Apr 15, 2020

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Press Conference Transcript April 15

Gretchen Whitmer Michigan April 15
RevBlogTranscriptsPolitical TranscriptsMichigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Press Conference Transcript April 15

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer held an April 15 press briefing on COVID-19. Whitmer stood by her stay-at-home order despite protests in the state. Read the full transcript here.

 

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Gretchen Whitmer: (00:00)
Good afternoon. This is Wednesday, April 15th. I am in the Romney building and Lansing joined by Dr Joneigh Khaldun, our chief medical executive. Wanted to give an update of where things are.

Gretchen Whitmer: (00:13)
I want to take a moment to acknowledge everyone who has stepped up and shared their stories. It’s been incredibly challenging time, but also there are some phenomenal people that are going to work doing the hard work every single day. I’ve heard from nurses and first responders, educators, grocery store workers, childcare workers from all across the state of Michigan, and they’re on the front lines every single day helping us get through this crisis. Every time I speak to them, I feel the impact this virus has had on them and their families.

Gretchen Whitmer: (00:52)
A staff member of mine has a family member who is a nurse and at the end of his long shifts, he’ll often stay in the garage and cry before going into the house. Another friend of mine has multiple sclerosis and a compromised immune system. She has been in her apartment for five weeks. We’ve all missed birthdays and celebrations, whether they were weddings or holidays with our family and friends. Incredible sacrifice has been made by the people of Michigan and it’s really paying off. These are hard times, but we are going to get through this together.

Gretchen Whitmer: (01:33)
I know that there are many who are struggling with their mental health right now. People are lonely and isolated and frustrated, and would give anything to return back to normal, and I have to tell you I would too. We’re going to get there. It’s going to take some time. It won’t all happen overnight, but we will get there. We are smart, we do what we need to do and everyone plays their part. We have to mitigate risk and so while we will be reunited with our friends and loved ones again, it’s important that we continue to double down on our efforts today.

Gretchen Whitmer: (02:12)
For those of you who held your Easter brunch or your Passover, your Seder dinner over Zoom instead of being in person, thank you for doing your part. For every teacher who’s instructing your students online, thank you for doing your part. For every grocery store clerk who is working incredibly long hours so that special hours can be available for our older Michiganders, thank you for going above and beyond and doing your part. And for every healthcare provider who’s putting their own lives on the line to save others, thank you for doing your part.

Gretchen Whitmer: (02:52)
This is a hard time, but the good news is that the vast majority of people in our state are doing the right and it’s pushing the curve down. It’s working, saving lives. Yesterday, I went to Novi to inspect Suburban Showplace alternate care site. I want to thank the owners of Suburban. I want to thank Ascension Health System. I want to thank the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Army Corps, the National Guard, the Department of Health and Human Services and FEMA.

Gretchen Whitmer: (03:31)
Something remarkable happened while we were there and the head of region five, our person that we work with so often from FEMA acknowledged that the build out of Suburban Showplace, which is originally slated to be 1000 bed facility, is now a 250 bed facility. Will have the capacity to increase that if it’s necessary, but because of this stay home order, it might not be, and so we’re only building it out for 250 at this time. He also showed me his phone, a text from someone in another state asking how they can replicate what is happening here in Michigan. People are taking notice. We’re working incredibly hard and well with our partners at the federal level.

Gretchen Whitmer: (04:17)
So today’s update with regard to the number of positive cases that have been reported is 28,095. In those numbers are also 1,921 deaths. We must continue to stay home whenever we can so we can protect our families.

Gretchen Whitmer: (04:39)
Yesterday, the president met with a number of people who have recovered from COVID-19. One of them was a man from Northern Michigan, Mark Campbell, who was telling the president how he believes he caught the virus. He was explaining that he and his family decided to go up north and go skiing, which seemed like a safe activity because very few people were traveling or going north, and no one was around. He told the president quote, “The only thing I can think of that was out of the ordinary is that I touched a gasoline pump handle.” I share that story because what we know is that COBIT 19 can live on a stainless steel surface for 72 hours. Think about how many people touch a gas pump handle in the span of three days and that’s why we don’t want anyone on the road who doesn’t have to be there.

Gretchen Whitmer: (05:41)
A couple of weeks ago, I’m going to give you an update on PPE now. A couple of weeks ago, we had less than a day’s worth of PPE in Southeast Michigan hospitals. We were working day to day. Since then, Michiganders and businesses have up to donate PPE to their hospitals in their areas. Our state procurement office has been working 24/7 to make sure that we secure PPE from private businesses and we’ve received more shipments from the national stockpile. FEMA sent 800,095 masks today. At this point, a few days worth is a vast improvement from where we were a week ago, but our goal is to have a couple of weeks worth of PPE and so we are going to continue working on all of these fronts.

Gretchen Whitmer: (06:35)
The recent number of businesses that have stepped up to protect their communities has really bolstered my hopes about how we’re going to get there together. Over 3.5 million pieces of PPE have been donated by individuals and businesses. I’m saying PPE because I know you’ve been tuning in, but it’s personal protection equipment. It’s the masks and the gowns and the gloves. General Motors announced the start of mass production of the Ventec Life Systems Ventilator under contract to the US Department of Health and Human Services and because of their partnership and the hardworking men and women of the UAW, who’ve rolled up their sleeves to get this done, more than 600 ventilators will be shipped this month. Hyundai Motor America announced that the city of Detroit Department of Health will receive $100,000 grant and 10, 000 COVID-19 test kits to help combat the spread. This is a part of Hyundai’s expansion of its support for COVID-19 drive through testing to 22 hospitals nationwide with $4 million in grants as well as an in kind donation of 65,000 COVID-19 tests through its Hyundai Hope on Wheels program.

Gretchen Whitmer: (07:53)
By increasing our testing capacity, we can ensure more Michiganders get the care that they need and we can save more lives. Dow is donating 28 metric tons of hand sanitizer to organizations in the great lakes Bay region. And the business recently announced an additional $500,000 donation to the great lakes Bay region to aid COVID-19 relief efforts. The $500,000 will be allocated between community foundations and economic development organizations in Saginaw Bay, Midland, and Isabella counties.

Gretchen Whitmer: (08:34)
We got word yesterday from my friend, governor Gavin Newsom, in California that they are loaning 50 ventilators to the state of Michigan from the state of California inventory. And today my friend, governor Andrew Cuomo, reached out and announced that they are going to be sending 100 ventilators to Michigan. We’re all on the same team and I’m grateful for their support. The enemy is COVID-19 and we are all working to protect our citizens.

Gretchen Whitmer: (09:03)
As of April 9th, I want to acknowledge that Amway employees distributed nearly 28,000 units of hand sanitizer to area hospitals, clinics, senior homes, and more. Amway has also worked hard to secure area hospitals disinfectant wipes and secure hygiene kits for the homeless in Kent County, and they’re flying a steady stream of N95 masks to Michigan over the next few weeks. And we are grateful.

Gretchen Whitmer: (09:35)
We’re all on the same team and we are Michiganders first. Our work is paying off, so let’s keep working together to protect our families, our frontline healthcare professionals, and the dedicated workers in our grocery stores and childcare workers, educators, and everyone who’s chipping in to help us.

Gretchen Whitmer: (09:56)
Now an update, since Monday, we’ve got a lot of Michiganders who are struggling to get by right now. We’re doing every…

Gretchen Whitmer: (10:03)
Michiganders who are struggling to get by right now. We’re doing everything we can to help people get the help they need. Many have lost jobs or wages and applied for unemployment insurance, and while your application is pending, you may also be eligible to apply for help from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. That includes food assistance, emergency cash assistance, or Medicaid. And if your income was too high to qualify before, you might qualify now. Because of a change that we made in the fall, you can qualify for SNAP or emergency assistance with up to $15,000 in savings, and your house, car, and retirement account don’t count. That is the move that I made earlier this year to increase the asset limit so that more people could get help when they need it. Simply visit www.michigan.gov/mibridges from any computer or smart device to submit your application.

Gretchen Whitmer: (11:05)
We are here to help. Food insecurity is a terrible reality for a lot of people in our state right now, and I’m really pleased to announce that Pfizer has made a $500,000 contribution to the Michigan food banks to help our families during this difficult time. And the United Health Foundation has contributed $250,000 to the Food Bank Council of Michigan. These donations will amount to hundreds of thousands of meals for Michigan families, and I’m hopeful that more Michiganders and businesses can chip in and donate to their local food banks. If you can make a monetary contribution, that’s incredibly helpful. At this time, because of how COVID-19 spreads, actual food donations are not ideal. But if you can chip in, please, please do.

Gretchen Whitmer: (11:57)
Today I signed an executive order aimed at protecting residents and dedicated employees at our longterm care facilities. At Michigan’s longterm care facilities, residents and employees live and work in very confined areas, and the lack of personal protection equipment makes it difficult to engage in precautionary measures recommended by the CDC. So as a result, we know that COVID-19 can spread in Michigan nursing homes. The executive order that I signed protects residents from being evicted and protects employee’s right to stay home to mitigate the risk of infecting others. The order uses CDC guidelines to establish precautionary measures within longterm care facilities to help us mitigate the spread. This is a really hard time for Michigan’s older residents and their families. So many Michiganders are concerned for their older relatives, their loved ones who may work in a longterm care facility as well. My dad is in the state of Florida, and I’ve had a constant conversation with him about making sure that he protects himself, and I know that that’s not unique to us. I’ll continue to do everything in my power to protect Michiganders everywhere from the spread of this virus.

Gretchen Whitmer: (13:19)
Now I know that you’re hopeful we’ll begin to reengage sectors of our economy soon. As I said on Monday, I’m working with a team of experts in healthcare and business and labor and education to work on a data-driven approach to re-engaging our state. I want to be very clear that our decision to re-engage sectors is going to be based on the best facts and the best science, and what facts and science have told us is that re-engaging our state too soon or too fast will lead to a second wave of COVID-19 in Michigan. During the flu pandemic of 1918, some cities lifted social distancing measures too fast, too soon, and created a second wave of pandemic. There’s a chart here that shows that as a result, many cities were forced back into a quarantine pasture for an even longer period of time and suffered a lot of additional deaths.

Gretchen Whitmer: (14:21)
As tough as this is right now, we know we don’t want to go through this again. It’s so important that states and regions and the country as a whole get this right because getting it right saves lives and it’ll be better for our economy in the long run. I want to acknowledge first the superheroes in our hospitals, and then acknowledge the protest that was going on outside today.

Gretchen Whitmer: (14:47)
I had a Zoom call earlier with doctors and nurses and respiratory therapists, one of whom already had COVID-19, another of whom mentioned that they’d had eight patients die in the last 48 hours. Another talked about going home to her six-year-old and undressing in the garage and being worried about the health of her child as she takes care of others during this crisis. She also acknowledged that caregivers are scared to take care of her child because he’s the son of a doctor.

Gretchen Whitmer: (15:22)
All of these people are managing as well as they can, but they all recognize the incredible toll this has taken and the PTSD that they’re going to have to address after this crisis abates. I told them about the rally outside and I asked them what would they want me to convey to people? And the first answer was, “Make sure they understand how serious this is.” Another said, “Tell them that they can get COVID-19 and have it for days before it even shows up in a symptom, that they might survive but someone else in their house might die from it, and tell them that the people that do lose their battle with COVID-19 die alone. Make sure they understand how serious this is.”

Gretchen Whitmer: (16:13)
So I think about the demonstrators here today, and I understand the frustration that people are feeling. I’m frustrated too. None of us wants to be here in this moment, but we are and we have to do the best that we can. I think about kids who should be at school and miss their friends. For parents who like me, want to see their child walk across the graduation stage in a month. I know that people are angry and that’s okay, and if you want to take it out and send it my way, if it makes you feel better, that’s fine. I support your right to free speech and I respect your opinions. I just urge you, don’t put yourself at risk and don’t put others at risk either. I was really disappointed to see people congregating, not wearing masks. I saw someone handing out candy to little kids bare handed.

Gretchen Whitmer: (17:12)
You know when people are flying the Confederate flag and untold numbers who gassed up on the way here or grabbed a bite on the way home. We know that this rally endangered people. This kind of activity will put more people at risk and sadly it could prolong the amount of time we have to be in this posture. I just ask you to do your part by not spreading COVID-19 for the sake of those frontline healthcare providers that I was on a Zoom call with while the protest was going on. I ask that you observe the six foot distance and wash your hands and wear a mask when you are out in public, when it’s necessary to be out in public. I ask that you do everything you can to protect yourselves so you’re protecting the first responders. We’re all in this together. I’m the governor for all 10 million people of this state, whether you support all of the policies that I’ve championed or not, and we’ve got to all do our part for the sake of one another and for the sake of our economy.

Gretchen Whitmer: (18:27)
Now, I know that everyone is antsy for good news. I know that you tune into these press conferences hopeful that I’ll be able to tell you precisely when we will be able to get back to normal, and I know you’ve got questions about your plans for the summer, June, July and August. About your kids’ soccer teams or maybe the family trip that you have planned. And you have my word that I will continue to keep you informed as we have information to share. Right now, I’m just going to ask that you keep going, that you keep doing your part. When we do, we’ll save lives and we’ll shorten the timeframe that we have to take these aggressive actions.

Gretchen Whitmer: (19:09)
When we shorten the amount of time that our healthcare professionals spend crying in their cars before they go into the house, we shorten the time that we have to be away from our families and we make it more likely that my friend with MS can finally leave her apartment and talk to someone other than her cat. We will get through this together. It’s not easy, but we will get through this together. There are good things to be seen in this moment. The flattening of a curve, the premature, the early stages of the flattening of the curve, the incredible deeds that people are doing and the spirit of the people of our state. With that, I think I’ll hand it over to Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (19:57)
Thank you, Governor. We are continuing to work hard to fight the spread of COVID-19 here in Michigan.

Gretchen Whitmer: (20:03)
We’re continuing to work hard to fight the spread of Covid-19 here in Michigan. We are very optimistic that the actions that we are taking right now as a state are working, with continued slowing in the growth rates of cases and hospitalizations across Michigan. However, a plateau does not mean that we are out of the woods. There are still large numbers of cases and of deaths. And we see a significant burden of cases, particularly among the elderly and among African Americans. It would be premature to only look at a few days of data to make a determination that we should absolutely ease up social distancing measures. And as the governor mentioned, easing them up too abruptly, or without the right infrastructure in place, would no doubt cause a second spike in cases and deaths.

Gretchen Whitmer: (20:54)
Now we’ve talked a lot about testing and the fact that we must significantly expand testing if we are to know where the disease is in our state and how comfortable we are with lifting any social distancing recommendations. In recent days, we recognize that the number of tests done in the state has declined, and we are laser focused on addressing that. We recently announced over 13 additional, or expanded, testing sites across the state. And on Monday, we announced that now anyone, even if you have mild symptoms of Covid-19, you should still contact your medical provider and you qualify for a test. This is a big change.

Gretchen Whitmer: (21:38)
If you have symptoms of Covid-19, cough, fever, difficulty breathing, call your doctor, call your local federally qualified health center, call your insurance provider to identify where you can go to get a test. You can also now go to our website, www.michigan.gov/ coronavirus. All you have to do is put in your address, and we will let you know where the closest testing site is to your home. We want anyone who needs a test to be able to get it done, no matter where they live in this state. So please seek out a test if you have symptoms.

Gretchen Whitmer: (22:19)
And finally, when testing identifies that someone does have Covid-19, we need to quickly reach that person and the people that they came in contact with to provide public health guidance. We’re working closely with our local health departments to expand this capacity. This is very important. Our public health workers may actually be calling you to identify if you have Covid-19 or if you’ve been in contact with someone who has the disease. We need to give you important public health advice. If one of these public health workers calls you, please answer the phone, or call us back if you are available at the time that we call. We won’t ask for anything, like bank information or social security numbers, but we will ask you about your symptoms and where you’ve been so that we can protect you and others.

Gretchen Whitmer: (23:12)
Please continue to work with us so that we can keep you and the community safe. We’ve also been working very closely with our hospital leadership and meeting with them every day to understand what’s going on, on the front lines. Hospitals are doing a great job of working together to ensure that patients are being cared for in the most appropriate setting. We’re pleased that several of our hospitals are starting to see a plateau in the number of Covid-19 cases they are caring for. And every day, they’re discharging more and more patients. That is great news.

Gretchen Whitmer: (23:47)
The greatest barriers that our hospitals are still facing, though, is with staffing. So if you are a medical provider, and particularly if you are a registered nurse, or if you are a respiratory therapist, we still need you. Please go to our website, www.michigan.gov/fightcovid19, and sign up. Our hospitals are also experiencing challenges with medications, especially those that are used to keep people safely on a ventilator.

Gretchen Whitmer: (24:16)
And the state continues to work very closely with the federal government to ensure that hospitals are getting the medications that they need to take care of patients. The bottom line is social distancing works, and it is working, and we need to stay the course. At MDHHS, we are going to continue to do everything we can to protect Michiganders from Covid-19 and to save lives. And I’ll turn it back over to you, that one.

Gretchen Whitmer: (24:44)
All right. With that, happy to open it up.

Rick: (24:54)
Governor, I want to return to the protest for just a moment, because not since the right-to-work protest, that we saw in 2012, have I seen this kind of a crowd of people here. And I appreciate what you said, that the doctors and the hospital workers would tell them. What, if anything, beyond what you’ve already said about the slow opening back of commerce here in the state, could you tell them to, perhaps, put them at ease? There was one gentleman who apparently had his own company, and he said, “27 years wiped out in 27 days.” And I know that there is some help for small businesses. But could you direct them, or could you say something to them that might, in some way, recognize that there was a lot of grief out there today?

Gretchen Whitmer: (25:42)
Yeah. I understand that, and I appreciate the spirit of the question, Rick. I’ve had a lot of conversations with people that have small businesses who are really struggling, spent decades building something up, and have a lot of people that they employee. They’re worried about whether or not they’ll still have something, I get that. And I think that one of the important pieces that I’m encouraging business owners to think about right now, to start planning. What does safely reopening look like? How does that particular business protect their employees and their customers? Now is the time to throw our energy into planning, because we know that Covid-19 is not going to be gone on April 1st, or May 1st, or July, or June, or August 1st. This is a virus that will continue to spread unless we all do our part.

Gretchen Whitmer: (26:38)
And that’s why, as we think about re-engaging sectors of our economy, it’s going to be really critical that we have confidence that we can do that safely. And that means, our ability to test, and to trace, and to ensure that our hospitals can handle any increases. But we also have to have confidence that these businesses can be conducted in a safe way. And that would be the best way to really start informing how we move forward. The frustration and the pain is real, and the fear is real. And I hate that. Each of these orders has weighed incredibly heavily on me, because I know that there are people that are really hurting because of this. I also know that it was absolutely necessary with the path that we are on. Michigan had the third highest number of Covid cases and deaths in the country, and we are not the third biggest state in the country. This is a dramatic, terrible virus that has been killing people in our state, and that’s why we had to be bold. But I would ask that this business owner really start to work through, how can reopening safely? What does that look like? And how do we make sure that when we are able to re-engage, that we do so in a way that prevents a second spike? Because I can tell you, as tough as this has been, we have to come back to this position in a month or two, it’ll be absolutely devastating. And so I would ask for that kind of help from the business owner, and I would hope that we can work together on that.

Speaker 4: (28:21)
So many Republicans, as well as the people outside protesting, have urged you to reassess any of these executive orders. Have you given it any thought? Or what would be your response to that?

Gretchen Whitmer: (28:34)
These are not political decisions. This is about public health. I am the governor for all 10 million people, whether they voted for me, or against me, or didn’t vote at all. I’m the governor that is focused only on public health when it comes to decisions around Covid-19. We know that this is a virus that doesn’t discriminate on party line, or state line, that has no cure, no vaccine, that is deadly, highly contagious, and you can be carrying it for a week and not even know it. What happens in your household might be, one person gets a fever and some sore muscles for a few days. And for the other person, their body might react, it might be fatal for them. And that’s precisely why we have to be so aggressive here.

Gretchen Whitmer: (29:24)
So in terms of any partisan efforts to get me to change policy based on politics, I’m not focusing on politics. I’m trying to save lives here. I’m happy to work with people on both sides of the aisle, and we need to. We have to remember, the enemy’s the virus, not one another. I think that there is going to be a need for us to find common ground on a variety of issues as we are moving forward, and I welcome that and put my hand out in partnership. The enemy is the virus, not one another. And we have to keep that straight.

Gretchen Whitmer: (30:03)
The enemy is the virus, not one another and we have to keep that straight. We have to keep our eye on the public health and we also have to make smart decisions about what re-engagement looks like.

Speaker 6: (30:12)
I know you don’t know a date, we don’t know when this is all going to happen, but we do know that this order, this current stay home, stay safe order is through the end of the month and at that point there’ll be some other directive. Do you have any feel at all if this is as we are today is going to continue beyond that date understanding that you can’t say certain when things will start to reopen?

Gretchen Whitmer: (30:37)
Well, I’m hopeful that it’s not [inaudible 00:00:38]. I’ll tell you that’s what my hope is, where we are, what the science is telling us. I can’t predict what things are going to look like next week, much less two weeks from now. But I will say that we are doing the hard work of bringing in, under Dr. [inaudible 00:30:55] leadership, the best minds in the medical field to help advise and help us chart our path toward a safe re-engagement. We are bringing in some of the best leaders in the business community to really think through how do we make sure our workplaces are safe, what actions need to be taken so that when it is safe to start re-engaging that we keep people safe.

Gretchen Whitmer: (31:20)
And so we are not just waiting to see what happens on that day. We are planning the return, what the date looks like when the phases begin I can’t tell you right now, but I can tell you we’re putting a lot of work into assessing regionally, assessing by sector of our economy and of course, staying very attuned to doing everything we can to keep flattening the curve in the interim.

Speaker 7: (31:47)
Were you surprised by, if there’s not maybe hundreds if not thousands of people outside, are you surprised by the number of people that turned out today outside the Capitol?

Gretchen Whitmer: (31:59)
Well as I said, I’m disappointed. I think that, we saw a number of posts about people blocking the ability for an ambulance to get into Sparrow Hospital. We know that CATA bus service had to put out a special bulletin because they weren’t able to help people get to their essential needs, whether it’s getting to the grocery store or to the pharmacy. We know that this demonstration is going to come at a cost to people’s health. It already did in those two examples, but we know that when people gather that way without masks, they were in close proximity, they were touching one another, that’s how COVID-19 spreads. And so the sad irony here is that the protest was that they don’t like being in this stay home order and they may have just created a need to lengthen it, which is something that we’re trying to avoid at all costs.

Gretchen Whitmer: (32:57)
I’m not saying that’s what’s going to happen. I’m not predicting that a certain percentage of people get sick, but I know that just by congregating, they’ve made that a real possibility that they’ve endangered other people’s lives. I told the story about the man who met with Donald Trump, the president Trump in Washington D.C. yesterday. The only thing he could think of was that he touched a gas pump was how he got COVID-19 that’s the visual I invoke all the time because our nurses and our doctors and our grocery clerks have to gas up when they go to work. We need them to go to work, we need them to do their jobs, and the more people that are touching that one gas pump, the more likely they’re going to get sick and not be able to do these critical jobs. And so I thought that was quite the revelation that played out in Washington D.C. yesterday and I think it’s important to share so people really understand what they’re risking by being out when they don’t need to be.

Speaker 6: (34:04)
You were talking about testing and the need to expand that testing. Could you talk a little bit more about that with a little more specificity about who might be eligible to be tested and secondarily is there or being developed or has there been developed a reliable anility tests so people may know what their condition is if they were mildly sick and didn’t have a test in the first place?

Speaker 8: (34:30)
So again, no question that as a country we are late in expanding testing across the country, but also here in Michigan we know that even people who have mild symptoms should be tested as many people as possible. That’s the only way we’ll be able to understand who has the disease. We’re building that up significantly. We think we’ll need at least 10 to 20,000 tests to be able to be done every day in the state. We’re getting there, we’ve got a plan that we’re implementing, again, expanding capacity even this week, expanding the priority for individuals who can get a test. So we’ll keep working on that. When it comes to the antibody testing. I think the antibodies are an important part of our broad public health strategy, but we also have to be careful. We’ve got our lab experts at MDHHS who are working on studies about this antibody test and we know that there are people in the state and around the country that are working on this.

Speaker 8: (35:24)
We have to be careful to make sure even if someone has an antibody that is not diagnostic for whether or not they have COVID-19 there’s cross-reactivity with the test for the antibody. We want to make sure if you have antibody it doesn’t mean you actually had a cold or something before and if you have antibody we actually don’t know how well it even works to be able to say that you’re actually immune to the disease. So as it stands today, the antibody is very important for research and for surveillance purposes and we’ll continue to work to make sure when it is ready to be used broadly for our policy decisions that we are using it.

Speaker 9: (36:03)
There’s been a lot of frustration around the unemployment site being down and I know you’ve extended hours and added people to help out. Is there anything you just want to tell those people that are frustrated with the website being down and are having trouble filing?

Gretchen Whitmer: (36:15)
Yeah, well it’s hang in there. We are going to make sure that every unemployment claim gets filled. We’re going to make sure that you’ve got the opportunity to fill in your application. I know that these frustrations are not unique to Michigan. I’m not making excuses, but I did see stories from across the country on the national news this morning. Similar situation where unemployment offices have just been overwhelmed by the need. Here’s what I can tell you is that we’ve had a 5000% increase in the last four weeks. We have 725,000 unemployed Michigan workers affected by COVID-19 have already seen $745 million in payments.

Gretchen Whitmer: (36:58)
So we have been able to get a lot of payments out. We’re one of the few states to already begin the additional $600 in federal payments. So those people that are already on unemployment, more than 350,000 have gotten this payment as well. We’ve also begun accepting applications for self-employed workers. A group that wasn’t traditionally included, which we wanted to make sure that they were, those federal payments will begin on April 20th and there’s more than 200,000 of these workers who have applied an estimated 95% of all potential claimants have accessed the system with more than 90% filing online. We’ve extended our call center times and quadrupled the number of staff. Only a 5000% increase.

Gretchen Whitmer: (37:46)
Quadrupling staff is a big step, but it’s not 5000% and so we still have people that are calling and are needing to make sure that they connect. What I can tell people is that I cut the red tape of requiring that your employer, give you certain documentation. I cut the red tape of having timelines by which claims needed to be filed. We’re not going to require those things. So patience is appreciated. We will get to everybody and we will make sure that everyone gets every dime for which they are qualified.

Speaker 9: (38:28)
Okay. Thank you, governor.

Gretchen Whitmer: (38:30)
All right. Thank you.