Mar 10, 2021
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer COVID-19 Press Conference Transcript March 10
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s March 10, 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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Gretchen Whitmer: (00:25)
Good afternoon. Today, March 10th is the one year anniversary of Michigan’s first diagnosed cases of COVID-19. To kick things off. Dr. [Jay 00:00:35] and I are going to provide a brief update on our response to COVID-19. Then I want to take some time to speak about Michiganders, who exemplify the incredible grit and grace throughout this last year. Talk about the friends and families that we’ve lost, and how in times of darkness we’ve managed to be one another’s light. To date we’ve administered 2 million, 689,248 vaccines to Michiganders of all races making us 10th nationwide. I’m proud of the progress we are making the equitably vaccinate, Michiganders, and confident we will reach our goal of administering shots to 70% of people, ages 16 and up.
Gretchen Whitmer: (01:20)
The Biden administration’s recent announcement that we will have enough doses for 300 million Americans by the end of May is nothing short of a miracle. With three safe, effective vaccines, and more on the way we’re going to get through this together. Michigan will continue following the science, leading with data and listening to the experts as we make decisions on further re-engagement. Here now is Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Dr. Jay to provide an update from MDHHS on the variants and metrics that they are tracking. Dr. Jay.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (02:01)
Thank you and good afternoon. So a year ago today, I stood with Governor Whitmer and announced that Michigan had identified the first cases of COVID-19 in the state. At the time I knew the days ahead would be difficult, but I don’t think anyone could ever imagine just how challenging it would be. The virus has ravaged our communities exposed the atrocities of health inequities and completely disrupted just about every aspect of our daily lives. And has taken far too many people from us over 15,600 Michiganders have lost their lives to this terrible virus. But fighting this virus is not about graphs, and numbers, and percentages. Fighting this virus has been about real people’s lives. People’s parents, sons, daughters, and friends.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (02:55)
As an ER doctor, I’ve seen the scared look on a patient’s face when they’re struggling to breathe because COVID is attacking their lungs. I’ve seen my colleagues in the emergency department fall ill. My heart has sunk when I’ve learned of colleagues across the country who have lost their lives to this virus. This year has been hard, but I’m also very proud. The silver lining in this pandemic is that so many strong partnerships have developed across multiple sectors, government, business, academia, and healthcare, to fight this pandemic back. We’ve realized that the best way to beat this virus is to work together, and that has benefited all of us and saved lives.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (03:45)
I also want to give a special thanks to the dedicated staff at MDHHS, across every administration who have done so much over the past year to support Michigan families. I want to especially thank my state and local public health colleagues, the lab experts who have made sure we have testing available in the state, the epidemiologist who track cases and outbreaks and make sure we understand the data on how this virus is spreading. The army of case investigators and contact tracers in our local and state health departments. The emergency preparedness teams who have been making sure hospitals and others have the PPE and the equipment they need. The immunizations team who are tracking, coordinating, and administering vaccines so we can bring an end to this pandemic. Of course our local public health officers who have led this response on the front lines, in their communities since day one. I’m so proud to be a part of the public health community in Michigan. We are truly world-class.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (04:58)
We are a year into fighting this virus, but we are not yet done. The virus is still very present across the state. Here’s where we are on the key metrics that we are tracking. So statewide test positivity has actually increased to 4.1% up from 3.4%, three and a half weeks ago. The case rate is now at 114 cases per million, and has also increased over the past three weeks. We are also starting to see a slight increase in our hospitalizations, and a little over 4% of inpatient beds are you being used to take care of patients who have COVID-19. We are also identifying more and more of the new variants. We’ve already identified over 500 cases of the more easily transmitted B117 variant. Two days ago, we identified the first known case of a person who was infected by the B1351 variant. If these new variants become more prevalent, we risk have any rapid rise in new cases, hospitalizations and deaths. So we’re starting to see a slight reversal in some of the progress that we’ve made over the past couple of months, but that just means we have to double down on what we know works and what we’ve been doing for the past year. Wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, avoid large gatherings, and get a vaccine when it is your turn. So we continue as the governor said to make progress in vaccinating, 70% of our population, age 16 and up as quickly as possible. In total more than 2.7 million doses of the three safe, effective vaccines have been administered. About 21% of people over the age of 16 have had at least one dose of the vaccine and we are getting more and more vaccines into the state every week. Because of that, we’ve been able to expand eligibility to people over the age of 50, with underlying conditions and disabilities. Soon we will be able to vaccinate anyone over the age of 50.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (07:14)
This week, we were pleased to also provide additional vaccine allotments to more than 20 partnerships across the state. These partnerships between providers and community organizations, including hospitals, local health departments, health centers, community-based organizations, and faith leaders will bring vaccines into neighborhoods and to those who are the most vulnerable, including home-bound and older residents. As we get more vaccines into the state, we will be seeking to expand eligibility even more. We want everyone who wants a vaccine to be able to get one as quickly as possible. We want to do it equitably, removing barriers to access, and protecting our most vulnerable. These vaccines are the-
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (08:03)
… are most vulnerable. These vaccines are the way we’ll be able to do more of the things we want to do, just like before the pandemic started. This week, in fact, the CDC came out with updated guidance on what people who have been vaccinated can do. So people who are fully vaccinated, and this means two weeks after their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or two weeks after your single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you can do more activities. This includes gathering, without mask on, with other fully vaccinated people. And you can gather with one other unvaccinated household as long as no one in that household is at risk of severe illness due to COVID-19. So the more people that get vaccinated and the quicker we do it, the safer we will all be. That means if we want our kids in school and to stay in school, if we want to do more activities without masks, if we want our businesses to reopen more and stay open, getting vaccinated is the path forward.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (09:09)
As Michiganders, we have shown what we are made of, and we have shown how much we care about each other. Michiganders have by and large followed public health recommendations: wearing masks, washing hands, and avoiding gatherings. And because of the work we have done together, we have fared much better than a lot of other states, bringing down our curve last spring, and again, this past fall. So people in Michigan know what to do to fight this virus back. And while our battle is not yet over, we have the tools we need to bring this pandemic to an end as quickly as possible. So let’s keep fighting this virus together. And with that, I’ll turn it back over to Governor Whitmer.
Gretchen Whitmer: (09:56)
Thank you, Dr. J. The people of Michigan and I are incredibly grateful for your leadership. Stacy, we’re grateful for all of the help to make sure that we make this accessible for people across our state. I’d like to speak directly to all of you now, and thank you for tuning in. Today is the one year moment that we recognize. It’s a somber day. A year ago on March 10th, Michigan detected our first cases of COVID-19. The year since has been equal parts historic and heartbreaking with our fair share of horrors and heroism. We’ve experienced a lot together: a recession, a flood, a racial reckoning, and an election. Each of these events alone would make for an extraordinary year. But these defining moments all happened against the omnipresent backdrop of a global pandemic that was sweeping the world.
Gretchen Whitmer: (10:57)
It’s hard to overstate, just how much we’ve all been through together since March, 2020. But I think we should go back. In early 2020, we all heard reports of a new virus spreading on the other side of the world, but we knew next to nothing about it. The US had our first case on January 21st in Washington state. Then in a matter of weeks, the virus spread worldwide surpassing 100,000 cases on March 7th. In Michigan, we took proactive action in February to activate the Community Health Emergency Coordination Center on the 3rd, and the State Emergency Operation Center on the 28th. So we wanted to be ready no matter what was coming. Nearly every day in March made headline news.
Gretchen Whitmer: (11:49)
I’ll never forget the night when I got the call that Michigan had identified our first cases of COVID-19. That was March 10th, 2020. We were voting in the presidential primary that day. The next day, on the 11th, the WHO declared it a global pandemic. By the 13th, it was declared a national American emergency. On the 23rd, I issued the stay home stay safe order. On the 27th, the first federal relief package was passed. During this time, our hospitals were filling up and we are running out of PPE. There were also shortages of essential household supplies, lines at grocery stores, and confusion about how to stay safe from this invisible threat. A heavy silence set in all across Michigan in the United States.
Gretchen Whitmer: (12:44)
But we had a job to do. As every aspect of daily life changed, we have to quickly and decisively follow the science and listen to the experts to save lives. We had incredible leadership from our Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist and Michigan’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, to our team at MDHHS, to the local public health departments, to our hospital systems statewide, to all of the people who stayed on the frontline. In the face of immense challenges, families, communities, and small businesses banded together as they always have. Essential healthcare and frontline workers continued to do their work heroically, helping the rest of us keep our lights on, our fridges full and our families healthy. Community stepped up and there were acts of heroic selflessness on every street.
Gretchen Whitmer: (13:41)
Even as a deadly virus was keeping us apart, we pulled together in remarkable ways. Today, I’ll share a few stories of Michiganders who went above and beyond. These are stories of love and loss, toughness and togetherness, grit and grace. The stories of exemplary Michiganders who embody what our state is all about. I share these stories as inspiration today and want to thank the people who shared them for taking time out of their busy days to talk to my team. Let’s start with Chris and her husband, Jason. They’re the owners of Brewery Vivant based in Grand Rapids.
Gretchen Whitmer: (14:24)
In March, 2020, when the pandemic began, Chris was shocked and concerned about all of the unknowns, just like the rest of us. She and her husband were worried about their incredible staff and wanted to make sure they’d be safe. Early on they’d received PPP loans, which helped them and several other hospitality businesses stay afloat. This pandemic has been particularly hard on place-based businesses like restaurants and bars. Small businesses like Chris’s are the lifeblood of our economy in our communities. Chris and Jason pitched in and they served on our state level COVID work group, along with other hospitality industry leaders from all across Michigan to help us work through what a safe, effective reopening would look like.
Gretchen Whitmer: (15:15)
It was important that we had voices representing a variety of small businesses around the table so that they could inform our reopening efforts. As we flatten the curve and took steps to reopen, Brewery Vivant worked hard to keep their employees and guests safe. They utilized the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s ambassador program, which sends a consultant free of charge to help small businesses retool to continue serving customers, minimize spread, and keep their employees safe. Brewery Vivant also used COVID safety grants from the state, which they used to help set up air filters and purifiers. They also teamed up with other hospitality owners to launch the Michigan restaurant…
Gretchen Whitmer: (16:03)
… other hospitality owners to launch the Michigan restaurant premise. A group committed to upholding public health guidelines on the West side of our state. The group knew that the guidelines set forth by state and local health departments are precautions that allow for safe reopenings when utilized correctly. They understood that consumer confidence and employee safety were crucial in reopening. Chris also knows that if you want to do things well, information is out there. She and her husband are dedicated to keeping their employees safe and the beer flowing. Before March 2020, Chris and Jason had set up multiple 20 foot long tables all across their pub. At these tables, romances sparked, colorful conversations flowed, and folks who sat down as strangers, often left as friends. During the pandemic these tables had to look different because of public health guidelines like social distancing that Brewery Vivant are following to save lives.
Gretchen Whitmer: (17:02)
As vaccine distribution continues ramping up, I know that eventually these tables will be packed again. Chris and Jason, I look forward to grabbing a pothole stout with you soon. Our next story is about Carolyn. Carolyn is a nurse’s assistant in Westland, Michigan. Carolyn has been in her field for over 25 years. She loves taking care of people and seeing them get better. She becomes a part of their family. This past year has been stressful and overwhelming, but Carolyn has showed up every morning, waking up the residents of Four Seasons Nursing Home, checking their vitals, making sure they’re masked up and monitoring their health. We’ve always led with science and data and recently we were able to permit visitations at nursing homes for family members with testing. Carolyn said that day felt like Christmas, and I’m so glad we were able to take this step while continuing to prioritize public health. Carolyn and so many other frontline workers are heroes, which is why it was important that we give direct care workers a $2 an hour increase.
Gretchen Whitmer: (18:11)
In my latest budget, I proposed making this wage increase permanent. Carolyn’s also a proud member of the SIEU and has been on the forefront of organizing efforts for better wages, healthcare and other benefits. Now, she’s thinking about her future. She plans on going back to school, thanks to Futures for Frontliners the program that we launched to provide free tuition to essential workers at community colleges or high school completion graduation programs. I’m proud of this program and the Michigan Reconnect both of which are making education accessible for people who otherwise couldn’t afford it. Carolyn wants to pursue a career in either HR or nursing and Futures for Frontliners will put her on a path to a better paying job. Carolyn, thank you for everything that you do. Now, let’s turn to Todd Black. Mr. Black teaches seventh grade science at Warren Woods Middle School in Macomb County.
Gretchen Whitmer: (19:14)
Ironically, Mr. Black was at a conference learning about using technology to enhance instruction when the conference was suspended and everyone was sent home. According to Mr. Black, the news shocked everyone and created an eerie environment. His thoughts turned to his students. How would they transition to remote learning? How could he keep them engaged in their learning? Mr. Black says that we’ve all been learning since the day we were born. Every time we fall down and get back up, and this time was no different. Like so many incredible educators across the state, Mr. Black adjusted. There was a lot of change, but students, staff, parents, and organizations like the MEA and AFT worked together to keep the wheels turning. Teachers went above and beyond finding creative ways to keep kids engaged and Mr. Black is a great example. On campus, he oversees the weekly student news show.
Gretchen Whitmer: (20:16)
After Warren Woods went remote, the show was off temporarily. But the students in the news club were eager to get back to their critical first amendment work. So Warren Woods Middle School News went digital, continuing its weekly broadcast over the past year thanks to the students who stepped up in really inspiring ways. Today I’m told that an eighth grader named Kendall runs the show. She encourages her peers to pitch stories and keep them on task, sometimes gently pushing Mr. Black out of meetings as she delivers her weekly PowerPoint. Mr. Black, sounds like she’s given you a run for your money. To the students at Warren Woods, I’d make sure to watch this week’s news broadcast. You might see a familiar. The motto at Warren Woods Middle School is we make it happen together. Schools across Michigan have been making it happen all year, and I’m proud that we were able to make the largest K-12 investment in state history last year without raising taxes. I’m committed to getting our kids back in school safely to addressing the COVID learning loss.
Gretchen Whitmer: (21:23)
Thanks to exemplary educators like Mr. Black and stellar students like Kendall, Michigan will make it happen together too. Our final story is about the Latresa, a college administrator, motivational speaker and author from Detroit. Latresa’s story is about love heartbreak and grace. And it starts with a Facebook message in March of 2018 sent to her by Vincent, a minister of music from Columbia, South Carolina. Vincent told Latresa and he wanted to get to know the woman behind the smile. Latresa thought, not a bad line, but she told him he wasn’t her type. Vincent was undeterred and he asked for a chance to prove her wrong. They soon struck up a romance, FaceTiming often and flying to visit each other. A year and a half later, they got married. Their wedding theme was Wonderland and they sent out invitations on scrolls with wax seals. Latresa’s nephews served as ring bearers and dressed up as Roman guards.
Gretchen Whitmer: (22:31)
Vincent made a bet with Latresa’s sister that he wouldn’t cry, he lost. After just a few months together, the newlywed couple’s life and the world changed forever. In March, 2020, Vincent got sick with COVID-19 and he was hospitalized. Eventually he was put on a ventilator. On April 2nd, Vincent passed away. Latresa said goodbye to the love of her life on his doctor’s phone. She went from planning their life together to figuring out how to fly his body home to his mother for burial in South Carolina. In the days and weeks following, Latresa showed incredible courage and vulnerability, sharing her story on social media and television. She urged Michiganders to follow public health guidelines because she knew just how serious COVID-19 was. She knew our public health measures would save lives.
Gretchen Whitmer: (23:29)
She knew that we needed leadership that would make the tough calls and encourage people to step up for one another. Both Latresa and Vincent were elders in their respective churches. And during this pandemic, she lives by the words in Philippians chapter 2, verse 3, let nothing be done from selfishness or empty conceit, but with the humility esteem others better than yourselves. These wise words, we should all heed. We need to continue masking up and social distancing and washing our hands.
Gretchen Whitmer: (24:03)
… continue masking up and social distancing and washing our hands, because it’s about everyone’s safety, not just our own. Every day, 10 million Michiganders make decisions that determine our collective future. As [Latresa 00:24:14] wisely pointed out, it’s not about one of us, it’s about all of us. Today she’s working on her next book titled, Hurt, but Grateful. Latresa explained the title in a poetic way, she’s hurt to have lost Vincent, but grateful to have known that kind of love. Latresa, I’m so sorry for your loss, and I’m an awe of your strength and looking forward to reading your book.
Gretchen Whitmer: (24:40)
I’m honored to share just a few of these stories from our fellow Michiganders, from Chris, to Carolyn, Todd, and Latresa, thank you. And to every Michigander, thank you. We have been through a lot, but I know our best days are ahead of us. We’re making good progress toward our goal of equitably vaccinating 70% of Michiganders ages 16 and up. There’s still work to be done.
Gretchen Whitmer: (25:06)
I’m grateful for President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which will invest in the American people and allow us to rebuild our economy and ramp up our vaccination efforts. I stand ready to work across the aisle to get things done for Michigan’s families and small businesses as we work to pass a budget and spend the federal relief dollars headed our way.
Gretchen Whitmer: (25:28)
Now, to remember those we have lost I have a request, tonight from eight to nine, I asked Michiganders to turn on your porch lights, to light up our streets in memory of those we have lost. We have to remind ourselves, in times of darkness the light we seek resides in one another. In Michigan, we show up for one another. When Ohio needed PPE, we got it for them. When California needed help fighting wildfires, we helped. When Wisconsin needed help to keep people safe, we helped there too. When neighbors, friends or families need a hand, Michiganders always have one to give. It’s who we are, we get through tough times together. And as I’ve said before, tough times don’t last, but tough people do. We in Michigan have been tested and we are tough. Together, I know we’ll beat this damn virus and rebuild our economy and our communities back stronger than ever before. And now to close, I’d like to play a brief video to remember those we have lost over the course of this last year.
Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II : (26:43)
Today marks one year.
Gretchen Whitmer: (26:50)
One year since the first cases of COVID-19 were identified here in Michigan.
Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II : (26:56)
To put it simply, one year ago our world changed.
Gretchen Whitmer: (26:59)
To put it simply, one year ago our world changed forever.
Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II : (27:01)
Today, I am at the Fox Theatre in Downtown Detroit. This theater is part of Detroit and American history, the greatest stories in the world have been told here. I’m here to shine a light on our collective opportunity to build a bright future in the name of those to whom we have said goodbye.
Gretchen Whitmer: (27:20)
I’m here at the Breslin Center at my alma mater, Michigan State. I loved coming here to watch games as a student, this place would be packed with 16,000 fans. Sons and daughters, moms and dads, neighbors and friends, all cheering their hearts out. Over the past year, more than 16,000 people, the number it would take to fill this space, have left us. We’ve lost an arena’s worth of Michiganders. Our loss has left a hole in our state and left temples of togetherness, like the Breslin Center empty.
Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II : (27:53)
But during these challenging times, the words of an elected official may not feel worthy of speaking to the heartbreak that people are feeling, especially after such divisiveness and hate have occupied headlines every day. And a historic flood, devastated homes and communities, all while COVID-19 continues to plague our nation. Words may not be enough to express the deep sorrow that weighs so heavily on the hearts and minds of so many families across our state. That is why today, I am not talking with you as just the Lieutenant Governor of Michigan, I am speaking as a husband, father of three beautiful children and as a fellow Michigander. I have personally lost 27 people to COVID-19, 27 extraordinary people who came into and changed my life. People who I miss daily and deeply, coaches, cousins, and colleagues, church family members, friends and mentors. Through each passing moment, their memories linger and persist like background music just loud enough to hear. Reverend Green’s genuine smile, Mrs. Perryman’s warm voice, Coach Martin’s automatic jump shot, Sheriff Napoleon’s big heart.
Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II : (29:10)
For every goodbye, there’s a keepsake that we will never lose and will propel us forward. Yes, COVID-19 has changed almost every aspect of our lives, but despite its darkness, we have seen the brightest light shine in the determined resolve of our neighbors during these trying times.
Gretchen Whitmer: (29:30)
We’ve made tough decisions guided by science and data to save lives, support our communities and small businesses, stand by our first responders and essential workers. Now we have three safe, effective vaccines, all miracles of science that will help protect you, your family and others from COVID and help us get the country and the economy back to normal. And it’s a proud moment for our state, with two of the vaccines being made right here in Michigan. And Michigan workers, we continue to follow public health protocols to minimize and mitigate the spread. And as vaccinations ramp up nationwide, we can see the light at the end of this tunnel.
Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist II : (30:13)
We saw nurses come out of retirement to help hospitals when the surge was at an all time high. We saw Michigan companies step up and completely retool their setups to produce PPE and hand sanitizer for our frontline heroes. We saw the best in one another. We dug deep to bring forward the part of ourselves that strives to be the best in true times of crisis, to embrace the irony that the social distancing we have practiced to stay safe, has magnified the power and primacy of our connections. This stage has given audience to many of the world’s greatest storytellers and performers, vessels for the evolution of our culture. As we look to the future, we will honor our sisters, brothers, and neighbors by continuing their legacy through the culture we create, the inventions we imagined and the love we share.
Gretchen Whitmer: (31:10)
Now we’re in the second half of our fight against the virus, and we’re all on the same team. We’re united against this virus, it’s MSU and your [inaudible 00:31:21] against COVID. Yoopers and Downstaters against COVID. Republicans and Democrats against COVID. Three safe, effective vaccines against COVID. America against COVID, we’re all in this together.