Dec 7, 2020

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript December 7

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript December 7
RevBlogTranscriptsPress Conference TranscriptsMichigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript December 7

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s December 7 coronavirus press conference. She extended the pause order for two more weeks. Read the full transcript of her COVID-19 news briefing speech here.

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (02:33)
Good afternoon. Today is Monday, December 7th. Thank you for joining us. I am joined, of course, with Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, our Chief Medical Executive, and Robert Gordon, the Director of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (02:48)
Three weeks ago, we asked Michiganders to do their part to bring down the rapidly escalating cases that were threatening our hospitals and our communities. The policies that we put in place are fact-based, they follow the recommendations of medical experts from across the country and they’re targeted and temporary, and they are steps that the experts are telling us we need to take to avoid hospitals that are overwhelmed and death counts like we saw in the spring.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (03:22)
We’ve got to join forces if we want to eradicate this virus together. To our small business owners, I want you to know, I understand the incredible sacrifices that you’ve made this year in order for us to help save people’s lives and I appreciate you. We’ve made progress during this three week pause, cases and mobility have started to level off, but there is more work we need to do to protect one another.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (03:55)
A month ago, we were worried and we warned that on the trajectory we were on, we could see a hundred deaths a day by Christmas. That was what we were worried about. Here we are a few weeks before Christmas, and we are already sadly above that mark. And that means our progress is fragile and we cannot let up yet.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (04:21)
We have not yet seen the full impact of activities around Thanksgiving on our cases and hospitalizations, and we’re very worried that they could be significant impacts. National experts that we have consulted have told us our numbers are likely to go up between two to three weeks post Thanksgiving. So we need to see some more numbers.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (04:47)
This Thursday marks 14 days since Thanksgiving, and we will likely start to see the impact then. We need more time to measure the numbers and ensure that our trend helps our hospitals so that they can stabilize. Right now, 79% of all hospitals beds are occupied. The hospital capacity issue that we are dealing with right now is different than it was in the spring, because in the spring, different parts of our state had different COVID numbers.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (05:24)
Patients could be transferred from one area that had higher COVID numbers to an area that had lower COVID numbers. We could ask for staff to come in and help in places that were being overwhelmed. We could ask people from other states to come into Michigan and help. Unfortunately, that is not the case right now because hospitals across Michigan are all filling up.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (05:51)
Hospitals across the country are all filling up and staffing capabilities everywhere are very limited, more and more of our frontline health workers, our doctors, and our nurses, our first responders who we rely on every day to protect us, they’re getting sick. They’re unable to come into work because of this rapid spread of COVID-19 in all of our communities.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (06:19)
We cannot risk overwhelming our hospitals further, and that’s why our hospital systems implored the Department of Health and Human Services to extend the pause, and so we are going to give it 12 more days. Director Gordon will have more to say on this in a moment.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (06:36)
We are also laying out a pathway to stay on in this moment, our pathway to cautious engagement at the end of those 12 days, assuming that our trajectory doesn’t get worse so you can know what to expect. Over the next 12 days, we will be looking at measurement like falling cases, per cent of COVID hospital beds that are available, questions like, is that number flat or is it falling? And whether or not we’ve got falling positive test rates. Dr. J will go into that with a little more detail in a moment. We won’t lift all of our protocols at once. We will do it in a measured way so we don’t undo the progress that we’ve made.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (07:26)
So with recent daily case counts averaging well above 6,000 a day, the daily death toll reaching over a hundred a day, and the risk of hospitals being overwhelmed, right now, we’ve got to join forces and double down on what it’s going to take to get these COVID numbers down. This may be the most difficult time in our whole struggle with COVID-19 since March, especially with the holidays approaching.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (07:59)
We are on the brink of incredible breakthroughs, incredible breakthroughs when it comes to vaccines. We are closer than ever to the day that we begin distributing an effective and safe vaccine, and we’ve got to all do our part to protect one another until we eliminate COVID-19 once and for all. It’s imperative that we protect one another by doing the things we know to do, wearing a mask, practicing social distancing so that we can return to a strong economy and normal day-to-day activities.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (08:40)
The epidemic order in place now is aimed at, one, limiting indoor gatherings. Two, gatherings that have people of different households, and gatherings where people come together without wearing masks. That’s just simply how COVID-19 transmits from one person to another.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (09:04)
The science here is settled, the best way we can protect our frontline workers and slow the spread of this virus is to double down on mask wearing, social distancing, and limiting indoor gatherings where people are most at risk of transmission.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (09:20)
Now there is overwhelming research and scientific data that says going to locations that offer on-site eating and drinking options is associated with COVID-19 positivity. There are studies after studies that show this, we will have a link to them on social media in case you’re interested in reading them. Adults with positive COVID tests were approximately twice as likely to have reported dining at a restaurant than those who were negative.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (09:54)
It’s not anyone’s fault. It’s not the restaurant’s fault. It’s not my fault. It’s not Dr. J’s fault or Director Gordon’s fault. This is how COVID-19 spreads. It’s just that simple. It’s the science of the virus, and that’s why we’ve got to limit indoor gatherings where people come together from different households, stay together and not wear their masks.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (10:23)
Now I want to speak to the Michigan Legislature. My administration has been working hard to fight this virus, but we can’t do it alone. This year, we have taken strong bipartisan action to get a number of things done for the people of Michigan. We passed two bipartisan budgets that include crucial funding for our state. We worked together to extend unemployment benefits until the end of next year. Now, we’ve got to partner to eradicate this virus and to protect those we serve.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (10:55)
Last month, I sent a letter to the legislature urging them to work with me on three key priorities during the few remaining session days that are left of 2020. Number one is passing a hundred million dollars of COVID relief funds that will provide direct financial support to the families and small businesses that have been hit hardest by this pandemic.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (11:20)
Also, passing a permanent extension of the unemployment benefits so thousands of Michiganders don’t lose their benefits at the end of this year, and passing legislation to protect public health, including bills to require that people wear masks.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (11:38)
This has got bipartisan support in the legislature. I think if we codified, it would go a long way toward encouraging greater compliance. So let’s join forces, let’s do it what we know works. Let’s help people get through this tough time. It will not last forever, but right now is a very serious moment.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (11:59)
While DHHS extends this pause, it is my hope that the legislature …

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (12:03)
… HHS extends this pause. It is my hope that the legislature and our federal government will help me develop the path to help the unemployed workers and the businesses who are struggling. This has been a long, tough fight, but let’s not forget our history. Our brave soldiers fought to keep the Union together during the Civil War. We came together in Detroit, Michigan, as the arsenal of democracy to defeat the Nazis, because we stood united against a common enemy. We made it through The Great Recession and the auto rescue. We can beat and eradicate COVID-19. We have flattened the curve once, we can do it again, and we must do it again together.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (12:54)
Before I hand it over to Dr. Khaldun, I want to end by discussing the recent threats against the Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, Representative Cynthia Johnson, and House Speaker Lee Chatfield. Yesterday, we learned that dozens of protestors gathered outside of Secretary Benson’s house, as she was finishing putting up Christmas decorations with her four-year-old son. Representative Cynthia Johnson shared voicemails containing death threats, after last week’s hearing with Rudy Giuliani, and Speaker Chatfield said that threats have been made against him and his family.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (13:36)
This is unacceptable. Threats against our elected officials or any office holder, no matter their party, are not acceptable. They are unlawful and they are unacceptable. Hate and violence have no place in Michigan. Secretary Benson has worked 24 hours, seven days a week to ensure a safe, fair election in Michigan. The people spoke, and it’s time to put the election behind us, and it’s time for us to come together against our common enemy, the virus known as COVID-19. I ask for people of goodwill, in all parts of our state, on all sides of the aisle, to come together. Let’s rise to this challenge and do it together, protecting one another, and getting through this all together. Thank you, and with that, I’ll hand it over to Dr. Khaldun.

Dr. Khaldun: (14:38)
Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon, everyone. While there are some signs that things may be improving, we are clearly still in the midst of our second surge of COVID-19 in Michigan. Our case rate is now at 522 cases per million people. It has been trending down in the past 16 days, but is still alarmingly high. We are more than seven times the rate we saw at the beginning of September. Case rates range between 428 cases per million in the Traverse City region, to 603 in the Jackson region.

Dr. Khaldun: (15:17)
Percent positivity is also one of the important measures that we look at. Percent positivity is important, because it tells us if we might be missing cases, and it is an indicator of how much community spread is happening. Right now, our percent positivity is 14.1%. That is more than four times where we were at the beginning of September. Positivity had been declining, but in the last week, it increased. Positivity ranges from 8.1% in the UP, to 16.1% in the Saginaw region. We will continue to track this, in determining how well we are containing the disease.

Dr. Khaldun: (16:02)
Overall, growth in hospitalizations has slowed over the past week. While it varies by region, about 19% of hospital beds have COVID-19 patients in them. We continue to work with our hospital systems to help them implement their surge plans. It’s important that our hospitals be able to take care of not just COVID patients, but non-COVID patients as well. Unfortunately, we are now seeing over 100 deaths a day on some days, more than seven times the number of deaths we saw in early October.

Dr. Khaldun: (16:38)
We know the way this virus works. Someone gets infected, then they have a positive test, and then hospitalizations rise, and after that, we know that some people will unfortunately lose their battle with COVID-19, and they will die. So each metric takes time for us to see as the virus spreads, and we know that some metrics will change sooner than others. We will continue to look at these metrics, as we track the spread of the virus in Michigan. I worked a shift in the critical care area of the ER this past weekend. I can tell you that this virus is real. People are still coming into ERs, even weeks after they have been diagnosed with complications from this virus. We need to take this seriously, and do what we can to prevent spread.

Dr. Khaldun: (17:35)
As I’ve said earlier, I am excited that vaccines are on the way. This is the most important tool we have to eradicate this virus, and end this pandemic. There are two vaccines that are currently moving through the approval process with the FDA, and we expect both of them to potentially be available as early as this month. The process for developing these vaccines is based on evidence and science, and no steps have been skipped. The vaccines will only be available when the data has been reviewed by expert scientists and doctors. There are currently over 280 locations across the state that have enrolled in the state’s vaccination program, and they are located all over the state. While the vaccine initially will only be available in limited doses, in the next several months, as more and more becomes available, eventually most adults will be able to get the vaccine. One of the most important things every adult should be doing right now, is planning for how they will get the vaccine when it becomes available to them, and you should know what to expect.

Dr. Khaldun: (18:48)
For the two vaccines that will be available potentially this month, you will need not just one, but two shots. This is necessary so that the vaccine is effective, and timing depends on which vaccine you get. The Pfizer vaccine requires you to get a second shot three weeks after the first, and the Moderna vaccine requires you to get one, four weeks after the first. You should also understand the way the vaccines work. They don’t actually give you the disease, they prepare your body so that it is ready to fight, if it comes into contact with the real virus. The mild response that you may get after getting a vaccine, things like a low grade fever, or a sore arm, or feeling a little tired, those are actually good signs. That means that the vaccine is working, and it means that your body is preparing to fight this virus off, if it comes into contact with it.

Dr. Khaldun: (19:49)
This is just the simple science of how vaccines work. I encourage everyone to know the facts about vaccines, and the process for how they are being developed, and please check our website frequently for more information. You can go to www.michigan.gov/COVIDvaccine. When a vaccine is approved, information about the specific vaccines will be available there as well.

Dr. Khaldun: (20:18)
Overall, I am very hopeful. While I’m concerned about our very high case rates, and our hospitalizations, and our positivity rates remain alarmingly high, we have the tools we need to fight this pandemic. Think about how you can play a role in ending the pandemic. Wear your mask now, so you can prevent the spread, and avoid indoor gatherings. Start planning for how you will get the vaccine, know what to expect, and let your friends and family members know where to get good information about vaccines. We are almost there. 2021 will be the year when Michigan beats back this pandemic, and we just have to stay the course. With that, I will turn it over to MDHHS Director, Robert Gordon.

Robert Gordon: (21:18)
Thank you, Dr. Khaldun, and good afternoon. As Governor Whitmer and Dr. Khaldun and have said, we’ve achieved some progress. We’re listening to our hospitals, and the progress is not enough to begin restarting, but it is enough to [inaudible 00:21:32] shorter renewal, and to see the consequences from Thanksgiving. I’m going to talk now about the improvements we’re looking for, why we’re looking for them, and what we’ll do if we see them. We’re looking for progress on three measures that Dr. Khaldun already discussed. Each does some work.

Robert Gordon: (21:52)
First, the percent of hospital beds filled with COVID patients. The higher that number, the less room for people who need care, and the more risk they won’t get quality care. We want to see that number flattening or coming down. As Dr. Khaldun said, we have seen that percentage flatten in the last week, and that’s good. We want to see continued progress. We’ll consult with Michigan hospital leaders, as we consider this metric.

Robert Gordon: (22:22)
Now to the second. There’s a lag between when people get infected and when they got hospitalized. If we only focus on hospitalizations staying flat, we may miss that COVID is growing. By the time hospitalizations are rising it can be too late to turn them around. So our second metric is to see the number of cases falling. That’s what they’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks. We want that trend to meaningfully continue. Fewer infections generally means fewer hospitalizations.

Robert Gordon: (22:58)
Now to the third metric. We want cases to go down, because there’s less COVID in the community. That’s what we want. But cases can also go down because there’s less testing. That’s not what we want. So we look at the percentage of cases that are positive. If that percentage is going down, it tells us we’re finding more of the COVID in the community, and that’s good. The positivity number is not declining right now, but we very much hope that it will.

Robert Gordon: (23:32)
So that’s what we’re looking for. Flat or declining hospitalizations, fewer cases, lower positivity. Let me be clear, there’s no formula. These numbers don’t capture some things that matter, like the age of people getting sick, or the mix of tests being measured. You don’t ask your doctor to judge your health by a formula, you don’t judge your family’s financial well-being by one formula. Michigan lives are too important.

Robert Gordon: (24:03)
… by one formula. Michigan lives are too important to use a faulty formula. But we will be reviewing these data and we will be transparent with the public about exactly what we are seeing. Now I want to talk about next steps if we do see enough progress. One thing we’ve learned is that progress against COVID is hard to earn and easy to lose. We need to reopen cautiously, not recklessly. So the first thing we look next to do is to give local communities the ability to reopen high schools because of their unique value for kids, for families, for our future. Among some small adjustments, today’s letter allows career and technical programs to resume in-person hands-on instruction under rigorous protocols required by MIOSHA. Now, this order, as Governor Whitmer explained, closes indoor settings where people gather without masks, notably indoor bars and dining, and where they gather in groups, including theaters, bowling alleys, casinos, group fitness. This is because of the settled science that COVID spreads most easily when individuals are indoors, in groups, and unmasked.

Robert Gordon: (25:19)
As we look to open further, the right next step is to open indoor venues that individuals can be in while still consistently masked. This means that in the next phase, we’ll open settings such as movie theaters, bowling alleys, and casinos provided that concessions with food and drink are closed. Concessions need to stay closed because if they’re open, individuals are eating and drinking unmasked together. The science on eating and drinking inside is settled. As Governor Whitmer said, there’s a lot of studies on this. And I’ll name just one recent one. While inside a restaurant, two people got COVID infections from an individual who was 15 to 20 feet away. In one case, for just five minutes. That finding [inaudible 00:26:08] study is finding a correlation between restaurant traffic and infection levels.

Robert Gordon: (26:13)
This is why the debate over one person at a hearing is a little bit beside the point. That hearing, like others, was an indoor gathering with unmasked individuals close to each other. Michigan now has hundreds of thousands of people with COVID. So apart from one person, there was a good chance that one or more people in that room had COVID. Whatever our politics, whatever the purpose, a long unmasked, indoor gathering risks lives and hurts the businesses that want to open safely. Please, if you’re inside with someone from outside your household, please always, always wear your mask. If progress continues, we will eagerly reopen venues beyond those I’ve described. We’re not ready to do that now, and it’s unlikely we’ll be ready to do some in 12 days. But we will do so as soon as we can.

Robert Gordon: (27:09)
Let me end with two more measures that aren’t official criteria for reopening, but that should matter a lot to all of us. The first is mobility. How much are people moving around? The less people who are in motion across households and into other households, the less we are going to see COVID continue to spread. This is a metric that’s been going in the right direction. And that’s a good thing for all of us in Michigan. And the final metric I want to mention, as the governor and Dr. Khaldun spoken about, is deaths. We have seen a surge in deaths. Each life lost is precious and irreplaceable. With the steps we are taking today and with the actions that all of us take, we can give thousands more Michiganders a chance to enjoy the next holiday season. For this holiday season, let’s mask up, let’s avoid indoor gatherings, and let’s give the gift of life. Thanks.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (28:11)
Thank you, Dr. Khaldun and Director Gordon. With that, I am happy to open it up for some questions. And certainly, Director Gordon and Dr. Khaldun are here as well and can answer questions directed to them. So feel free.

Speaker 1: (28:28)
Hi Governor. The first [inaudible 00:28:30].

Ray: (28:39)
Yes, did you call on me? I’m sorry. I couldn’t hear you.

Speaker 1: (28:41)
Yes, she did, Ray. Go ahead.

Ray: (28:42)
All right. Thank you. Governor, I’ve got 1000 things I want to talk to you about, but I’ll try to keep it to this. I just heard the doctor talking about that 12 days won’t be enough to reopen some of these things either. I mean, are we already to that point that we’re extending by 12 days, but this isn’t going to be enough to start opening some of these businesses again?

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (29:06)
I can certainly ask. Was it Dr. J or Director Gordon?

Ray: (29:11)
I’m sorry, the director. I’m sorry.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (29:14)
Okay. I believe what he was communicating was that if the numbers in these areas that he articulated are going down and in the judgment of our medical professionals, we can start to re-engage some things, we will do so. But that it will be in a methodical way, not just all in one fell swoop. Dr. Gordon, did I hit it? Okay. That’s what he was communicating. So appreciate the clarification, Ray.

Speaker 1: (29:44)
Okay, Governor. Your next question will come from Kathy Gray of the New York Times.

Kathy Gray: (29:50)
Good afternoon, Governor. I’m wondering when the logistics, the state plan for distributing the vaccines is going to be put out as far as who gets it, when they get it, that type of thing.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (30:06)
Yeah. I am going to let Dr. Khaldun answer that one, Kathy.

Dr. Khaldun: (30:13)
So yes, we are spending 24/7 these days working on our distribution plan, working with a lot of different stakeholders to determine when the vaccine comes, who’s going to get it, what hospitals are going to get it. So right now, there’s still a lot of things that are uncertain. We actually don’t know the actual amount that we will receive when a vaccine is approved. But I can tell you we now have, again, over 280 providers across the state who have already signed up to be a part of our vaccination program. We do know that in the beginning, again, according to what the CDC and other experts have already said, we will be prioritizing frontline healthcare workers. And we’re already working with hospitals and local health departments on that plan.

Speaker 1: (31:05)
Okay. The next question will come from Tim Skubick.

Tim Skubick: (31:07)
Governor, are there any signs that you are close to a deal with the legislature on the jobless benefits and the other issues, or have you had no talks at all, ma’am?

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (31:17)
And there’s nowhere in between, Tim? I have had a few conversations, I have talked with the speaker, I have chatted with Senator Stamas. We’ve raised it in our potter meeting last week. I know that there are a lot of conversations happening amongst the four caucuses as well. So I am hopeful that we can get it, at the very least, extended beyond the end of the calendar year. I would like to see it extended indefinitely. I think that the change that happened under my predecessor, I never agreed with that. And I would like to see that eliminated, the restrictions on unemployment. But regardless, we’ve got to get this extension beyond the end of this calendar year done so that on the first of the year, people aren’t absolutely struggling to just get by.

Speaker 1: (32:10)
Okay, Governor. [inaudible 00:08:16].

Speaker 2: (32:18)
Governor, we’re hearing from business owners who say the next three weeks typically are 20% to 30% of their income. What are you proposing to the legislature or to Congress for these business owners so that we don’t lose thousands and thousands of jobs?

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (32:34)
So I want to start with this. This has been a horrible year. I mean, it really has been a tough year for all of us. And businesses that are places where people come together inside from different households and remove their masks, like places where you or drink in particular, are uniquely at risk in this moment. And it’s not the restaurant’s fault, it’s not the bar’s fault, it’s not our fault. It’s just the nature of COVID-19. Now, we got a couple of tough months ahead of us. We know this because we’ve been listening to the experts. We know this because, at every step of the way, the epidemiologists, the public health experts, Dr. J, all of the team that are these brilliant minds around public health and epidemiology has been telling us this fall is going to be hard because it’s the convergence of flu season and coming inside when the weather plummets. We have been saying that this was going to be a trying time. And it is, it truly is as we see what’s going on with our hospitalizations and our medical workforce.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (33:44)
This is a tough moment. We’re going to have a couple of tough months. And then we’re going to see vaccines that are more and more available, and more and more people are going to get vaccinated. We got a lot of work to do on that space, but this is real progress that we are on the cusp of. But we can’t stop fighting in the next couple of months. We have got to get our numbers down and keep them down. And so we need to help these businesses. And that’s what I’m trying to do. I want to help the unemployed through an extension of unemployment and through $100 million here at the state level that I’ve asked the legislature to get done. It would go to unemployed persons, it would go to businesses that are struggling.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (34:31)
I also know that, having spoken with Speaker Pelosi last Friday, a number of my colleagues and I, fellow governors from the Midwest, talked with the Speaker. She indicated that conversations with Senator McConnell and the White House were productive. It is my hope, I mean, there’s no text yet for all of us to scrutinize, but it is my hope that they get something meaningful done that will help states and help locals, that will give us additional ability to help these businesses and these unemployed people. And that’s why we all have to be a part of the solution here. Individuals have to do our job to wear our masks, keep COVID from spreading. The federal government has a job to do, state government has a job to do. We’ve all got to be in this together. And we get through these next couple of months, we’re going to be in a much stronger position. But we got work to do right now. And that’s where we need more partnership from the Michigan legislature, from Congress, and from the people of Michigan.

Speaker 1: (35:39)
All right, we’ve got time for a few more. So the next question will come from [inaudible 00:35:44].

Eric: (35:47)
Good afternoon, Governor. I just wanted to ask, Kathy kind of took part of my question, but when we do get the vaccine, what is the timeline for when we will see the impact? Since we’ve been talking about 14 days since an event where we’ll see an impact, will it be more sudden than that?

Eric: (36:03)
… since an event where we’ll see an impact. Will it be more sudden than that? And then I also wanted to just touch on the hearing last week. We’ve been getting mixed signals from different health departments and the CDC. What should the people that were in that hearing room be doing?

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (36:15)
Okay. So Eric, both of these questions, I think are questions that Dr. J can shed some light on. I will just say this. Our job is to get prepared so that we can distribute and administer vaccines when they are available. They haven’t been approved yet, much less made available. Numbers of the vaccines that we anticipate may not end up being what we get, similar to PPE and testing as we’ve been dealing with for the last eight months.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (36:42)
But we’re going to be nimble and we’re going to be ready so when they come, we’re able to make sure that we’re getting people vaccinated. With regard to the timeline question, I’m going to ask Dr. J to answer. And then on the question of people that were at that hearing, she can as well. And I may add a few thoughts after she’s done on that one.

Dr. Khaldun: (37:04)
All right. So both good questions. So for the vaccine, what we know is that in the very beginning, we will have a very limited supply. And so unfortunately we will have to prioritize in the very beginning. Again, early on. Frontline healthcare workers and then we’ll expand out to those who are more vulnerable.

Dr. Khaldun: (37:22)
And then we hope, again we hope, that by late spring, the vaccine will be available for the general public. But what that means is that it will take some time for everyone to get that vaccine. And we do hope that people are learning more and more about it every day, looking at our website, as I said.

Dr. Khaldun: (37:39)
We will likely be well into the second half of 2021 before we really start seeing a significant impact. But let me tell you, there’s two things people can know, just wear your mask, wash your hands.

Dr. Khaldun: (37:52)
And then when it’s your turn to get your vaccine, please start thinking now about how you can get it. Because even if one person is immune, that’s one less person who gets the virus.

Dr. Khaldun: (38:03)
When it comes to a hearing, and I did connect with Linda Vail, the Ingham County Health Officer. Based on very clear CDC guidelines and what we have seen, at least from media reports about when Mr. Giuliani may have come down with symptoms or when he may have been tested, essentially people who were at that hearing on December 2nd, they should be quarantining through December 12th. That is 10 days after their last contact with him, particularly people who were within six feet of Mr. Giuliani. So that is again, based on CDC guidance.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (38:46)
The only thing that I would add is that hearing last week was reckless and it was unnecessary. It didn’t change a thing. And yet it brought all of these people into a room, many of whom did not wear masks. They were there for over four hours and enclosed.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (39:08)
This is exactly what we’re talking about when we highlight the different ingredients for a super, potential super spreader event. And it did no good for our State. It didn’t change any outcomes. It didn’t shed any light on anything. It was just simply reckless. And it is actions like this that threaten our ability to open up some of these businesses.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (39:36)
When people aren’t doing what they can do and need to do to keep others safe and to keep COVID down. That’s what undermines all of the work we’re trying to do to protect our hospitals and our healthcare workers and our families and our businesses.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (39:49)
If everyone takes this seriously and does their part, we’re going to be in a much stronger position, we’re going to be in a better position to re-engage some things, but right now is a precarious moment, and it was a reckless thing to do last week.

Speaker 3: (40:06)
Okay, Governor, the next question will come from Emily with MLive.

Emily: (40:11)
Hi, Governor. You spoke about gradually reopening some of these industries when the restrictions do listen, it sounds like, or do lessen. It sounds like restaurants might be on the back end of that.

Emily: (40:23)
I’m wondering where high school sports fall? And if there is any hope that some of those falls sports can finish their seasons?

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (40:32)
Well, I may hand this over to Director Gordon, but prior to doing so I, as a parent of a high schooler, I believe, and as the Governor of Michigan, I believe, that our first priority should be getting students back in the classroom safely. That, I believe is paramount, but I will hand it over to Director Gordon to talk a little bit more about how that re-engagement might look.

Robert Gordon: (41:03)
Just to add to what the Governor said, the first priority is reopening high schools for education and sustaining that. I think when it comes to sports, there’s a range of risk levels. And so at one end you have kids’ individual activities that are outdoors and where people are spaced out. On another level, you have contact sports outdoors, and another level you have indoor contact sports.

Robert Gordon: (41:32)
And as you go through those levels, the level of risk increases, and we have to think carefully about moving through them. So I will just leave it where the Governor did, that our first priority, and also at lower risk than a lot of those activities, is getting the schools open for education.

Speaker 3: (41:57)
Okay, Governor, the last question will come from Ben with HOMTV.

Ben: (42:01)
Hello, Governor. First question, I just wanted to ask, this goes for 12 more days, but Christmas is, I believe, six days after that. And that’s usually a time where more people are moving around and going to visit family members.

Ben: (42:20)
So if you decide to re-engage slowly, would you really be taking into account that Christmas and New Years are coming? And I’m also just curious as to where colleges fall on that re-engagement list.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (42:37)
Okay. Let me say something first and just be very clear about this. No matter what we show in the next 12 days, I am discouraging people from gathering for Christmas. It doesn’t mean we cancel Christmas. It means we celebrate in a responsible way, and we make our plan now to do that. If our numbers come down a good amount, it still doesn’t mean that COVID is gone by Christmas. And so in order to make sure that next year’s celebration can be like last year’s where we have everyone together, this year’s has to be smart. This year’s has to be celebrating at home with the people with whom you live, and taking efforts to stay connected to your family in other ways.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (43:28)
So regardless of when the 12 days, what we see, that remains. That remains the safest thing to do is to celebrate Christmas apart and find different ways to be together in spirit and emotionally connected. That’s important.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (43:46)
I don’t want to anyone to think that I minimize that that is, that that’s hard to do, but it’s absolutely essential this year that we, that we do that.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (43:57)
With regard to additional activities that could, I think, be engaged in 12 days depending on what the numbers are, I know that Director Gordon articulated what those are. I think that we will have to look at this as incremental. Simply the re-engagement, like how we did in the spring.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (44:18)
When we did it that way, we kept from having… I talked about it being more of a dial than a switch you turn on and off. That’s how we kept our numbers from growing exponentially when we’ve re-engaged. That’s what we need to do now, again, as we contemplate doing more things that we’re not doing right now.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (44:38)
I think it’s important for people to know we are seeing a lot of states and countries go into stay-at-home orders. We are not in one. We’ve pulled back on some things to try to get these numbers down. Things that we know are inherently more risky, but we are not in a stay-at-home order.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (44:56)
We still, by and large, can conduct a lot of our lives the way that we’re used to doing it. We’re just trying to be really targeted and temporary to get our arms around the spread of COVID to keep people safe and to support our businesses, to keep these numbers from growing so big that we have to take more steps back.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (45:16)
So please everyone, do your part. Make your plans. Know that this spring, there is so much hope on the horizon, but let’s hunker down for the next weeks and months, get through this and get through it together.

Speaker 3: (45:36)
Thank you, Governor.