Apr 17, 2020
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Press Conference Transcript April 17
Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer held an April 17 press briefing on COVID-19. She said returning to work will be ‘phased in carefully.’ Read the full transcript here.
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Gretchen Whitmer: (00:00)
… people who are working everyday to help us get through this crisis. We’ve been on the phones, we’ve been on Zoom. I’ve talked with healthcare professionals from Henry Ford Health System to Beaumont Health System, people who are on the front lines all across our state. I’ve talked with educators who miss their students and are working incredibly hard to make sure that they get the educational support that they need right now. I talked with first responders who are on the front lines every day. I’ve talked with people from Detroit to Flint to Grand Rapids to the upper peninsula. And more than five weeks of battling this crisis has taken a toll on every single one of them and all of us.
Gretchen Whitmer: (00:40)
Every day Michigan families are losing loved ones, neighbors, friends. A lot of us have been cooped up for weeks now and we feel cut off from our loved ones in other parts of our state and other parts of our country. Every day we have hoped for some good news, and this whole environment can be incredibly hard to process, just to get your head around and to be able to see that this is a moment in time. It is not the rest of our lives. This is a moment in time. It’s tough and I want everyone to know if you need some help, there is help available.
Gretchen Whitmer: (01:22)
Like I’ve said before, we know that this has taken a toll on our mental health. We know that we have faced an unprecedented crisis over the course of the last month and in these uncertain times, making sure that we’ve got some access to some mental health support is really important. I want you to know that my administration is working hard to ensure they’ve got the resources that you need as we continue to work through this crisis.
Gretchen Whitmer: (01:50)
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has launched a statewide hotline for Michiganders whose mental health has been impacted by this COVID-19 crisis. The hotline will operate seven days a week from 10:00 AM to 2:00 AM at 1-88-PEER-753. The number’s (888) 733-7753.
Gretchen Whitmer: (02:20)
Today we are also announcing a website that can help us with our mindfulness and settling our anxieties through mindfulness. It is the mindful work that we are doing with Headspace to provide a new mental health resource for Michiganders to access for free. Headspace is a meditation app that some of you may have heard of, but now every one of you can have access to it online at headspace.com/michigan. There’s a special page for Michiganders. The website will give us access to evidence-based guided meditations along with at-home mindful workouts, sleep assistance and content for our kids to help address the rising stress and anxiety we’re all confronting. Go to headspace.com and check it out and I hope that you’ll find this to be a useful tool.
Gretchen Whitmer: (03:16)
Also, Michigan was recently awarded a $2 million emergency behavioral health services grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to strengthen mental health and substance use disorder services as a result of COVID-19. We know that this has been hard, and it’s been hard with people who suffer from substance abuse. We want to make sure that you’ve got the help you need.
Gretchen Whitmer: (03:41)
And Michigan Virtual has announced that beginning today, the newly-launched Michigan Cares Program offers educators and Michigan families, children and teachers and parents alike free digital lessons focused on developing social, emotional and mental well-being skills, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Michiganders can visit michiganvirtual.org/michigancares for more information.
Gretchen Whitmer: (04:14)
And the month of April is Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I know that during this time when we’re encouraging everyone to stay safe and to stay at home that sometimes home is not the safest place for you to be. The Michigan’s Sexual Assault Hotline, you can talk, text or chat with someone at 855-VOICES4, and Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE, S-A-F-E. They’re available whenever you need them.
Gretchen Whitmer: (04:50)
In the last 48 hours, we’ve had a number of things happen. Yesterday, I announced that a coalition of Midwestern governors and Kentucky are leading a bipartisan effort to reengage the economy in the Great Lakes region. This is a partnership between Michigan and Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Kentucky. This is an effort because we all know, we governors, understand that COVID-19 does not respect state line, or party line for that matter. And this is a bipartisan group of governors coming together because we know that we are connected. It’s not just borders we share, but it’s industry and it’s an economy. Here in the Great Lakes region, we are bound by our waters and our commitment to the people that we serve.
Gretchen Whitmer: (05:42)
Throughout this crisis, I will say that one of the great supports that I’ve had in terms of having resources is in my fellow governors. We’ve shared intel, we’ve shared our thought processes as we’ve navigated keeping the people of our respective states safe. Our economies too are reliant on one another, and we must work together to safely reopen them so that hardworking people can get back to work and business can get back on their feet.
Gretchen Whitmer: (06:11)
We will continue to work with experts in health and medical, the best experts across the country, including our own, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. We will work with fact-based, data-driven approach to reopening our economy in a way that protects families and workers from the spread of COVID-19.
Gretchen Whitmer: (06:33)
We will closely examine four factors, in addition to others that we will be developing, but there are four that every one of us governors has acknowledged are really important to safely re-engaging sectors of our economy. One is the sustained control of the rate of new infections and hospitalizations; two, the enhanced ability to test for COVID-19 and to trace; three, sufficient health care capacity so that we can handle resurgence. That means knowing that our hospitals are not in surge mode, but they are capable of taking care of anyone who needs assistance at the hospital and they have the PPE to do so safely. And forth, observing best practices when it comes to social distancing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
Gretchen Whitmer: (07:27)
Now, this doesn’t mean that our economy is going to open all at once. It doesn’t mean that these states are all going to take the exact same steps at the exact same time. But what this does mean is that we are all now working together to make sure that we are making data-driven decisions and protecting people in our region so that we don’t see a second wave of COVID-19.
Gretchen Whitmer: (07:49)
We’ve also announced a number of new testing sites here in Michigan in a partnership with businesses across the state. Wayne County and the city of Southgate announced the city’s first drive-thru test site, which opened yesterday. The site will serve people who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, and all healthcare providers and first responders, whether or not they are experiencing symptoms. We want to get more people tested. Testing will require an appointment at that particular spot through Quest’s MyQuest online portal and app. That’s the link right there, www.MyQuestCOVIDTest. com. And we are working to build more partnerships with our businesses to improve testing.
Gretchen Whitmer: (08:39)
I want to take a moment to encourage anyone who thinks that you need a test for COVID-19, you’re experiencing symptoms to go online to the Michigan website and find out where the closest testing facility is to you. We need to get people tested in Michigan. And I know we’ve been unable to meet need for a while and so people aren’t as hopeful that they can get a test, but you can get one and we’re encouraging everyone to do that. In order to safely reopen our economy, we’ve got to know how much COVID-19 is still present in our state. The more people that get tested, the better. I’m encouraging you to go online and find out where your local spot is so we can make smart decisions and keep people safe as we move forward.
Gretchen Whitmer: (09:28)
On Wednesday, the MADC announced that 12 small businesses and nonprofits around Michigan had been awarded a total of $1 million through the Pure Michigan Business Connect COVID-19 Emergency Access and Retooling Grants Program. This program is providing funding to small manufacturers so that they can retool and produce critical health and human service supplies. With this funding, these businesses will begin to make surgical masks, gowns, medical tents, and more.
Gretchen Whitmer: (10:02)
I want to thank a Gardner-White Furniture who has donated their fleet of trucks to COVID relief efforts. They’ve been partnering with organizations like the Metro Detroit Diaper Bank, Lighthouse, United Way for Southeastern Michigan, the Chaldean Chamber of Commerce, the Oakland Public Schools to collect and transport food and other needed products. I also want to thank Walmart, Salesforce and State Farm who have teamed up to donate 500,000 masks, 100,000 gloves and 50,000 shoe covers to Michigan.
Gretchen Whitmer: (10:39)
With regard to PPE and what we have received, I can just say that yesterday we did receive another 274,000 face shields, 6,000 canisters of sanitizer wipes, 417,000 gloves, 1.8 million surgical masks and 360 boxes of N95 masks. We are working incredibly hard to make-
Gretchen Whitmer: (11:03)
… sure that, whether it’s through production inside our state borders or contracting outside, we are getting the PPE that our frontline needs. And we’re hoping to expand so that everyone who’s in a business that is exposed to people can have the protection that they need.
Gretchen Whitmer: (11:21)
I’ve been meeting and will continue to meet regularly with a group of business and labor leaders. I want to be very clear, the decision to reengage sectors of our economy is going to be based on facts, on science, and on what is the best medical advice that we can get. Right now, the shape of Michigan’s epidemic spread curve is still evolving and social distancing is still crucial. When we start returning to work, we will begin with low risk sectors. And, as a state, we may re-engage our strategy by region depending on what the data tells us. It is too early to lay out precisely what that will look like, but we are doing the hard work now so that, when it is safe to re-engage, we’re able to do so in a strategic way.
Gretchen Whitmer: (12:13)
Any return to work will be phased in carefully so that we can track the impact of lifting social distancing measures and what that means for the spread of COVID-19. Our number one priority here is keeping people safe. When we look at workplace risks, I will be examining factors like whether the workers interact with the public, whether the workplace is indoors or outdoors, whether workers are in close proximity to one another, whether workers use shared tools and/or machinery, the number of people in a workplace, and more. I’m working closely with health, business, and labor groups to ensure best practices are used when people do return to work. Best practices like new workplace arrangements to enable social distancing, screening of employees and members of the public, available hand-washing facilities, PPE, and more.
Gretchen Whitmer: (13:17)
We’re not there yet. The rate of infection remains high, especially in certain parts of our state. And the threat of a second spike that overloads our hospitals is still very real if we don’t get this right. But I promise that I will keep you all informed as we get closer to re-engaging our economy. And I will have more to share on that next week.
Gretchen Whitmer: (13:42)
The vast majority of Michiganders have been doing their part. And I’m grateful for that. You’re the reason that we are driving this curve down. The stay home order has worked because you have made a commitment. It’s making a difference. I want to remind everyone that, during your time at home, it is crucial that you fill out your census form. What we know is that, as we get assistance from the federal government, it is based on how many people live in Michigan. So, we all need to make sure that we get counted right now. It’s simple and you can complete it online. And, for one person, it’s nine questions. If you live with a few others, it’ll take you a little bit longer, but it’s pretty quick. Completing it is the easiest way to make sure that our federal tax dollars come back into our state when we need them. And we need them. The census count directly impacts the amount of dollars that we get from everything from food assistance, to housing, to healthcare, to roads, to COVID-19. And that’s why it’s important that everyone takes the time and gets counted. You can go online. You can fill it out in the mail. You can even do it over the phone. But please get counted now.
Gretchen Whitmer: (14:53)
So, an update on our numbers. As of today, we have over 30,000 people in Michigan have tested positive for COVID-19. That’s 30,023, to be exact, up 760 from yesterday. We have, unfortunately, lost 2,227 people to COVID-19. That is up 134 from yesterday. The vast majority of Michiganders are doing the right thing by staying home, except to go out and buy critical things like food and prescriptions. And, when they do go out, they keep the six foot distance and have a face covering.
Gretchen Whitmer: (15:28)
But we’re still seeing more than a thousand new cases every day and more than a hundred new deaths every day. Every unnecessary trip to the gas pump could put someone’s parent, grandparent, brother, daughter, son at risk. And every time people ignore social distancing measures could lead to another loss life. I don’t want to sit here every other day and tell you, you’ll have to stay home and miss out on seeing your family. It’s hard. I feel it too. So, please continue to do your part. The quicker that we can bring COVID-19 to its feet, the quicker we can all get back together and enjoy our families and loved ones. My number one priority, as much as I want that day to come quickly, my number one priority is saving lives in our state.
Gretchen Whitmer: (16:20)
So, the next two graphs that we have here would show where we would have gone had we not implemented the stay home order that I just told you is working because you have been doing the work. This graph shows where we were heading before the stay home order. The one on the left, let’s see… I don’t know if that’s the actual right graph. Is it? The red area shows where we would be if we didn’t take the preventative measures. It’s very hard to see on that screen. So, here the green area shows where we are now. So, this is where we were headed. You can see the how steep the curve was headed. Those are our lives. This is what we have done through our stay home order. We’ve dramatically flattened the curve. That’s people who didn’t get sick. Those are lives that haven’t been lost. That’s a healthcare system that is still able to meet needs because we all did our part.
Gretchen Whitmer: (17:18)
The reason we’re not at 46,000 cases right now is because of the people who are staying home and doing their part, the parents who are homeschooling their children, the grocery store employees who are protecting themselves and work extra special hours to meet the needs of older Michiganders, the businesses, large and small, that are retrofitting their plants to make PPE, and of course the healthcare workers who are on the front lines every day, and our police, and fire, and all first responders. Your actions have been saving lives. And so, thank you for doing your part. You can see it’s made a big difference.
Gretchen Whitmer: (17:55)
We will never know how many lives we’ve saved, but we will know that, because of the actions that we’ve taken, more grandparents are going to see their grandchildren in a month, in two months, in three months, in the years to come. More people will celebrate their 40th birthday, or in my dad’s case, his 80th birthday. More people will celebrate engagements, and graduations, and may even get back on a plane and go see a loved one in the near future. We may never know how many lives we saved, but there’s no doubt that our work, our sacrifice has meant something and it’s helped us get to a place where we may be able to start engaging in the near future, our economy.
Gretchen Whitmer: (18:40)
So, I appreciate everyone who has done their part. I thank you for your sacrifice. And with that, I’d like to hand it over to our chief medical executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (18:51)
Thank you, governor. So, we’re still seeing many cases, many new cases a day of COVID-19 and many more deaths. As the governor mentioned, the rate of growth in cases has plateaued, which is definitely a good thing. Some hospitals are actually discharging more patients with COVID-19 a day than they are admitting into the hospital. These are positive signs. And it means that social distancing is working.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (19:20)
As I’ve said before, a plateau in cases still means there are a lot of cases and deaths occurring. And we have to be mindful of this as we move forward with our response. We also know that the curve may look different in different parts of the state when it comes to when we start seeing increases in cases and how many cases those areas will see. We’re keeping a close eye on data all across the state so that we can make sure we are appropriately responding.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (19:50)
Social distancing remains the single most important thing we can do to prevent this disease from spreading and to save lives. We also know how important data is in this response in making sure the public knows what is going on. While we still need to make some improvements, we’ve seen some progress.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (20:10)
We were one of the first states to actually post cases and deaths by race and ethnicity. And, because of that, we know there are significant racial disparities that exist with African Americans being disproportionately impacted. We’ve posted a number of people who have recovered in the state. There are more than 400 people across Michigan who are in recovery. And that number is growing every day. People are beating this disease. We’ve also posted the number of congregate care facilities like nursing homes that have reported positive cases of COVID-19. As of yesterday, there were at least 243 facilities that had outbreaks that the local health departments were investigating. We know that these are some of our most vulnerable residents. And we’re doing everything we can to support testing at these facilities and working with our local health departments on making sure these facilities have the support they need to protect residents as well as staff.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (21:12)
Supporting our hospital systems has also been a major goal of this response. This includes making sure our hospitals have the appropriate equipment, PPE, and also staff to take care of patients. I’d like to thank the thousands of medical volunteers and providers that have signed up to help. Just this week, we’ve matched over 400 volunteers to local hospitals. We will continue to work with our frontline providers, this includes nursing homes and others, to match them with volunteers and make sure they have the staff needed to respond to this crisis.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (21:49)
Finally, as the governor mentioned, we know we have to expand testing in order to fully understand what is going on with this disease. Anyone who has mild symptoms should be able to get a test. You can go to our website-
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (22:03)
… michigan.gov/coronavirus. All you have to do is put in your address and you can find out the testing site that is nearest to your home. Again, anyone with symptoms should seek out testing.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (22:19)
Fighting this disease is going to be a marathon. It is not a sprint. While we are certainly focusing on physical health, mental health is just as important. Please reach out if you need help. We want you to utilize our new stay home, stay mindful website in partnership with Headspace that the governor mentioned for evidence-based strategies to cope with the emotional toll that this may be having on you. If you are really in crisis, please seek out help. We have a disaster distress hotline at 1-800-985-5990 where you can get help. It’s been incredibly challenging for everyone, but we don’t want anyone to feel alone in dealing with this crisis.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (23:07)
I encourage everyone to continue doing the right thing, abiding by the governor’s stay home, stay safe order. It’s working, and it’s the most important thing we can all do to keep Michiganders safe and to save lives. I’ll turn it back over to you, Governor.
Gretchen Whitmer: (23:22)
Thanks, Dr. Khaldoon. Okay. With that, we’ll open it up.
Speaker 1: (23:31)
Governor, what’s your reaction to the president’s tweet to liberate Michigan? How did you react to that and do you think he’s encouraging more protests?
Gretchen Whitmer: (23:41)
I hope that it’s not encouraging more protests. One of the things that I think in this moment right now is to acknowledge that people are feeling very anxious. People are worried about the business that they built, took a lifetime to build, and the employees who are counting on them. People are worried about making the rent payment because they are out of work. There’s a lot of anxiety. I think the most important thing that anyone with a platform can do is to try to use that platform to tell people we’re going to get through this.
Gretchen Whitmer: (24:17)
We will re-engage our economy when it’s safe. I’m going to be listening to the best medical experts across the country, as I have been. I mean, Dr. Khaldoon has been a phenomenal advisor to me, has helped us plot our path forward. But, I’ve listened to a lot of experts across the country and I know we are doing the right thing and what we’re doing is saving lives. There’s no one, I think, more eager to start re-engaging sectors of our economy than I am. But the last thing I want to do is to have a second wave here and so we’ve got to be really smart. I think that the plan that we will start to put a little more information out about as we get closer to the end of next week and the week after, I think people will see we’ve put a lot of thought into it. We’re going to do this safely so we don’t have a second wave.
Kaylee Marantette: (25:10)
Kaylee Marantette from Six News. Governor, the president’s plan of opening up America again ultimately leaves it up to state governors to come up with that plan. What were your reactions to the president’s guidelines?
Gretchen Whitmer: (25:24)
I think that the guidelines by large part follow all of the same kind of thought processes we’ve been talking about here. I don’t think that there was a lot that was very new. I will say that one of the gating factors that they had built in was that robust testing of medical providers who are high-risk. That’s not going to be good enough. Just testing high-risk medical providers is not robust testing. We have to have robust testing of the general public, where people who are feeling ill are actually getting tested, not just the medical providers. Although, of course, we want them tested. I think that there were some deficits in the plan that we will make sure that we meet in Michigan as we set our strategy going forward. But I think by in large part it was something that tracks with what we’re thinking.
Speaker 2: (26:32)
Michigan has reported doing 25,000 fewer tests than other states with similar number of cases. Those states are dealing with the same national shortage that Michigan is. What’s your explanation for why Michigan lags and what’s happened since March 10th? Is there a number of tests you want to have going forward to get a better handle on the spread?
Gretchen Whitmer: (26:54)
Yeah. Well, so I think Dr. Khaldoon can can give you …
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (26:57)
Gretchen Whitmer: (26:57)
… shed a little light on that. I’ll just say this, we are all struggling with getting the swabs that we need and the reagents that we need in order to conduct all the testing capabilities that we have. We have capabilities that we’re not able to meet right now simply because we’re missing those critical things from the supply chain. But I think Dr. Khaldoon can give you a little more detail on that.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (27:21)
That’s right. We started out in the state with only our state lab being able to do a couple hundred tests a day. Now, not only our state lab, but dozens of additional labs in this state are doing the testing. We’ve expanded even drive-through testing this week. We continue to work with our lab directors across the state to understand what the challenges are. We know that there are many labs that don’t have the reagents they need to be able to actually do the test. We know that there are challenges with swabs, literally the thing that goes in your nose to take the sample. Not just here in Michigan, I’m in contact with other state public health directors who are seeing the same challenges and, quite frankly, are also seeing testing go down. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’re expanding our testing criteria. Again, anyone who has mild symptoms should absolutely seek out a test across the entire state. We’ll continue to aggressively push on expanding our testing.
Speaker 3: (28:17)
Governor, what types of businesses or industries do you see opening first, knowing that social distancing and other safety guidelines will have to be in place?
Gretchen Whitmer: (28:27)
Yeah. Starting next week I will kind of walk through our thought process, but here’s what we know that our economy has a great diversity of business activity that happens. Some intersects with the public, some doesn’t. Some happens outside, some happens inside. Some has people working in close space or using the same tools, so touching a lot of the same equipment. Each of these factors goes into assessing how much risk there is in re-engaging in a particular sector. On top of the fact that where it is in a region of our state matters as well. There are states, or there are regions where it’s more risky by nature of how many COVID-19 cases we know are there. Each of these pieces will contribute to our assessment of where the lowest risk is and where we could start to engage initially.
Gretchen Whitmer: (29:20)
But this is going to be in waves, or phases, whatever terminology you want to use. It’s not all going to happen one day. We’re going to have to engage and assess is this working? Are we seeing a spike? Are we able to meet the need? Okay. Then if the answer is we’re good, we’ll move on to the next phase. I think we really need to understand that it’s important we do this right.
Gretchen Whitmer: (29:43)
I invite people to familiarize themselves with some of the writing that has been on around the 1918 Flu Pandemic where a certain communities engaged faster than others and to see what the death count was, how long the economy suffered. It’s really a visual so that people can understand why it’s important that we do this in waves and that we are really thoughtful about where the highest risk is.
Speaker 4: (30:12)
Some other States like Massachusetts are hiring armies of contact tracers. Is Michigan planning to do that? If so, how many do you think will be needed?
Gretchen Whitmer: (30:22)
Yes. Dr. Khaldun?
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (30:25)
Yes, absolutely. Contact racing is something obviously that’s very important to this public health response. We already sent out a team of contact tracers to southeast Michigan and we’re already training hundreds, if not thousands, of contact tracers over the past several days to be able to roll out contact tracing across the state. More to come on that, but absolutely we will be revving up our contact tracing capacity in the upcoming days.
Speaker 5: (30:53)
Governor, there is actually another Operation Gridlock 2.0 Facebook group that’s set up for next Wednesday. What would you tell people who are planning to go?
Gretchen Whitmer: (31:04)
Well, first and foremost, I totally respect people’s right to dissent and to voice their disagreement with decisions I’ve made. I’ll tell you this, every decision I’ve made has been centered around what’s in the best interest of the public health of the people of Michigan. None of them has been easy. Every one of them has weighed heavily on me, but I’ve done what I thought the right thing to do is.
Gretchen Whitmer: (31:29)
I hope that if people are going to dissent, that they do so in a manner that doesn’t compromise their safety or the safety of others. I know that the last one they were encouraged to stay in their cars, but yet people were out and congregating, blocking the entrance to Sparrow Hospital. These are really dangerous activities.
Gretchen Whitmer: (31:49)
My hope is that, number one, people consider voicing their dissent in other ways; but if they are going to be traveling, that they observe those best practices and keep themselves and others safe. I hope people don’t speed. I’d just as soon no one ever gets pulled over, because that is another interaction with one of our frontline first responders. I hope that no one has an accident, because we’d hate to have someone have to go to the hospital in a situation where we are already inundated with a crisis like a global pandemic. I really would prefer people not being at the gas station if they don’t need to, because it’s just another transfer of germs. But despite all of that, that’s my preference. If the people are going to come to town, I ask that they do so in a manner that that keeps themselves safe and others as well.
Speaker 6: (32:42)
Governor, given the infection rate inside Michigan prisons, why haven’t you commuted any sentences yet? How do you also ensure when you do, when people are released, that they’re not a risk to the public? Do you think there’s a need to have them quarantined, for instance?
Gretchen Whitmer: (33:01)
We’ve been watching very closely what’s going on-
Gretchen Whitmer: (33:03)
… inside of our prisons. It is something that I think is a reality across the country. We know that we’ve been testing. We’ve been able to run tests, and run them pretty quickly, and get the results so that we can isolate prisoners, and quell the number of people that get it through contact. As the parole board continues to work seven days a week to expedite people who are in the parole system, they are at capacity of releasing people that are eligible for parole. Anything that I would do would still have to go through that same system. There’s nothing that I can do right now to increase that number in a safe way to ensure that people have a place to go and that if they return to society, that they are safe to do so. We’re doing everything we can on that front at this juncture. We’re watching it very closely. If additional measures need to be taken, we will be prepared to take them.
Speaker 8: (34:13)
Is there any idea, kind of a timetable, that things may start reopening or going back to normal?
Gretchen Whitmer: (34:21)
As I’ve said a few times today and many before, I think that it’s going to be really important that we are reengaging in waves. It is going to take a while before everyone is back to work in the way that we think of it. Even then, our lives may be very different. We may be wearing face masks. We may have new precautions in the workplace that weren’t there before, but we will ramp up. We will get to a place where you can go out, and have a bite to eat at a restaurant with your friends and loved ones, and do so safely, but it’s going to take a little while. I think as we meet next week, you’ll have an opportunity to see lot of the different thought process that is going behind the strategy. We are moving forward in earnest. It is my fervent hope that we do this. We need to do it right so that we do it safely and don’t ever have to think about a stay-home order again, is my goal. People are going to need to be patient. This will happen in waves.
Speaker 7: (35:33)
Governor, the candidate filing deadline is next week. Are you considering extending the timeline for candidates to get signatures? Why haven’t you acted on… I believe Secretary Benson had made that request to you a few weeks ago.
Gretchen Whitmer: (35:50)
We know that these deadlines are critical in terms of keeping our elections on schedule. I know that that’s something that’s really important. We have had a lawsuit as well that I… not supposed to comment on, what’s going on with that. I think at this point in time, I would just leave it that it’s really important that, especially in times of crisis, we protect these fundamentals that are truths of our democracy, in our republic, and that it’s important that we continue to have our elections, do them as well as we can, and keep people safe in the process.
Speaker 8: (36:29)
Governor, on Monday, CNN published two photos showing bodies piled on the floor of a freezer trailer and another showing bodies in a sleep study room at Sinai Grace Hospital in Detroit. The reporting said that the bodies were being piled into freezer floor as of last weekend before they published. What’s your reaction to seeing those photos? Is the state doing anything about this?
Gretchen Whitmer: (36:51)
I think my reaction seeing them are the same as everyone. It’s just incredibly, incredibly sad. I can tell you that there’s been a lot of tough days in the last six weeks. I’m making decisions that I could never have imagined we’d be confronting as a state and as a globe. We’re not alone in this. Unfortunately, the whole world is going through some variation of what we’re confronting here. One of the things that we are doing is to make sure that we’ve got additional cold storage for facilities where there are people that have lost their battle with COVID-19. We just need to pause and think about that for a second. There are a lot of inconvenient things about this moment that we’re all living through and struggling with. The fact that we’re trying to coordinate as well as getting masks for our frontline providers, cold storage for deceased, loved ones of people, who we need to make sure we’re careful that we handle the bodies appropriately and that they are done so in a respectful manner. That’s what the state is working on, to provide that, so that our hospital systems that get overwhelmed have got the backup that they need. With regard to the specific situation that you described, we are… Laura is investigating. We want to make sure that we’ve got the facts. That is in process.
Speaker 7: (38:34)
Governor, you announced that Michigan would be getting another 150 ventilators. Where do you plan to send those? Is one consideration potentially sending some up North in case of increased number of people go in there in the summer?
Gretchen Whitmer: (38:51)
We’re fortunate that the governor of New York, Governor Cuomo, and the governor of California, Governor Newsom, have sent us some ventilators. I’ll ask Dr. [Jaydah 00:39:00], answer the question.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (39:01)
Absolutely. We’re grateful for the ventilators. We continue to watch how the cases are spreading in the state. As I said earlier, we know that the curve is going to look different in different parts of the state. We’ve been working actually with our healthcare coalitions. They’ve been great, in region 7 and region 8, who have been monitoring, working with their local health departments, working with the hospitals that are in the Lower Peninsula as well as the Upper Peninsula to make sure they have the supplies that they need. We’ll be ready. We’ve got the ventilators. We’re not dispensing them right now, but if they need them, we’ll be ready to send them there.
Speaker 8: (39:44)
Thank you. Governor, what is your response to… There were four Northern Michigan sheriffs in the 101 House District who provided a press release on April 15th stating their opposition to some of Governor Whitmer’s executive orders. Also, claiming, quote, “She has created a vague framework of emergency laws that only confuse Michigan citizens. As a result, we will not have strict enforcement of these orders.”
Gretchen Whitmer: (40:10)
I think that what the real gist of these orders are is to convey how serious COVID-19 is and why we need to take extraordinary measures to protect life in the state of Michigan. With regard to how some people have politicized it, I’m not going to go there. This is not about one party or another. This is not about one part of our state or another. This is about the health and the welfare of the people of Michigan. I am the governor for almost 10 million people. Whether they voted for me or not, whether we see eye to eye on all of the actions that I’ve had to take or not, I’ve got to do what I think the right thing to do is on behalf of the health of our people.
Gretchen Whitmer: (40:58)
You saw the graph earlier, the trajectory we were on compared to how we flatten the curve. We have already saved lives. The hard part about public health is when you’re successful, it’s really hard to see how many lives you saved. When you fail, it’s very clear to see how many people passed away. We’re going to continue to do what we think the right thing to do is based on the best science and what’s in the best interest of the public health of the people of Michigan. I’ve never contemplated that we would have local law enforcement writing tickets for every violation. The fact of the matter is we have to take this seriously. The fewer people who observe, or the more people that fail to observe the strict stay-home nature of this unique problem that we have, the longer we’re going to have to be in a stay-at-home posture. That is not something any of us wants. The vast majority of people in this state are doing the right thing. The vast majority of employers are doing the right thing. When you look at the map, the activity in Michigan and our surrounding Midwestern states, people are taking this seriously. That’s good. That’s how we flatten this curve. I think it’s important just to reiterate, COVID-19… There’s no cure. There’s no vaccine. It’s highly contagious, and it’s deadly. None of us knows how our body’s going to react to it. What might feel like a fever and some achy muscles for me could be deadly for my daughter. We just don’t know. That’s why we don’t want it transmitted from person-to-person. As much as we can stop that, the better. This is a moment where we have to do the hard sacrifice that we’re asking, but we’re all going to benefit when we see that number come down, and we can start to reengage when it’s safe to.
Speaker 8: (42:55)
Thank you, Governor.
Gretchen Whitmer: (42:56)
All right. Thank you.