Apr 24, 2020
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Press Conference Transcript April 24
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer held an April 24 press briefing on COVID-19. She extended the state’s stay-at-home order until May 15, but relaxed some restrictions. Read the full transcript here.
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Gretchen Whitmer: (00:00)
All right. Good morning. It is Friday, April 24th. Wanted to give an update on the state of Michigan coronavirus, what the actions that are happening. So I want to start by highlighting some of the important actions that we have taken this week since Wednesday. On Wednesday, I ordered expanded eligibility for unemployment benefits. The order expands the state’s work share program offering more tools to employers to reduce layoffs. It also extends unemployment benefits to many workers who got a job and couldn’t start it due to the pandemic. So far, we have sent an estimated 820,000 unemployed Michigan workers $1.37 billion in benefits. Also, on Wednesday, I met with the United States Army Secretary McCarthy, along with United States Senator Gary Peters and Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, as well as Major General Paul Rogers to discuss ongoing operations that are supporting our communities during this time.
Gretchen Whitmer: (01:09)
I had the opportunity to speak with Secretary McCarthy about the work being done in Michigan by the US Army Corps of Engineers, as well as the Michigan National Guard. Our dedicated servicemen and women have made incredible contributions to our state during this crisis. A lot of humanitarian efforts are happening across Michigan by our National Guard. Whether it’s helping bring medical supplies to our hospitals, helping Michigan families put food on the table, or building our alternate care facilities in just a matter of days. We’re all incredibly grateful for their work. They are right now in efforts ongoing across the state of Michigan to ensure that there is food supply for those who don’t have the means to go to the grocery store. We’re doing that in Pontiac, Battle Creek, Grand Rapids, Flint, Royal Oak, Rochester Hills, Ann Arbor, and Comstock Park, just to name a few places that this is happening. I want to thank the guardsmen and women for the work that they are doing every day on our behalf.
Gretchen Whitmer: (02:17)
Yesterday, I announced a temporary $2 per hour pay raise for direct care workers providing Medicaid funded in-home behavioral health and longterm services to Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens. Our direct care healthcare workers are risking their lives every single day in the care of others. So making sure that we flatten the curve, we are grateful for their work and wanted to make sure that they got the support they need to continue doing it.
Gretchen Whitmer: (02:48)
I worked with the Department of Insurance and Financial Services to announce the creation of the MiMortgage Relief Partnership. With over 200 of Michigan financial institutions’ partnership, we are recognizing and expanding upon the measures that our financial institutions have been taking to assist customers to help people stay in their homes during the span of this crisis. Many of our credit unions, banks, and lenders have stepped up to help those who are suffering financial losses by providing a 90-day grace period for their mortgage payments. Throughout this crisis, I have been having regular Zoom calls with various essential workers across our state. I wanted to thank them and I wanted to listen to them and ask them what I can do to help them in their critical work to keep us safe.
Gretchen Whitmer: (03:44)
This morning, I talked to a number of grocery workers who are on the front lines in addition to the nurses and doctors and teachers and first responders, police and fire. Today, I spoke with grocery workers. Spoke with four people, Dwayne, Kevin, Tori, and Rachel. When I asked them, “What can I tell the people of Michigan on your behalf?” They wanted me first to convey that they are proud of the work that they do and they’re grateful to their employers for taking efforts to keep them safe. They represented, they were employees from Kroger and from Meyer. They also wanted you to know that they’ve been incredibly touched by the shoppers who have thanked them for the work that they do. That means a lot to them. They’re grateful when members of the general public come in and wear masks because you’re taking actions to protect yourself and protecting them.
Gretchen Whitmer: (04:36)
They wanted me to relay a couple of other things that you know how important is that you limit how many people go to the grocery store, don’t shop as a family if you can avoid that, and if you can have care for your kids. Please, limit the number of people that are coming into the stores. They wanted me to remind you that the mask is to be worn properly, so it’s covering both your nose and your mouth and that it’s not in lieu of being six feet away, it’s in addition to. So please, do both to keep yourself and your families safe. They wanted me to remind you that when you are in the produce aisle, keep thinking about trying not to touch your face. It’s really hard and we’re all learning in this moment, but don’t grab a grocery bag and lick your finger to separate it and then start touching produce. Every time you touch your face. It is the risk of cross-contamination. They ask that you keep working to improve on that front as well.
Gretchen Whitmer: (05:36)
We know that they are doing some really incredibly important work and so it’s our job to make sure that they’re safe to continue working and we all have to play our role. The vast majority of people in Michigan are doing the right things. So thank you on their behalf and thank you because we’re seeing our curve flatten because of the work that you’re doing.
Gretchen Whitmer: (05:57)
I wanted to take a moment to highlight a number of businesses and organizations that have stepped up this week. Every day we see incredible work that is happening and an incredible amount of strength and courage from Michiganders during this time of uncertainty. Whether it is from individuals or it is from non-profits who’ve been donating resources so we can feed Michiganders. Or it is businesses that are using their technology to help us meet our PPE needs. The Siemens Foundation on Wednesday announced that it is providing $150,000 to metropolitan Detroit based Western Wayne Family Health Centers to respond to COVID-19 crisis.
Gretchen Whitmer: (06:42)
The BASF Corp in Wyandotte is doing its part by producing hand sanitizer. The facility has produced over 8,000 gallons of hand sanitizer being distributed to the Henry Ford Health System and other healthcare systems in Michigan, Texas, Louisiana, Mexico, and Canada. I’m also happy to announce another generous donation to provide meals for first responders who are working hard to fight COVID-19 at the TCF Center and at Suburban Showcase. AT&T has contributed $50,000 and teamed up with the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association to provide meals for our first responders at our Southeast Michigan field hospitals beginning tomorrow. This will be a great help so that as our first responders are battling that they are fed and cared for during the course of their important lifesaving work. As of yesterday, we had 35,291 positive cases. We’ll have our daily update, but that’s not for a few hours.
Gretchen Whitmer: (07:51)
As of yesterday, we had 2,977 lives lost to COVID-19. As we’ve seen our numbers begin to plateau over the course of the last week, we know that it’s because Michiganders are doing their part and staying home and staying safe and I want to reiterate how important it is that we continue to do that. It’s doing the right thing and it is paying off. The majority of people and businesses also have done the right thing over the last six weeks. Let’s keep it up. Like I’ve said throughout this crisis, we’ve got to do everything we can to avoid a second wave of COVID-19 spread. So as hard as this moment is for us right now, as isolated as we feel, and as stressed as we are about getting back to work, reopening up businesses, we know that if we do it too fast a second wave is likely and would be even more devastating than the moment that we are in.
Gretchen Whitmer: (08:50)
Today, I’m taking action to further protect Michigan families from the spread of this virus and to ensure that when people leave the house, they are being safe. I signed an executive order this morning to extend the Stay Home, Stay Safe order through May 15th. The data shows that most Michiganders are doing their part by staying home and staying safe. It’s good, but we must keep it up. The order I signed today requires that everyone, wear a covering over their nose and mouth, like a homemade mask or scarf or bandana or handkerchief when they’re in an enclosed public space.
Gretchen Whitmer: (09:27)
To be clear, when you go to the grocery store or to the pharmacy or to any store that’s open during this time, you need to wear a face mask. If you’re in an outdoor area, this order doesn’t require that you wear one, but you should consider it anyway and regardless, you need to observe the six feet radius of safety so that you are protected from spread. Masks worn in the public, masks worn by the general public should be cloth, non-medical grade masks. We need to save those medical-grade masks for our first responders, people on the front line.
Gretchen Whitmer: (10:06)
Under the order, no one will be subject to criminal penalty for going without a mask, but a face covering is crucial to protecting the public and our critical employees. And for now, N95 masks need to be reserved for those on the front lines. In addition, all businesses must provide non-medical grade masks and face coverings to their employees who work outside the home. We need to protect our workers. While this order’s extended to May 15th, I am lifting some of the restrictions. The new executive order will now allow some workers who perform lower risk activities to go back on the job. We will consider this the preliminary stage of economic re-engagement. We will measure, we will collect data, we will continue to ramp up our testing and our tracing, and we will make informed-
Gretchen Whitmer: (11:02)
…and our tracing and we will make informed decisions in the coming days about potential further economic re-engagement. But, it depends on you. If we continue to see our numbers decline, we can responsibly consider additional steps we can take. If we see an increase, we may have to be nimble enough to go backward on occasion. My hope though, my fervent hope, is that people still take this incredibly seriously.
Gretchen Whitmer: (11:33)
This order allows landscapers and lawn service companies and nurseries to return to work, subject to strict social distancing. That means, that they should have limited contact with clients. Workers should have the personal protection equipment that they need, like gloves, goggles and masks, as appropriate. Where they are using shared tools or machinery, extra sanitation efforts must be taken.
Gretchen Whitmer: (12:04)
Today’s order permits retailers, that do not sell necessary supplies, to open for curbside pickup or for delivery. The order lifts the closed areas that have been… That were ruled closed to big box stores, so we will allow gardens supplies and centers to reopen and we allow bike repair shops to open their doors, as well.
Gretchen Whitmer: (12:29)
We are now prepared to ease up on some of the personal restrictions. These are changes that public health experts say are lower risk. So specifically, we are permitting motorized boating, also golf consistent with strict social distancing. You may not, however, operate golf carts at this time. Michiganders may travel between their residences but I still strongly discourage people from doing so. Unless it is absolutely necessary, we ask that you consider not doing that.
Gretchen Whitmer: (13:08)
While it’s understandable to be lured by the phenomenal beauty of this great state and hit the road, we know that our rural hospitals are simply not equipped to meet an influx of people, who may bring or spread the virus. So if you do go, please plan so that you are not in the local grocery stores, limit your exposure and observe the proper hygiene, masks, six feet apart, washing your hands, no unnecessary trips.
Gretchen Whitmer: (13:42)
This order also clarifies that state parks will remain open, as they have been through the emergency. Please remember, that if you choose to go to the golf course, take the boat out or operate your lawn care service, engage them, please stay safe and do everything you can to protect yourself and others.
Gretchen Whitmer: (14:05)
I know there’s been a lot of discussion about these restrictions. I know they haven’t been easy and they’ve seemed inconsistent or confusing. But, the data shows that what we have done is working. We’ve saved lives in this process. The thing about public health is, when you do it well, you never know how many lives you’ve saved. But, we do know that it’s worked and we’ve pushed the curve down and it’s because all of you.
Gretchen Whitmer: (14:34)
Today’s announcement is a step forward. There is and will be light at the end of the tunnel. But, I want to be crystal clear, the overarching message today is still the same. We all need to do our part and staying home is the best way to prevent spread of COVID-19. As I said, we will be continually measuring, we’ll be ramping up our testing and tracing and monitoring of COVID-19 presence in Michigan. We’ll continue securing PPE for our first responders.
Gretchen Whitmer: (15:10)
But, we must be nimble as we take this small step forward. We will make adjustments along the way. My hope, I know all of our hope is that we can take the next step. But, we have to know that it’s safe to do that, that we’ve mitigated all the risk inherent. There’s an incredible amount of work going into putting together the plan to make sure as we’ve re engaged, we do it safely and avoid that second devastating wave, that we’ve seen played out in other parts of the world.
Gretchen Whitmer: (15:43)
Staying home remains our best weapon to defeat this enemy and to stop the spread. Every unnecessary trip outside the house, every unnecessary close encounter with other people spreads this virus. The full executive order that I’ve highlighted today is available at michigan.gov/coronavirus, for any of you who have questions or want to read it.
Gretchen Whitmer: (16:09)
So I’m taking today’s action based on the facts, on data and recommendations from experts. As we test more Michiganders, a smaller percentage test positive for COVID-19. The number of people in our hospital beds is going down and we’ve secured several weeks of reserves of PPE, with more deliveries on the way.
Gretchen Whitmer: (16:33)
I’m loosening some of these restrictions today because people have done their part to make it possible. So thank you to those of you who have stayed home. Thank you to our healthcare professionals and first responders on the front lines. Thank you to the businesses and workers who are producing PPE here in Michigan. To the grocery store workers who are stocking the shelves, to the childcare workers and educators. You’ve all been a part of making this possible.
Gretchen Whitmer: (17:02)
In the coming days, I will speak to you more about our criteria for re engaging sectors of our economy. Every step I make will continue to prioritizing keeping Michigan are safe and healthy. I’m taking counsel of medical and business experts from across the country. We’re engaged in an incredibly intensive and rigorous process of understanding the science of COVID-19, the capabilities of our public health system, the variety of unique businesses, the necessary safety protocols and the scoring of risk associated they’re in. And, I’m also regularly consulting with my colleagues, democratic and Republican governors from across the country.
Gretchen Whitmer: (17:46)
We need to get this right. In the coming days, I’ll be joined by business, hospital and academic leaders to provide an overview of the careful research analysis and planning that has been done to inform my decisions about the framework for re engaging. I will be joined by labor leaders, as well, to discuss the steps we will take to be protecting working people and families, to strengthen workplace health and safety. And of course, throughout this process, I’ll be joined by Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, who is helping to ensure every decision we make is based on the best facts, science and data we have available.
Gretchen Whitmer: (18:25)
As always, we will make those decisions based on sound principles and we will communicate them and we will remain nimble as we are assessing our next steps here in Michigan. Thank you all for doing your part and with that I’ll turn it over to Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (18:47)
Thank you Governor and good morning. We continue to see a plateau in the number of cases of COVID-19 in the state, which is a positive sign. As we’ve said before, we are cautiously optimistic but we are by no means out of the woods when it comes to COVID-19 in the state of Michigan.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (19:06)
I’m pleased that we can move forward with the next phase of the Governors Stay Home, Stay Safe order today. We’re starting with slowly reopening businesses and allowing people to engage in some previously suspended activities, that are lower public health risk. It is vital that workplaces be safe when they are reopened, safe for both employees and their customers. Employers will be a key part of this effort to provide safe work spaces, where employees and customers are appropriately socially distancing and making sure employees and customers are wearing a mask.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (19:43)
We all still have to do our part, like the governor said. Stay home unless you must absolutely go out, wear a mask when you are going out into closed spaces and continue to do things like staying home if you are sick. As we move forward, our public health response will be critical to determining the impact of our actions and what potential next steps we will be taking. We will continue to monitor closely where the disease is in the state and the number of deaths, both at a state and a regional level, as we have been. We will continue to monitor our health care system capacity, making sure our hospitals have enough PPE, ventilators and equipment to make sure we can take care of patients, if they need to come into the hospital.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (20:29)
And importantly, we have to make sure that our public health system is working with sufficient testing, so we know who has the disease and we can find out who their close contacts are so we can prevent the spread of the disease, as much as possible. If any of these things, trends in cases, hospital capacity or public health system capacity. If any of those three things appear that they are going in the wrong direction, we would need to look at strengthening our public health and social distancing requirements again, so that we can prevent another surge in cases.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (21:07)
One of the most critical parts of this response is testing and we’ve talked a lot about testing. If we don’t know where the disease is, we will not be able to stop it. We still have some work to do but I am pleased to announce that a couple of days ago, on Wednesday, April 22nd, our state performed the highest number of COVID-19 tests that we have in this entire response, 7,400 in one day. That is progress. We estimate that we need to be doing about 15,000 tests a day in the state.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (21:37)
But initially, again, about a month ago, we started with just a couple hundred tests in our state lab and we have now several hospitals and private labs that are supporting this effort. We brought on 21 additional labs and testing sites in the past two weeks, we’ve expanded our testing criteria and we’ve doubled the number of tests we were doing just a couple of weeks ago. Our work is paying off but we have to…
Dr. J. Khaldun: (22:03)
A couple of weeks ago. Our work is paying off, but we have to continue aggressively moving forward with expanding our testing, and we are doing just that.
Dr. J. Khaldun: (22:09)
As part of this effort to get more testing done, we want everyone to do their part. If you have symptoms like fever, cough or difficulty breathing, we want you to seek out a test. If you are an essential worker like working at a grocery store, even if you don’t have symptoms, you can now seek out a test. You can go to our website, Michigan.gov-/coronavirus test to contact a testing site near you. We will continue to make sure testing is available to those who need it and to remove as many barriers as possible.
Dr. J. Khaldun: (22:43)
We also need to make sure we’re protecting our most vulnerable residents, especially those living in nursing facilities, and we’ve talked a lot about that in the previous weeks. On Monday, I announced that our skilled nursing facilities are now required to report cases of COVID-19 to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and we expect to be able to report that information on our website later on today.
Dr. J. Khaldun: (23:06)
So far, 331 nursing facilities have reported and that’s about two thirds of the total number of skilled nursing facilities in this state. Together, they all reported 2,218 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in their facilities. The recorders of these cases are in Southeast Michigan. We’re working very closely with our local health departments to work with these nursing facilities and we have committed $3.8 million to support response efforts. This includes teams of public health experts and clinicians to provide assistance to these nursing homes and to really work on expanding testing.
Dr. J. Khaldun: (23:45)
We have to keep in mind that it may take as long as 18 months for a vaccine to be developed for COVID-19, and we still don’t have the appropriate antiviral treatments for this disease. So life in the foreseeable future will not go back exactly to what it was before COVID-19. So this is truly going to be a marathon and not a sprint. We’re going to continue to look at our data and track and monitor how we are responding to this pandemic, but I’m confident that with our continued perseverance, we are going to be able to prevail against this disease.
Dr. J. Khaldun: (24:19)
With that, I’ll turn it back over to the governor.
Gretchen Whitmer: (24:21)
Thank you Dr. J. Happy to… I call her Dr. J. Dr. Khaldun. I am happy to open it up for a few questions.
Speaker 2: (24:40)
I’m hearing from a lot of small businesses that think that they could implement policies that would allow them to operate safely. Is there a process being considered where businesses could submit a plan and be allowed to open maybe in the next round instead of broad shutdowns?
Gretchen Whitmer: (24:54)
Yeah, absolutely. So I was on a call with someone from realtors who represent the realtors in Michigan and we are chatting. I encourage them to share what they think are best practices with my office so that as we are looking at all of the ways that we are calculating risk and working with these medical experts at the university of Michigan as well as business leaders to make sure that all of those things are taken into account. I think that it’s really important that people understand the incredible amount of work that is going into analyzing different sectors of our economy. What we need to do is assess for risk, getting down to zero risk is not possible in this moment, but we have every responsibility to make sure that we mitigate the risk down to making these workplaces as safe as possible.
Gretchen Whitmer: (25:47)
We welcome input from the private sector as to measures that they acknowledge would make their workplaces safer and that I would love to have a policy that reflects those best practices and we welcome that. So I encourage people to send them to my office and I will have Tiffany share with you what would be the best way to do that. Oh, there she is. Hi Tiff.
Guess it’s my turn. Governor, your reaction to what’s happening in the legislature today, the bicameral committee to look into your response, the state’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and the Bill that could be sent to you that would place some restrictions on your emergency powers, shorten the timeline that these orders can last.
Gretchen Whitmer: (26:39)
Yeah, so Rick, right now my only job is focusing on saving lives in Michigan. We’ve lost as of yesterday, almost 3000 people to COVID-19. We’ve got a lot of crises that we are addressing right now, and so the only thing I’m focused on is meeting the needs of everyone across our state.
Gretchen Whitmer: (27:04)
The political conversation that is happening in the Capitol right now is not something that I’m spending a lot of energy in because I’ll tell you, every unnecessary trip out of the house, every unnecessary close contact with another person threatens to continue spreading COVID-19. I find it odd that the legislature has chosen to congregate against all the best practices, against the spirit of the stay home stay safe order where the vast majority of their constituents are observing these important actions. And I think that they should be focused on making sure that people who’ve lost their jobs have access to healthcare if they’re doing anything together. I think that they should be focused on paid sick leave if they are determined to congregate in Lansing. That would be a wonderful use of their energy if they are going to congregate and do all of this.
Gretchen Whitmer: (27:58)
So with regard to any of the blatantly political conversations about taking executive power away from my office, I’m just going to reiterate for I don’t know how many, the upteenth time, I’m not going to sign any Bill that takes authority away from me or from any future governor. The powers of the executive office are incredibly important, especially in times of crisis where lives are on the line. And I don’t know that I’ve got much more to say on that. Thanks.
Governor, what was your thinking in relaxing these orders? What were the metrics that you use to do this? And going forward, what will the metrics be if you’ve got to put some more restrictions back on?
Gretchen Whitmer: (28:50)
Yeah, so appreciate the question, Kathy. Michigan, we took a very aggressive stance with regard to curtailing the spread of COVID-19. We did that because we had a unique problem and we are the 10th most populous state in the nation, and yet we had the third highest number of deaths from COVID-19. We were seeing exponential growth in the early days. And so taking this aggressive action has really pushed that curve down and saved a lot of lives. We are as taking such an aggressive action, of course, people notice that we were doing things differently than some of the other States were.
Gretchen Whitmer: (29:29)
As we have watched people continue to do the right thing and be able to build up our PPE across the state so that our nurses and doctors have the support they need, as we’ve seen fewer hospitalizations and people come off of ventilators, we acknowledge that we are in a moment where we can start to loosen a few things up, these being lower risk, and that they are less communication amongst the general public. A landscaper, they’re outside, not inside. They don’t have regular interaction with the public. There are a lot of reasons that these were deemed to be lower risk activities that we could have a first wave of some engagement here and see what happens.
Gretchen Whitmer: (30:25)
My hope is that people still observe all of these best practices, wearing a mask when you’re out in public, ensuring that you’re six feet away from others, that you’re not leaving the house unless you really need to. These are still very important, crucial things that we’re asking people to do, but we wanted to start to engage in some of the lower risk activities, and these were the first wave.
Speaker 3: (30:53)
I’m still healing hearing from some people who are having problems getting through to unemployment and getting the benefits that they feel they’re entitled to. Some say they’ve been trying for weeks, but the issue seems to be when there’s technicalities, they just can’t get a person to address it. What are you seeing in terms of addressing this situation?
Gretchen Whitmer: (31:11)
So I think that it’s always important to have some perspective here. We’ve had over a million people become unemployed in the last six weeks. We have been able to make sure that over 820,000 people have gotten the assistance that they’ve earned, the unemployment check that they’ve earned. That’s a remarkable thing. Unfortunately, so means there’s 180,000 who haven’t, and that’s precisely why we have quadrupled the number of people who are working at UIA on the phones to help people navigate the system and get those checks out.
Gretchen Whitmer: (31:46)
We’ve done an incredible amount of work, but anytime you’ve still got thousands of people that haven’t gotten the help that they need, we have work to do. And so I’ve told the agency to continue ramping up, continue meeting the needs of our people and I just hope that everyone who is tuning in who is frustrated knows we are going to make sure that every person gets the benefits that they’ve earned, that that is in the works. We are making progress but we still have work to do. And I’m pushed on the agency to keep moving faster to make sure that we get to everyone as quickly as possible.
Governor, it appears that your executive order doesn’t have specific guidance on manufacturing. Is there anything in this that has any effect on things like auto assembly plants?
Gretchen Whitmer: (32:44)
No. Rick, I’ll expand a little bit. We are continually… We’ve been doing an incredible amount of work to make sure that we have got protocols and a thoughtful cadence for assessing risk. It’s been a rigorous undertaking. You’ll learn more about it and have opportunity…
Gretchen Whitmer: (33:03)
It’s been a rigorous undertaking. You’ll learn more about it and have opportunities to really understand and ask questions next week in a more, I think robust way. But I would just say this, that this order today, it’s a week before anyone expected us to do anything based on the timeline in the last executive order we thought now is an appropriate time. Just because this goes till May 15th doesn’t mean that nothing else is going to happen between now and then. An incredible amount of work is being done. There will perhaps hopefully be some additional things that we can start to engage in, in a safe way with the proper protocols. But we are not at this point able to announce anything additional today. But there’s a lot of work that is happening. We are engaging with business leaders of various sizes and various sectors and always working with our best epidemiology minds and public health minds to ensure that we are making thoughtful steps in each of these ways to mitigate risk.
Speaker 6: (34:08)
I just want to clarify. I think that you said that you’re not going to be subject to a fine if you’re not wearing a mask. But can businesses refuse service to people who aren’t wearing masks.
Gretchen Whitmer: (34:21)
Yes. I think you know and in sharing that conversation that I had with our grocery workers this morning, they acknowledge that the vast majority of people are wearing masks. But there are those who don’t and some who do wear masks don’t wear them properly. Or some who wear masks think that it’s either a mask or it’s the six feet. It’s both. And so we need people to wear masks, to wear them properly and to observe the six feet safe distance. All of these are things that need to be observed. And I would encourage businesses, there are some grocery stores that are saying, if you don’t have a mask, you can’t come in. That is a practice that protects both their employees and the public.
Gretchen Whitmer: (35:04)
And so I’m grateful that some have taken that upon themselves and I would encourage others to do so as well. We don’t want you to wear a medical grade mask. We want you to have a cloth face covering and it can be made through an old t-shirt. It can be made with a handkerchief or a neckerchief. There are a lot of ways to do this, but just to cover your faces is one important step in addition to that six foot radius that is going to be so important to protecting us from the spread of COVID-19 growing again.
Speaker 6: (35:37)
And are the rules that still require only a certain number of people allowed in a store or a facility at a time that still applies?
Gretchen Whitmer: (35:46)
Yes, those are still in effect. Yes. And the good news is that by and large they’ve been able to observe them and they’ve contributed to the flattening of the curve.
Speaker 7: (36:01)
All right, I’ll go next and then [inaudible 00:03:02]. Governor, how much, and I know there is some research on this, writ large. How much figuring into your thinking did the idea that it’s getting warmer, this has been going on for a while and the longer this goes on, the harder it becomes to enforce and persuade people to abide by some of the most restricted orders. I mean, was the concept of public buy- in a part of your thinking on this?
Gretchen Whitmer: (36:32)
Well, the success of any of these policies depends on the compliance of the public, right? And I think you see, while there are certainly those who aren’t complying, they’re the small minority of people in this state. The vast majority of people are doing what they need to do to protect themselves, to protect their loved ones, to protect our communities and our state as a whole. They’ve contributed to our ability to not have a healthcare system that collapse. They’ve contributed to our ability to continue bringing in and assemble PPE so that we’ve gotten days of PPE and weeks of PPE in some hospitals as opposed to hours worth of PPE.
Gretchen Whitmer: (37:20)
And so each of these actions has contributed to the saving of lives in our state. The more that we observe this, the stronger our economy is going to be when we do fully re-engage over the course of weeks and months and days and the near future and are able to stay re-engaged. What we don’t want is a second wave and I know that people are feeling very isolated. It’s hard, it’s hard. Even if you’re not one of those who is grieving the loss of a loved one like a lot of people are in the state, there’s a grief of the loss of freedom or the grief of a loss of a job or the fear of a loss of a business and we need people to comply and so loosening up now because of the data is telling us that we can safely re-engage some of these lower risk activities made sense.
Gretchen Whitmer: (38:16)
We want people to be able to get out and garden. And if that helps keep people at home and give people some peace of mind, that’s maybe an activity that is low enough for us that we can start that process. And so, part of that does weigh in. Absolutely.
Speaker 8: (38:36)
We’re seeing our hospitals face financial ruin, nurses put on furlough, how concerned are you about their ability to respond to this crisis moving forward as they face these financial hardships and what can be done about it?
Gretchen Whitmer: (38:47)
So, I’ve been working pretty closely with our hospital leader. And I’ll just say this, they have stepped up to this crisis and they’ve been good partners. They’re in serious financial, a lot of them financial stress. And that was inevitable in a crisis like this. The dollars that are coming in from the federal government will help. But I’m very dismayed to see someone like Mitch McConnell suggest that they’re not going to fully help the states in all of this infrastructure that’s so critical to our daily lives. This is a moment where we’re all making tough choices. It’s my hope that we can start to resume additional activities in a safe way and that hospitals won’t be in a position where they’re making these tough choices. It’s my hope that we can get our medical professionals all on the front line and keep them there and remain solvent as organizations. But obviously this has taken a toll and we’re here to try to help all of those displaced or furloughed workers in this moment.
Speaker 9: (40:04)
Perhaps this is a question for Dr. Khaldun. I’m wondering about the testing. It looks like we had a bit of a spike yesterday in cases and I know that the criteria is 14 days of decline. Is that 14 continuous days of decline every day or is it from a certain point or is there an explanation for the spike that we saw yesterday?
Dr. Khaldun: (40:30)
So that’s a great question. It’s important that as we look at this, we don’t just focus in on one specific day. And again, the numbers that we are giving you are often just the reports that we got on that day. That doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the day that someone had symptoms start. So again, we’re going to be looking at rolling averages, seven day averages, 14 day averages, making sure that they are continuing to overall be trending down obviously. We’re also going to be looking at things like percent positivity. So as we test more, a lower percentage of people actually being positive. Again, those are the types of things that we will be looking at. So not focusing so much on one day of testing results.
Speaker 7: (41:11)
How much, and this is for either or both of you, did economic sectors types of jobs weigh in the decision versus geography where infections are and are not or appear to be?
Dr. Khaldun: (41:27)
I’ll start. So, I think from a medical perspective it’s important that we note that we have to be mindful of hospital capacity. So there are some places in the state that are not in Southeast Michigan where we are seeing significant increases in the rate of rise of cases. We also know that those hospitals in those areas don’t have nearly the capacity that some of our hospitals in Southeast Michigan do. So again, it’s really too early, I think, to be saying that some parts of the state should be opening. Quite frankly, I’ve talked to some of our hospital leaders who are very concerned that even though they have few cases, their hospital capacity is very small and they do have patients in the ICU right now. So we’ll be monitoring as we go forward as far as the medical guidance and again, those factors like hospital capacity percent, how cases are rising in different areas of the state.