Apr 27, 2020
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Press Conference Transcript April 27
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer held an April 27 press briefing on COVID-19. She said she won’t campaign to be Biden’s VP, and will seek an extension of her emergency orders through the end of May. Read the full transcript here.
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Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (00:00)
… also requires checkout employees wear some form of face covering so that their nose and mouths are covered such as they can use something like a homemade mask, a scarf, a bandanna, or a handkerchief.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (00:15)
Today, I signed executive order 2020-63. That extends the validity of existing personal protection orders that would otherwise expire during COVID-19, the pandemic. Because Michiganders who file for a PPO, due to threats or stalking and abuse they should be able to have peace of mind that they are safe. By extending the expiration of existing PPO’s, we are helping secure the safety of vulnerable residents as we continue to flatten our curve here in Michigan.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (00:49)
My administration and the Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist in partnership with the Small Business Association of Michigan and the Michigan Association of Certified Public Accountants, announced today that businesses across Michigan are now able to apply for an additional $310 billion in the Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (01:15)
The MyPaycheckProtection.com website includes key PPP Eligibility information, videos and instructions to help with the application process, information on authorized SBA lenders and more. Please go check it out.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (01:33)
Adults in Michigan, another note, something that I think is a positive sign and adults in Michigan have continued to find health insurance via The Healthy Michigan Plan. There are now 699,183 adults enrolled in the Healthy Michigan Plan. This is an increase of 10,565 adults in the last week alone. This is the highest weekly total on record. I want to acknowledge a number of businesses that have stepped up. We are very grateful to Michigan business who has done some incredible work in our state to help us get through the COVID-19 pandemic. GM donated 37,000 surgical masks to Michigan Hospitals. SC Johnson donated 5,000 care kits, including cleaning supplies, hand soaps, and this is dedicated for first responders across the state. It includes our police officers, our fire fighters, and our EMS workers.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (02:34)
We’ve had a number of small businesses from across the state step up and retool so that they can manufacture PPE for our first responders. One great company that’s done that is Total Plastics, Int’l in Kalamazoo. They are now producing between 50,000 and 60,000 face shields per day for our hospitals.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (02:57)
Square One in Southfield is producing face shield components for face shields that will be distributed in the upper peninsula.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (03:05)
UV Angel in Grand Haven has unveiled two new UVC light devices that automatically and continuously treat air and surfaces of harmful bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The UV Angel Air and UV Angel Adapt will help provide healthcare leaders with tools to fight infectious diseases including COVID-19.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (03:29)
And Trims Unlimited in Farmington Hills shifted their process to begin producing 280,000 pleated masks for McLaren Healthcare systems, of that 250,000 are for McLaren Health systems and the Clorox corporation will be getting 30,000 of them.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (03:52)
I’d like to talk today about our priorities for re-engaging Michigan’s economy safely. I want to talk about the My Safe Start Plan. When I asked Michigan residents to stay home to stay safe, you listened. You did the right thing. And I know it has not been easy. I know that many people have lost work. I know that many people are worried about paying their bills, taking care of their families, just getting the rent taken care of. Over the past week, we watched the number of new cases slowly decline. We are not out of the woods yet, but we are seeing signs that give us reason to be feeling optimistic; cautiously, but optimistic nonetheless. We are watching, we will continue to watch closely where there are potential upticks of COVID-19 in our state so that we can avoid a hotspot from forming. But we should all take a moment to be proud of what we have achieved.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (04:52)
This graph right there, shows you how many people would have been hospitalized without social distancing. This is what we were projecting a few weeks ago, where we would be today. It was anticipated we’d have over 220,000 people who would need to be hospitalized and we knew we didn’t have the ability to meet that need. We took action and because of that action, today we’re actually at about 3,000 people who are hospitalized. This is an incredible achievement. We’ll never know precisely how many lives were saved, but that action is because everyone did the right thing, or the vast majority of people did, and I want to thank you. Those of you who have taken this seriously over the past seven weeks, you have saved countless lives and so now we are in a position to start thinking about what the future looks like. In the coming weeks we will continue re-engaging sectors of our economy and putting more Michiganders back to work. I’m going to sound like a broken record, but we have to be really smart. We have to get this right. None of us, I’m confident when I say none of us, wants to see a second wave and we can’t risk that from happening. If we’re not smart and we just take away social distancing, we could risk thousands of people getting sick and our healthcare system going into crisis again. We don’t want that to happen. If we stay smart, we can lower the risk and protect more people.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (06:18)
Now at first, only the businesses that pose the lowest risk will reopen. I have asked business leaders, healthcare leaders, labor leaders, and experts in industrial hygiene to help make recommendations on which work places present the least risk of spreading COVID-19. The My Safe Start Plan will take into account various sectors of our economy; geographic and workplace risk, as well as our public health abilities and workplace protocols so that we can mitigate that risk.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (06:52)
The My Safe Start will be incremental. We’ll start with workplace types that pose the least amount of risk. It’s really important that we get this right. The first will be additional outdoor enterprises that we feel pose low risk. We’ll also be looking at residential and commercial construction. That industry for example will be one of the first sectors to return to work. We’re also carefully evaluating a number of industrial sectors for potential restart as well.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (07:24)
I’ll be back at a future date to discuss my thinking on these sectors further. We will monitor public health and we will measure our success every step of the way. We’ll also remain nimble enough to pull back when the data tells us that’s the prudent thing to do, if we see a spike, or we’re concerned about hospital capability of meeting need.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (07:48)
We will take into account relevant public health data in deciding when different workplaces go back to work. And businesses we know are going to have to be a partner and do their part to protect their workers and our families. We will be directing businesses to adapt a new array of workplace safety practices that have been recommended both by industry, and by public health experts. We don’t want our employees to be afraid to go back to work. And we want to know when we get back to work, they’re going to be safe.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (08:21)
Businesses will need to protect their employees through carefully monitoring symptoms, instituting an array of social distancing techniques, strengthening sanitation and hygiene, and providing recommended protective equipment like masks and face shields. They’ll also be barred from retaliating against workers who stay home because they think that they’re sick, or someone in their household is, for the health of their safety and their families. There won’t be retribution.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (08:52)
Nobody in Michigan should lose their job for doing everything they can to protect their own health, the health of their families, and the health of their colleagues in the workplace. If we can find this virus before it spreads, we can contain it. As we move through the process and gradually re-engage our economy, I will be guided by the data, not artificial timelines. If we move forward and everything looks okay for a few weeks, we can look to expanding activity on the next level.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (09:22)
There’s no hard and fast timeline here. As we set dates we will continue to keep you informed. There may be instances where we can move faster; there may be instances where we need to move a little slower. But if we see a second wave coming, we’re going to step back when that’s necessary.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (09:39)
There’s no on and off switch here. We have to think about this as a dial where we turn it up when necessary, we turn it down when necessary. Re-engagement needs to be incremental and cautious.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (09:51)
I want to level with you, no one knows what the coming months are going to bring, no one knows that. But what we do know is that we have access to some of the best minds in the state. We have access to data, and when we build up our public health apparatus and work with employers to keep you safe in the workplace, we can safely, slowly start to reengage. And no one wants to do that more than I do, I can tell you that.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (10:16)
With that, I appreciate your tuning in as you’ve done regularly. I’m going to hand it over to Dr. Joneigh Khaldun and then we will ask Gerry Anderson to come to microphone and speak, and then he’ll be followed by Wright Lassiter and then I’ll return. Thank you.
Joneigh Khaldun: (10:35)
Thank you Governor. Today we announced 38,210 cases of COVID-19, that’s up 432 from yesterday. We also announced 3,407 deaths, that is up 92 from yesterday. Statewide we are continuing to see an overall plateau in the number of cases of COVID-19 in Michigan. We also know that people are beating this disease which is really important. As of this past Friday, at least 8,342 people have recovered from this disease, and that means that they are alive 30 days after their symptoms started. These are really positive signs, however it’s important to know that we are still seeing many cases a day, and many deaths. And the rate of increase in cases is different depending on what part of the state you are looking at.
Joneigh Khaldun: (11:25)
And so like the Governor, while I am cautiously optimistic that we are heading in the right direction, we will need to continually monitor and track the data and incrementally look at reopening the economy, keeping the health of our workers and our community top priority.
Joneigh Khaldun: (11:43)
I’ve talked about some of the things we’ll be watching as it relates to how we understand the disease across the state. One of these things is the trajectory of cases. We want to see positive trends and the number of cases and deaths, meaning they’re going down. And not just over the span of a few days, but actually over weeks. We’re seeing that now with the rate of rise in cases decreasing across the state.
Joneigh Khaldun: (12:09)
Another metric we’ll be monitoring is testing. We want to see sufficient numbers of people being tested and the proportion of those tested that test positive also coming down. We’ve added over 21 additional testing sites across the state in the past couple of weeks. We’ve also expanded our testing criteria significantly. Because of that, our testing numbers have actually doubled now and we’re seeing a decline to percent of people who are tested who are testing positive, and again that is also a good sign.
Joneigh Khaldun: (12:39)
Another metric we’ll be monitoring is our hospital capacity. Things like the number of ICU beds that are filled, and the amount of personal protective equipment like masks, gown, and gloves that our hospitals have. Currently it appears that our hospitals are at a much better place with the amount of PPE that they have on hand. And while overall hospital capacity is certainly improving every day, there are still some counties that are actually at their maximum when it comes to ICU capacity and the number of people in those beds. We will continue to monitor these trends as we move forward with our public health response.
Joneigh Khaldun: (13:16)
As I’ve said before, if we begin seeing problems or concerns we these metrics, we may need to look at strengthening our public health recommendations and social distancing requirements to head off another surge in cases.
Joneigh Khaldun: (13:29)
As we move forward with our public health response, I also want to make sure that people are taking care of themselves. While we know that some more elective procedures are being delayed currently, we don’t want anyone who’s currently experiencing anything like severe chest pain, or difficulty breathing, or bad stomach pains to delay seeking medical care. If you’re having these types of symptoms, please talk to your doctor. And if you think you’re having a medical emergency, please seek out emergency care. We really don’t want people putting off necessary medical care and having potentially life threatening illnesses.
Joneigh Khaldun: (14:06)
We also know this pandemic is taking a toll on peoples mental health. We want everyone to know that there are resources available to you. This includes the new Michigan Peer Warmline that we announced a couple of weeks ago that will provide resources to those that need assistance managing their mental illness.
Joneigh Khaldun: (14:23)
We’ve also partnered with Head Space for free for every Michigander and that provides evidence based strategies on meditation and stress relief. This and other mental health resources are available on our new website Michigan.gov/staywell.
Joneigh Khaldun: (14:40)
Michiganders have shown great resolve in adhering to the social distancing guidelines, as the Governor mentioned, and it is working. I encourage us all the stay the course and be patient and we continue to fight this disease. With that, I will turn it over to Gerry Anderson.
Gerry Anderson: (15:05)
Well thank you very much Joneigh. I’m pleased to be here today. It was about a month ago as the healthcare crisis was engulfing our state that it became clear that it would be quickly followed by an equally intense economic crisis and it was at that time that Governor Whitmer asked us to form an advisory council to tackle that second challenge. The Michigan Economic Recovery Council that Wright and I will talk about today has two fundamental goals. Now, the first is to put Michigan on the path to full economic recovery safely and quickly as is feasible. And the second goal is to ensure that we stage that economic recovery carefully in a way that safeguards the health of our residents and the health of our workers. So the-
And the health of our workers. So the council’s job is to provide advice and input to the Governor so that she can use our information to base her decisions on how to stage the return to broader economic activity and the very best insights and expertise that can be drawn from the healthcare, public health, business, labor and academic worlds. So to gather the strong expertise that we needed to take on the council’s work, we pulled together the leaders that will be shown on the next few slides.
Nancy Schlichting, the retired CEO of Henry Ford Health Systems, and I are co-chairing the effort. Nancy couldn’t be with us today because she has a 97 and a half year old father who is weakening. He’s in hospice care, and has been for some time. But Nancy’s deep medical background is complimented in this effort by the Health Care Advisory Group, as we call it, which gathers an array of the state’s leading hospital systems, CEOs, public health officials, as well as the presidents of four of the State’s leading universities, who all by the way happened to have deep medical backgrounds and also oversee medical schools on their campuses.
We’ve also tapped the University of Michigan to support the Healthcare Advisory Group, and so we’ve been working closely with senior faculty at the university who have deep epidemiology and infectious disease expertise, and also have expertise in occupational health that can be used to characterize risk in the workplace, as well as an array of other relevant public health expertise areas. And this group from the university, which totals about 10, is overseen by some of the most senior and expert faculty members in the nation on these topics.
We’ve also involved a group of some of Michigan’s business and labor leaders on what we call The Business Advisory Group. These business and labor leaders cover a range of key business sectors in the state, with significant involvement from Michigan businesses who operate overseas so that we could learn from their experience in dealing with this epidemic. They dealt with it over there months in advance of it landing here in the United States. Ron Bieber of the AFL-CIO and Rory Gamble of UAW bring the perspective of frontline workers to our effort, and Milan Gandhi, who is the chairman of the Small Business Association of Michigan, was added to keep the perspectives of small business in front of us, and the Small Business Association has been a great partner in this effort.
So before we get into details, I want to give you a sense for the basic approach that we are taking to attacking this problem. So it turns out that geography is really important. This disease and how it presents varies across the state. And so we’ve divided the state up into eight regions, we call them the MERC Regions, and those regions are divided based upon two things. First our natural labor sheds in the state, which is how people go from home to work and then back home again, and secondly based upon the geography of healthcare in the state, that is, which hospital systems serve which regions of the state. And we then assess the status of the epidemic, so its density and its trajectory and the status of our healthcare systems, how well positioned they are in each of the eight regions over time.
Similarly, because the risk of the virus is different, for example, if you work on a farm or in a factory, we have divided Michigan’s labor force across workplace types, and we’ve worked with public health experts then to understand the risk of virus transmission in each of those workplace types as well as the practices that we can use in various workplaces to minimize risk. Now to that last point, we’ve spent a lot of time developing best practices, best practices for each workplace type, and each team developing these best practices is led by a senior industry executive, typically a CEO, they are complimented with heavy labor involvement, and then each set of best practices is being carefully evaluated by occupational health experts at the University of Michigan to make sure we’ve got them right.
We’re also spending a lot of time studying workplaces overseas that have continued in operation through this pandemic, as well as operations here in our own state and elsewhere in the United States that have done the same. And we are learning a lot from those operations about how to operate safely through this pandemic. And the basic idea then, as the Governor mentioned, is to phase the restart of Michigan’s economy in regions of the state that have clearly stabilized, generally starting that phase in with the lowest risk workplace types and expanding over time and always deploying these new best practices as we stage in new work.
So that approach is summarized on this slide. So on the left axis is a measure of the risk level of the epidemic for any one of the eight regions. Urgent, which is clearly the stage that we’ve been in versus stabilizing where we’re headed, and eventually the recovery phase where the disease is in recession. then on the bottom axis you see workplace risk from high to low. And as you can see, the more urgent the pandemic risk, and the more risky the workplace, which is basically the bottom left zone on this graphic, more cautious that we’re going to be in reopening, those things will happen later or more slowly. But as you move toward the top right, the more stable the pandemic risk in a region and the less risky of the workplace, the more quickly and broadly workplaces can be reopened.
We have been working long hours, seven days a week to build a strong fact base that we can use to advise the Governor and enable her to use this framework to begin to phase in a broader economic activity as she described. And so with that as background and a broad framing, we’re going to provide a bit of color in depth on what I just outlined, and I’m going to turn it over to Wright Lassiter to start that process. Wright over here.
Wright Lassiter: (23:19)
Thank you, Jerry. Thank you, Governor. As Jerry indicated, I want to spend a few moments just talking a bit about more detail regarding the analysis we’ve been going through to provide advice and counsel for the Governor. Let me first just start with the eight geographic regions that we’re using to track the evolution of the disease as shown on this slide. As you look at that slide, you can see that we’ve broken the state, as Jerry indicated, into eight regions, and these are regions we call the MERC Regions.
Wright Lassiter: (23:49)
As we evaluated the regions, we looked at two things very carefully to define each of the regions. The first thing we looked at was travel patterns to work. We looked at this because as we know the disease can be carried from one place to another through movement of individuals, and there’s extensive data that suggests how our workforce travels from home to work and back. And then lastly, this allows the state to be divided up into what’s called labor sheds.
Wright Lassiter: (24:20)
And the second key consideration we focused on in defining the regions was how healthcare is provided and reported on across the state. And as Jerry indicated, this is really important because the nature of hospital systems like my own, and their capacity to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak vary significantly across regions and across the state. And so these two factors, labor sheds and healthcare considerations, healthcare capacity, we’re merged to define the eight regions you see on the graphic.
Wright Lassiter: (24:52)
We’ll use these eight regions then to track the intensity and the evolution of the disease over time across our state, as well as the capacity of our hospital hospital systems and our public health infrastructure to deal with it in each region. An example of that detail tracking is shown on the next slide, which track COVID-19 cases by MERC Region over time, giving us a sense of trajectory of the disease and how it varies across geography. And as you look at that graphic, you can see that there’s some significant differences in COVID incidents across our regions.
Wright Lassiter: (25:32)
This basic approach we will use to judge the readiness for additional economic activity in each region as shown in our next slide. And as we look at each region, we’ll be tracking three things that define readiness to move back into broader work. The first thing we’ll evaluate is success in flattening the curve determined by various measures as you heard from Dr. Khaldoon earlier of prevalence and trajectory of the disease. The second thing we’ll evaluate is our ability to safely diagnose and treat patients in each region across the state. And again, this will be determined by measures of healthcare systems, capacity, availability of staff, availability of ICU and general medical surgical beds, PPE, et cetera. And the third factor we’ll look at is our ability to track and isolate contacts with confirmed cases, which is driven by capacity of our public health infrastructure in each of the eight regions.
Wright Lassiter: (26:31)
We’ll then use these measures to track each of the regions through three phases of the disease progression, urgent, which is where we’ve been to date, stabilizing, when we see the curve begin to flatten and our healthcare systems are beginning to gain flexibility of capacity, and then finally a recovery phase where the disease is clearly in decline and our healthcare system is well situated. We’ve worked very closely with the University of Michigan’s public health experts to define the triggers for each of these phases. And as we move through the three phases, increasing levels of economic activity are appropriate.
Wright Lassiter: (27:15)
Another key consideration as we think about broadening return to work is workplace type. The risk of disease transmission is different if you work in a hospital for instance, versus a retail outlet, a manufacturing plant or are engaged in an outdoor work activity. And so it was important for us to break down Michigan’s labor force across work place types as seen in the next graphic. I shouldn’t mention that the outset that there is a significant amount of detail that undergirds it lies beneath the surface of these nine groupings. Ultimately every job type, every job class in Michigan maps to one of these nine labor types.
Wright Lassiter: (27:54)
As you can see clearly 30% of the workforce in Michigan spends their days in office buildings, about 20% of Michiganders work in industrial facilities, and of course many of those office workers are part of industrial companies, and then you see healthcare and retail settings house many of our workers as well and you can see where the balance of our workers have been categorized.
Wright Lassiter: (28:20)
Each of these work types varies in their degree of risk related to COVID-19 disease, and the factors that shape workplace risk are laid out in the next slide. The two key risks categories we’ve been evaluating are worker interaction, that is how much interaction do workers have with each other, with the general public and with the shared tools or workplace materials, and secondly, workplace characteristics, that is, is the work indoors? Is the work outdoors? Are there many employees? Are there a few? Is the workplace dense with employees and et cetera?
Wright Lassiter: (28:58)
The occupational health experts that we’ve been working with at the University of Michigan School of Public Health are analyzing the characteristics of each of these workplace types and have assigned each of them a risk score. But that workplace risk can be lowered by implementing a series of workplace best practices. And with that I will stop and turn it back over to Jerry to conclude our work, or comments about our work. Thank you.
Well, as Wright mentioned, risks in the workplace can be offset or mitigated by adopting what we refer to as COVID-19 Workplace Best Practices. And we have been working hard in recent works, flashing out those practices in detail. So we formed a team focused on each of the nine workplace types that Wright discussed, and each of those teams is led by an industry CEO, and also involves an array of industry health and safety experts, as well as labor leaders. And each of these teams are focused on the five areas that are shown on the next slide.
So for example, Access Control such as the use of symptom checks and temperature checks is our workers in our facilities. Each of the groups is also working on a variety of approaches to increase social distancing within the workplace, to intensify sanitation and hygiene practices within our workplaces, and of course PPE or personal protective equipment is going to be vital. So masks will be ubiquitous in almost every workplace in Michigan. Gloves and face shields will be in widespread use as well.
And then the ability to contact trace within the workplace, and then to isolate any positive cases is going to be an essential skill for every employer. Now these best practices, once they’ve then been developed by the team, and have been carefully reviewed and marked up by University of Michigan Public Health specialists, and as they’ve been finalized, they then are the basis for directives that will be issued by the state, which will define the rules of the road, so to speak, or the COVID-19 best practices that will be required in the workplace in the future.
Now another way to learn about how to safely operate through this crisis, as I mentioned earlier, is to study plants both overseas or in Michigan or elsewhere in the United States, that have continued to operate through this pandemic. So to do this, we jointly designed a data request with specialists at the University.
We jointly designed a data request with specialists at the university of Michigan and then we sent that out to a host of facilities worldwide and to date we’ve received feedback from over 20 facilities in the United States, Germany, Korea, China, Italy and France. And I must say we have data coming back from more facilities every day because we’re broadening our reach in this area. We’re evaluating this feedback real time and we are learning a lot and I think the findings are very promising in terms of our ability to be very safe in the workplace as long as we all are really disciplined in our practices, in those workplace practices that we’re defining.
And of course the ultimate goal of all of this work is to provide sound input to the governor on how to best stage a broader returned to work over time and how to do that in light of disease progression and hospital system health in each of the eight regions that Wright talked about and how to phase the return to broader work generally from lower risk work, higher risk workplaces overtime as we progress from the urgent phase to the stabilizing phase to the recovery phase.
And with that, I look forward to your questions and I will turn it back over to our governor.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (33:29)
[inaudible 00:33:31]. All right, wonderful. Well before we jump into Q&A, I just want to say that I’m incredibly grateful for the amount of work that has already gone into this and I know we’re not done. We’ve got a lot more yet to do, but I think that it’s important to point out that that stopping is simple. Doesn’t mean it’s easy, but it’s simple. Re-engaging is complicated and while it’s really important that we’re working together in a way that gets more people back to work in a safe manner. The work that has been done by Merck and that will continue to be done by Merck is really central to informing the decisions that I’ll be making in the coming days. So with that, let’s open it up.
Speaker 2: (34:17)
Governor, the Senate majority leader today expressed a concern over what he called the essential critical infrastructure or sizer program and it is his impression that you used an outdated version of it that was less stringent than the current version and that he expressed a deep concern that the construction that you’re talking about opening say perhaps this week could have been done on Friday and he wanted to know what specifically has transpired or what have we learned or not learned that would have you open construction later than last Friday when you loosened the other restrictions?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (34:51)
I’m happy to answer those questions when I talk to him later today. We’ve got a call scheduled for a little bit. I guess I would just point out that as you’ve just heard, there’s an incredible amount of work that needs to go into assessing risk. We need to mitigate risk. We can’t eliminate risk completely, but we need to get it down as low as we possibly can manage. And so being really thoughtful about what this looks like, this re-engagement is important. Michigan has the 10th largest population in our country and yet a week and a half ago we had the third highest number of COVID-19 cases. We still have I think the third highest number of deaths in the nation. This has hit Michigan uniquely hard and so just doing what everyone else is doing was not going to be good enough.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (35:38)
We had to bend that curve and as you saw where we were headed and where we are, it’s working. The vast majority of people in our state are doing the right thing and they’ve contributed and done their part. We’ve saved lives in the process. As we look to reengage, it is not just grabbing the policies of a Caesar. It is making sure we’ve got a policy that makes sense for Michigan that will keep Michigan workers and Michigan families and Michigan healthcare systems and Michigan businesses able to continue to take the next step. What we want to do is to… As we turn this dial to reengage incrementally so that we can continue forward motion not to jump in and then have to move backward. None of us wants that and this is really the smartest way to proceed.
Speaker 2: (36:25)
In terms of the legislature, it looks like the Senate is going to be meeting tomorrow. They’re going to be meeting much… I guess through the middle of the week and you have Thursday with the extension. I’m guessing that you’re looking for the state of emergency. What level of cooperation do you believe exists and can you… Because the legislature is saying that this needs to speed up and that you’re not wanting to do that, so how do you meet in the middle and what does it look like come Thursday in terms of the order and any possible extension?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (36:57)
I understand the eagerness to reengage. Trust me, we all feel that, but we’re vested with a lot more information and as we are making decisions it has to be data driven. This is a rigorous process that is designed to save lives and we are doing that. As you can see the amount of data that has been consumed as we start to formulate the protocols for that safe re engagement is voluminous. It is important that we get this right and so I would simply say that absolutely we’re going to need to extend the state of emergency. I’ll be sending a letter to the legislature asking them to extend this emergency by 28 days. It really should be longer than that, but 28 days is another important step. And I would just point out… Emily get that one slide. State of emergency gives us the ability to extend liability protections for all of the people that are doing this frontline work that doctors and the nurses and the first responders. You don’t have it?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (37:57)
Okay. So we have, we’ve extended many States of emergency in years past, just in the last few years, the Flint Water Emergency was extended twice, over 122 days. What we have seen in terms of the Frazier sinkhole, I think that was extended 56 days. We’ve only extended in a global pandemic, a state of emergency by 23 days. So we know we’re going to have to take this kind of a pasture and extend these kinds of protections to our healthcare workers for at least another 28 days. And that’s precisely why I’ve asked that of the legislature and I would anticipate that we’ve got to have that continual ongoing work that we’re going to have to do together because we’re going to need to make adjustments along the way and I want them to be partners. We’re all counting on us getting this right.
Speaker 3: (38:47)
A quick followup to what you just said. If the Republicans challenge asking for an extension of your emergency powers, do you think it will turn into a court battle between your administration on the state legislature?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (39:03)
No, I don’t. I’ll just say this. I have multiple distinct independent authorities of constitutional and statutory power to keep people safe as the governor of the state of Michigan. The emergency powers that I have as governor do not depend on an extension from the legislature, but the protections for our healthcare workers do and so it’s better for everyone if we work together to get this right and that’s precisely what I am trying to do. I think that it’s important that the public understand the seriousness of this moment, that we have got glimmers of to be hopeful that we’ve done a lot of things right.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (39:46)
We have to continue doing the next right thing so that we can gradually re-engage sectors of our economy, which I believe is the shared goal that everyone has.
Speaker 3: (39:56)
And you spoke in a teleconference with other governors and vice president Pence earlier before this briefing. Were there any updates from the white house on reopening the economy as well as contact tracing and providing PPE?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (40:11)
Yeah, we had a very high level conversation about it. Those calls are 50 governors and we were addressed by president Trump, vice president Pence, Deborah Birx, Dr. Birx, Jared Kushner, and the surgeon general for the country. So there were a few questions that were asked, but I would say that it was all very high level.
Speaker 3: (40:40)
Governor, Ohio governor Mike DeWine today announced plans to begin reopening the economy in his state. He talked about a two week plan culminating with most retail stores being opened again in two weeks. What do you make of that plan and can you give us any specifics on a timeline for future steps here in Michigan? You’ve laid out sort of the metrics or underlying data that you’ll be considering, but when are you going to start making these decisions?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (41:12)
So we opened up a handful of things that last Friday. I would anticipate in the next week or two that we will take this next step, which would include the construction industry as I described earlier. It would include additional outdoor enterprises. And we’re taking a hard look at industrial to see if we’ve got the protocols and what that precisely would look like. So I would anticipate in the coming days I’ll have a lot more to say in terms of the timeline and what that might look like Jonathan.
Thanks. Also there’s been talk about contact tracing within businesses. There’s still the open question of when the State is going to be able to resume its volunteer contact tracing program. You canceled contracts last year amid some concerns over how those were awarded. When is the state going to begin that and how critical is it for you to make these sorts of decisions? Is it a major setback?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (42:08)
Yeah. You said last year it was last week. It feels like a year.
Last week, excuse me. It feels like a year. Yeah.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (42:12)
I feel you Jonathan. No I did that because it was an unnecessary distraction and the SCLC is proceeding in the awarding of a contract and I don’t know what else there is to add in terms of tracing Dr.Jay you want to…
Dr. Jay: (42:26)
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (42:27)
Dr. Jay: (42:28)
Yes. So to be very clear, contact tracing has been going on in the state. We already trained volunteers and we’re already working with local health departments who do this every day anyway outside of COVID-19 so we’ve not paused in making sure we’re training up our volunteers and connecting them with local health departments. That work is going on now.
Thanks. And if I could just one more. You talked a lot about businesses likely masks are going to become commonplace, face shield for some businesses. Is this State taking any steps to help businesses obtain these supplies? We know all about the state trying to help medical providers obtain PPE. What about the businesses that are [crosstalk 00:43:04]?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (43:04)
Yes, I want to ask Jerry to come up. I think that there’s some really kind of… In this moment we’re seeing some innovation, we’re seeing some collaboration and I think that it’s hard to find silver linings in this hard moment, but we’ve seen some really kind of interesting things and so I know Jerry’s got something he can share with you.
So the question of availability of PPE is a really important question. And we’ve had a group studying the PPE supply chain carefully to make sure that if we ask workers to go back to work, we don’t put pressure on hospitals or have businesses unable to get their hands on what they need. The area that looks like it would be tightest would be surgical masks. So we’ve asked both the university of Michigan and gotten feedback from Michigan state as well on the efficacy of cloth face masks and the cloth face masks are of high efficacy for the vast majority of things that we’ll need in the workplace.
So what we need then is this cottage industry of cloth mask manufacturing to continue to be stood up and also realize there are a lot of smaller businesses out there that have a hard time navigating all of that. And so the small business administration is working with the State to set up an exchange where the producers and the users of these face masks can be brought together so that we can minimize what you’re talking about. And I think that can happen quickly.
Do you mean the small business association or administration or federal [inaudible 00:00:44:39]?
This is the state SBAM. SBAM is working with Michigan Business Connect out of the MEDC in order to stand that up. And I think that can happen quickly and will take the pressure off what you’re describing.
Speaker 2: (44:57)
Governor, two weeks ago Patrick Anderson put out a report that said that Michigan’s curve had essentially flattened two weeks ago. The question one is had you read that and two, what data are you using and when will you be making that public?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (45:12)
So we’re using a variety of sources of data. And I know if you want Dr. Jay to come up… I have not read Patrick Anderson’s report. I can tell you that there is a lag time between action and when you see the result of that action and where we were headed was very serious. I mean we’ve got Wright Lasser here who was in the midst of it, did manage through it supporting the nurses and the doctors and the healthcare system that was stressed. And we know that if we’d gotten anywhere near the curve that was predicted, it would have been a catastrophe.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (45:53)
More lives would have been lost. And so we’ve flattened it and it took time to get there. And it was because we were so aggressive. Jonathan’s question about Ohio, I appreciate my friend Mike DeWine. We have worked very well together. We’ve collaborated, I’ve talked to him maybe more than any other governor during this process. We just have very different situations in our States with regard to the presence of COVID-19 and the toll that it’s taken on our States. Dr Jay, do you want to add anything with regard to the data?
Dr. Jay: (46:28)
Yes. So, so we’re certainly not flying blind when it comes to why we’re making certain decisions. So we are looking… every day we have a dashboard, we identify the number of cases that we have. We look at the number of deaths, but we also look at it by region. So I know there are several regions that actually are seeing an increase in the rate of cases that are going up. And so I’ve said this before, you can’t make decisions based on one or two days of data. He really have to look at trends and as the governor mentioned, we did something on Friday to relax or reopen the economy a little bit. We need to watch the data and make sure cases, we don’t see a spike and then the cases go up and then the deaths tend to lag after the cases start going up. We want to make sure we’re safe before we start doing additional things, but again, monitoring cases, deaths in hospital capacity amongst other things will be very important.
Speaker 3: (47:18)
Governor, it’s been reported that 36 people in Wisconsin who participated in their election have been tested positive for COVID-19 does that give you any pause going forward with in-person polling locations for the May elections and if not, why not just go all vote by mail?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (47:36)
Well, of course it does and I think that our efforts to increase vote by mail are really going to be important to keep people safe, but also to ensure that everyone gets the opportunity to cast their ballot. We do know that there are Michigan citizens, Michigan residents, that have disabilities who need to vote in person. And that’s why we need to make sure that that remains available. But our push is to ensure that the vast majority of people who can vote by mail do so because we believe that’s the…
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (48:03)
Dirty people who can vote by mail do so because we believe that that’s an important way to keep down the spread of COVID-19. I would love if the legislature wanted to work with me to make it even more robust in terms of our vote by mail program and that’s something that I extended my hand and hopes that we could do something very meaningful. But I think the more people that vote by mail the better.
Speaker 7: (48:30)
We’ll take the last question.
Speaker 8: (48:39)
Oh yeah. 33 prisoners, mostly elderly have died because of COVID-19. Why not use your clemency powers to take older and inform prisoners, out of the prisons rather than just the parole eligible?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (48:48)
Yeah. I think that this was a hard question to answer in a short period of time, but I’ll tell you this, I’ve been working very closely with Heidi Washington, the director of that department. I know that we have been doing robust testing and isolation. I know that we have expedited parole. Excuse me I have allergies and… We have expedited parole so that we are working seven days a week, the parole board to make sure that where there are opportunities to safely release people where they have a home, I mean there’s an incredible amount of work that has to be done in that process and we are doing it to the maximum that we’re able to.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (49:31)
We have made a significant difference in the number of people that are in our prisons. As we’ve looked to who would be eligible for additional potential measures. We know that they still have to go that parole system, so the parole process and so as we are maxed out right now and unable to add to it, if there’s a moment where we can, I will certainly be continuing to look at that and working closely with the director. We want to keep people safe and the upgraded testing and ability to isolate and lower population has helped us do some of that.
Speaker 7: (50:06)
Speaker 8: (50:07)
Thank you [inaudible 00:50:08] .
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (50:07)
Okay. Thank you.