker 2: (45:40)
All right. Thank you, Governor. Thank you, everybody.