Apr 29, 2020
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Press Conference Transcript April 29
Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer held an April 29 press briefing on COVID-19. She announced a plan for free college tuition for front-line workers battling coronavirus.
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Governor Whitmer: (00:00)
We are here in Lansing with Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, our Chief Medical Executive, Leo Director, that’s Labor Economic Opportunity Director, Jeff Donofrio and the Michigan AFL CIO president Ron Bieber have joined me today. I want to start today by highlighting some of the incredible things that are happening in our state and I want to start by acknowledging a phenomenal healthcare worker on the frontline, Linda, who is a 57 year old, I don’t know if she would want us to say that or not, but she is from Gladstone, Michigan in the upper peninsula and she renewed her Michigan nurse’s license last week because she just couldn’t stand to sit on the sidelines when people needed help. Not only does she offer to come back and join the frontline, Linda volunteered to go to work at Norlite Nursing Home in Marquette that has been hit the hardest with COVID-19 cases in the UP.
Governor Whitmer: (00:58)
Linda is an example of someone who has determination and grit, much like the Upers that I have come to know and love. She’s dedicated to protecting as many people as possible from this virus. There are examples like Linda all across our state and people who are stepping up to help their communities, whether it’s in our health care systems, our grocery stores, our childcare centers, or in the business of manufacturing PPE. These workers have been on the front lines every day helping us get through this moment. Not only do they deserve our utmost respect, they deserve leaders who will ensure that they are safe in their workplaces. On Monday, I started laying out priorities for a safe re-engagement of our economy under the “MI Safe Start Plan.” Today I want to spend some more time focusing on our priorities for protecting working families, and the actions that my administration is taking to ensure all working people in Michigan have safe workplaces and opportunities to get ahead so they can support their families.
Governor Whitmer: (02:05)
My goal from the start has been to provide relief for those who can’t go to work and who rely on their paycheck to put food on the table for themselves and their families. This is a crisis unlike any of us has ever seen before in our lifetimes. We found out earlier that COVID-19 has killed more Americans than the Vietnam conflict. Think about that for a moment. I want to make it more personal by pointing out that more Michiganders have died from COVID-19 in the last month and a half then died in all the years of Vietnam. This crisis has hurt working families particularly hard. No Michigander should have to worry about how to feed their family during a global pandemic; or how they’re going to cover the rent; or how they can go to work with confidence that they’re going to be safe; and that they’ll return and their families will be safe; or worry that they won’t be able to get a test for COVID-19 if they start experiencing symptoms.
Governor Whitmer: (03:09)
From the beginning, my team and I have been working around the clock to solve those problems for working families. Less than a week after we found our first cases of COVID-19, I signed an executive order to expand eligibility for unemployment benefits. We increased benefits from 20 to 26 weeks, reversing a cut that had happened under the previous administration. We increased the application eligibility period from 14 days to 28 days and suspended the normal in-person registration and work search requirements to make it easier for people to navigate. I also prohibited businesses from retaliating against workers who have to stay home because they’ve tested positive for COVID-19 or they’re experiencing symptoms or someone they’ve come in contact with has tested positive or is experiencing symptoms. No worker should be punished for doing their part to protect their family and themselves and their colleagues. I banned evictions and tax foreclosures during this crisis as well so that everyone can rest easy knowing they won’t lose their home in the midst of this global pandemic.
Governor Whitmer: (04:20)
And we’ve created the MiMortgage Relief Partnership with over 200 of Michigan’s financial institutions to ensure that no one who is experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 loses their home. We expanded childcare services for our frontline workers. Another priority was to ensure everyone who needed to get a test could and if necessary, get the treatment they needed for COVID-19. We’ve worked with nearly all of the state’s health insurance companies to waive cost sharing, including copays, deductibles and coinsurance for COVID-19 testing and treatments, and on Monday we announced that there are now 699,183 adults enrolled in the Healthy Michigan Plan. This is an increase of over 10,500 adults in the last week. This is the highest weekly total on record. I took these actions because working families deserve leaders who will do everything they can to support them during this time of crisis.
Governor Whitmer: (05:25)
It’s crucial to remember that our working families deserve year round support, especially when it comes to safety in the workplace. Even before COVID-19 hit, workplace safety has not gotten enough attention. Now in the midst of our global pandemic, it’s an opportunity to shine a light on that issue that we should be talking about year round. Workplace safety cannot be an afterthought. It’s an essential part of how we achieve a strong vibrant economy and right now we’re facing two crises. One is the public health crisis and the other is the economic crisis. I’m taking steps to address both, but let’s be clear. The public health crisis begets the economic crisis and that’s why our work has to be centered around meeting the needs of our public health. That means businesses are going to need to do their part as we slowly and safely re-engage sectors of our economy.
Governor Whitmer: (06:23)
We’ve already directed business to adopt an array of workplace practices that have been recommended both by industry and public health experts because nobody should have to worry about whether or not returning to work means that they’ll return safely to home in the evening when they kiss their loved ones goodnight. Businesses must protect their employees through carefully monitoring of symptoms, instituting an array of social distancing techniques, strengthening sanitation and hygiene, and providing recommended protective equipment, whether it’s masks or face shields or a combination thereof and additional measures. They will also be barred from retaliating against workers who stay home because they think they’re sick or they have tested sick or someone in their household has as well. I’ve mentioned some of the actions that my administration has taken already to protect our working families and today I’m announcing some additional protections for our workers.
Governor Whitmer: (07:20)
First, I want to mention this Friday I’ll be signing an executive order that will open both residential and commercial construction by May 7th. We are comfortable taking this step because it is a lower risk enterprise as we’ve scored risk and developed and worked with industry to make sure we’ve got appropriate protocols. Today I’m announcing a plan to help ensure that our frontline workers have paths to opportunity once we get beyond this crisis so we can thank them for the sacrifice that they’ve made on all of our behalves. This program was inspired by the GI Bill after World War II. Historically, when Americans put their lives on the line to defend the rest of us from a foreign enemy, we have shown our gratitude by giving them educational opportunities to improve their lives. Our enemy in this instance is a virus, but our frontline workers are just as heroic and that’s why it’s important for us to extend some gratitude and some opportunity once we are beyond this moment.
Governor Whitmer: (08:25)
This includes those working in our hospitals and nursing homes, our grocery store workers, ensuring we’ve got food on our tables, and the childcare workers that have helped out our children of the frontline, workers who are manufacturing PPE, and those protecting the public and safely, sanitation our workers, and those who also deliver supplies. Each of these sectors of our economy is continued on because we depend on them and so they deserve our thanks and our support. Today I’m announcing Futures for Frontliners. It’s a proposal to help ensure those heroes have paths to opportunity. It will provide tuition free college opportunities for people who have risked their lives fighting on the frontline of this pandemic. It will help more workers acquire technical certificates, associate degrees at community colleges and potentially bachelor degrees at universities. This is the first program of its kind in the United States, and I’m hopeful that other governors across the country will follow our lead to create pathways to opportunity for the people who have been on the front lines protecting our families.
Governor Whitmer: (09:37)
This will help us reach the goal that I set last year to achieve 60% of Michiganders with a post secondary degree or certificate by 2030. I recently signed legislation to create the Michigan Reconnect, a program that will help all Michigan adults up-skill, and it was a bipartisan effort with colleagues and friends in the legislature. Today’s proposal for Futures for Frontliners would ensure that our frontline workers receive tuition free college access no matter what. It’s the right thing to do for those who have served on the front lines of this crisis. I’m also taking another important step toward expanding childcare services for families that need them. Michigan has created the Childcare Relief Fund to provide direct noncompetitive grants to childcare providers. These funds will help ensure access to childcare for our critical infrastructure workers and ensures that childcare providers across the state have resources they need to reopen for Michigan’s workforce when the recovery process begins and grows, when more families are in need of childcare assistance.
Governor Whitmer: (10:50)
The Michigan’s Childcare Relief Fund will consist of a hundred million dollars of federal CARES Act funding and $30 million from the state’s childcare fund, both dedicated to be used only for childcare services. We’re expanding our Workshare program to help employers retain their skilled employees. Employees enrolled in a Workshare program can then receive weekly unemployment insurance benefits as well as additional $600 pandemic unemployment assistance, that weekly benefit. Both UI and PUA benefits will be funded solely through federal dollars. Through July, this program can act as supplemental pay for critical infrastructure workers by allowing them to continue to collect the $600 a week. Employers who enroll in this program by the end of July continue to have the UI benefit paid by federal dollars, so please enroll.
Governor Whitmer: (11:48)
I also send a letter today calling on Congress to support Senator Gary Peters Heroes Fund to provide hazard pay for frontline workers. Senator McConnell, I hope will do the right thing and pass this important legislation for our heroes on the front line. In Michigan, we have over three million critical infrastructure workers, so many are risking their own safety on the job while helping protect their fellow Michiganders. Senator Peter’s proposal would ensure that there is a $25,000 pandemic premium pay increase for all essential frontline workers equivalent to the raise of an additional $13 an hour from the start of the public health emergency until the end of this calendar year, as well as a $15,000 recruitment incentive for health and home care workers and first responders to attract and secure the workforce we need to fight the public health crisis. In their support for the Heroes Fund, Senators Peters and and Stabenow will continue to press the Trump administration to ensure that essential and frontline workers have the essential personal protection equipment that they need to stay safe on the frontline and I want to thank them both for their strong leadership on behalf of our state.
Governor Whitmer: (13:05)
These are important steps to supporting our workers both during this crisis and long after it’s over and I want to assure all of our workers that we’ll never forget those of you who stepped up and did your part during this tough time. Our state is eternally grateful for you, our doctors and our nurses and respiratory therapists, our first responders, grocery store employees and truck drivers, farmers and food producers, teachers and childcare workers, sanitation workers and the workers manufacturing PPE. You’re the reason we’re going to get through this. You have a voice in Lansing and I’ll never stop advocating for you. The people of Michigan have stepped up and we have started to flatten this curve. Most people have played their part and we are grateful. We’re now in a place where we can think about what the coming days look like and safely reengage. With that, I would like to hand it over to Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.
Joneigh Khaldun: (14:09)
Thank you, Governor. I’m pleased with the progress that we’re making across the state. We’re continuing to see an overall plateau in the number of cases of COVID-19. That means that the social distancing measures that we’ve been implementing over the past several weeks are working and we’re saving lives. As of today, we have 40, 399 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state and we have 3,670 people who have lost their battle with this disease. As long as we continue to see these cases and deaths, we must remain vigilant. While we are seeing a statewide plateau, some counties are actually seeing an increase in the rate of rise cases in their areas and particularly in the Western part of the state. We’re also seeing some outbreaks in places where people are congregating, such as nursing homes, homeless shelters, and some workplaces. We’re working closely with our local health departments to make sure that these places are getting the appropriate testing and the appropriate protocols are in place to protect employees and residents.
Joneigh Khaldun: (15:14)
We will continue to closely monitor all regions of the state to ensure we have the resources and capacity to slow the spread of this virus. One of our focuses, as you know, has been to expand testing as much as possible so that we know where the disease is and we can prevent it from spreading to others. With additional testing sites and our expansion of testing criteria, we’ve been able to significantly increase the number of people tested in the state. This week we are averaging about 6,800 tests per day and that’s about 50% more than we were averaging last week. We are proactively looking to expand our ability to test by identifying where there may be supply needs and making sure our labs that have testing capacity are matched with the people who need a test. We’re also working very closely with our task force on racial disparities.
Joneigh Khaldun: (16:09)
That’s chaired by Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, and we’re assuring that there is equitable testing across the state and including things such as mobile testing in our strategy. We’re also looking very closely at what’s happening in our hospitals, so the good news is that many hospitals in Michigan, particularly in the Southeast area of the state are doing much better now when it comes to that personal protective equipment, things like gowns and masks and gloves. Most have supplies that would last at least one to two weeks. Hospital utilization overall is trending downward from COVID-19 cases and particularly in Southeast Michigan. I think that’s very good. However, we still have to make sure that in other areas of the state where we’re seeing increasing numbers of cases and less hospital bed capacity, that we’re able to manage any surge in cases.
Joneigh Khaldun: (17:01)
As many of our hospitals start to stabilize and perform more time sensitive and urgent procedures, I also really want to reiterate that people should not delay seeking medical care if they need it. If you’re having severe symptoms like chest pain or difficulty breathing, you really should seek medical care. If you have important cancer screenings and treatments that need to be done, you should speak to your medical provider and talk about how you can have those procedures done safely. Our hospitals are open and we don’t want unnecessary delays in medical care. We are making much progress in Michigan to combat COVID-19 but we’re still in the early months of fighting this virus in the state.
Joneigh Khaldun: (17:45)
I know it is getting warmer outside and people are coming out of their homes now and that’s okay, but we want to make sure that even if you go outside to get fresh air, please remember to practice social distancing when you are out. And strongly consider still wearing even a homemade mask when you’re out just in case you come in close contact with someone else. We can beat this disease, but it will really be a longterm effort that will likely go well into next year until we have a vaccine or hopefully an antiviral treatment that works. I encourage everyone to be patient and stay the course and we really must remain cautious as we continue our efforts to fight against this virus. And with that I will turn it over to director Jeff Donofrio.
Jeff Donofrio: (18:35)
Thank you Dr. Khaldun and thank you Governor Whitmer for all of your leadership. The Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity has really had three focus areas during this crisis. First is to flatten the curve of transmission and stop the spread of COVID-19. Second is to provide those emergency financial assistance and relief to people in businesses that are so needed during this crisis. And then the third is to begin facilitating the safe re- engagement of our economy and the economic recovery that ultimately needs to happen. We have to make sure of course, in that recovery and in that re-engagement that workers are safe and protected. That we’re able to have them help grow their income and advance their careers, and protecting individuals, of course, has been a focus of this administration from the very beginning. We move quickly to impose eviction and tax foreclosure moratoriums to prevent home losses as the Governor mentioned.
Jeff Donofrio: (19:27)
We also made sure that the increase in unemployment benefits and extended eligibility was quickly implemented. The Governor made sure that workers who lacked paid leave wouldn’t have to risk going to work while immunocompromised or sick to maintain income. She also made sure that emergency unemployment assistance has been available to the million people who have applied and need it desperately. We are committed to making sure that every Michigander who applies for and is eligible for unemployment assistance receives it. And while Michigan’s unemployment system appears to be outpacing the rest of the country in paying benefits, having paid more than $2.7 billion to more than a million Michiganders, our focus and our resources remain on those individuals who need one-on-one assistance to complete their claims and get their benefits. We will not rest until that happens. As we look at the safe reopening of our economy and as we do everything possible to recognize the commitment and the work of those frontline workers, I think it’s going to be something we have to engage in because making sure that they are successful over the long term, for individuals who struggle already to make family sustaining wages, will be critical to the future of our state.
Jeff Donofrio: (20:45)
So the Governor’s Future for Frontliners program, which builds off that bipartisan Reconnect Program that provides a tuition free pathway to a college degree or certificate, means that we’re going to be investing not only in them, but in the future of our state. These workers include those in the health industry, hospitals, nursing homes, urgent care facilities, those who are testing and doing contract tracing, those in the food industry, in grocery stores, in curbside and home delivery. Those who are in agricultural processing, police, fire and manufacturers, those first responders. By investing in them again, we ensure our state’s future economic success and we look forward at LEO to working with the legislature, Senator Horn, Representative Frederick, who already have supported the bipartisan Reconnect Program and making this a reality. The Governor also mentioned expansion of the Workshare Program. This is a program that provides partial unemployment benefits to those whose hours have been cut and already thousands of individuals in this state are continuing to maintain their job because of Workshare and maintain their income.
Jeff Donofrio: (21:48)
That’s going to expand as we re-engage our economy. Workshare will allow us to re-hire individuals at a faster pace. As employers bring back laid off workers at a part time rate, Workshare will continue to provide partial unemployment support for lost hours. This includes the $600 weekly in pandemic unemployment assistance offered by the federal government through the end of July. More information will be available soon on how employers can take advantage of this program. As we of course work to reopen and provide the safe workplaces that are necessary to ensure that Michiganders can reengage in our economy, we look at how it is we’re going to keep individuals safe, how it is we’re going to work with employers. This week marks the Worker’s Memorial Day. That’s when we remember those who’ve been killed or injured on the job. We have to remember and we have to make sure that we don’t add to their roles and that workers continue to be able to return safely at home at the end of the day to their families.
Jeff Donofrio: (22:51)
For decades, that’s been the job of the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, MiOSHA. They’ve been charged with setting, enforcing and educating around workplace safety, health standards and practices, and by making sure that everyone understands the best guidelines, particularly now from the CDC. They continue to monitor and investigate workplace safety and compliance for health standards during this crisis and its role is only going to expand as we begin to reengage the economy. Already MiOSHA staff are working with business leaders and labor leaders to make sure that we minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 as individuals come back into the workplace. More information can be found at michigan.gov/miosha. Finally, much work is still remaining here to reopen many of our businesses safely. The worst thing that we can do for the longterm economic health of this state is to reopen too soon and increase infection rates, to reopen in a way that is unsafe.
Jeff Donofrio: (23:53)
This would lead to another round of shutdowns and certainly further economic pain. We’re committed to working under the leadership of the Governor to make sure this doesn’t happen. Key to our success and key to our efforts are going to be working with our partners in organized labor. Those partners who over the years have fought for workplace protections and made sure that the rules in workplaces reflect best practices around the country and around the world. It gives me great pleasure then to introduce Ron Bieber, the president of the AFL CIO, who we’ll be working with very closely.
Ron Bieber: (24:32)
Thank you, Jeff, and good afternoon. As Jeff said, yesterday, we observed Worker’s Memorial Day and every year on April 28th we remember those who have died or been disabled on the job over the past year. Since the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, 50 years ago, hundreds of thousands of workers lives have been saved, but today, many working people remain in serious danger. In 2018, more than 5,000 workers lost their lives in our…
Rob Bieber: (25:03)
In 2018, more than 5,000 workers lost their lives in our country from job-related traumatic injuries and an estimated 95,000 died from occupational diseases. So annually, we observed this day to honor these fallen workers and renew and redouble our resolve to fight for safe jobs and working conditions. This year with everything that’s happening, we didn’t have any of the in-person events that we traditionally hold to honor these workers, but in each of the virtual events that were held instead, I heard the same thing time after time and that was appreciation from workers all over Michigan for Governor Whitmer’s leadership during this COVID-19 crisis.
Rob Bieber: (25:48)
So on behalf of the working people in our state, I wanted to thank the governor for everything she has done to save so many lives and you have saved lives through the actions you have taken. I also want to thank Governor Whitmer for aiding the people who are laid off and struggling to just get by right now, by expanding eligibility for unemployment insurance benefits to 26 weeks. You have changed their lives for the better. This crisis is an ending anytime soon for these folks, the hole that they’re in just keeps getting deeper. So I’m hoping the legislature follows her lead by making this change permanent. Frankly, those six weeks should have never been cut in the first place and they were done in the previous administration, and I thought then it was wrong. I think today it’s wrong and I hope the legislature remedies that, the governor mentioned Senator Gary Peters bill to grant hazard pay to the heroes working on the front lines. Make no mistake, this bill and other important federal aid and protections for workers are stalled right now.
Rob Bieber: (26:56)
Senator McConnell, do the right thing and pass Senator Peters heroes fund bill. Governor Whitmer also mentioned her executive action to protect workers from being fired if they contact or contract, COVID-19 or if a close contact gets sick. And again, thank you. You know, a couple years ago the people in Michigan asked for legislative action on earn paid sick time and family leave. Hundreds of thousands have signed petitions asking the legislature to enact these protections. Well, as long as the legislature insists on holding in-person session in Lansing during the stay home, stay, stay safe time. They should do the right thing by working people and finally take action on paid sick time and family leave. Seems kind of needed right now to me. I also want to give a special thank you to my union brothers and sisters laboring on the front lines. All the nurses and healthcare professionals caring for the ill. Grocery and food service workers, keeping us fed. Postal workers, keeping us connected.
Rob Bieber: (28:06)
All the truck drivers bringing us goods and state employees making all of this possible. All of them risking their own safety every minute of every day. They have shown that they are truly angels walking on Earth looking out for all of us. For the past few weeks, it’s been my pleasure to join with the Michigan Economic Recovery Council as we work to develop safety protocols, guidelines and best practices to follow, so that workers are protected when they do return to their workplaces.
Rob Bieber: (28:40)
Until I started staying safe and [inaudible 00:28:43] working from my own home, I worked in an office building about three blocks from here and someday I’d like to go back there when the time is right. It’s hard getting stuff done at home, but I’m willing to do my part as well as everybody else. But my first office was on the shop floor and I’ll never stop making sure that working folks have a voice.
Rob Bieber: (29:09)
So I’ll share with you some of the same things that I’ve shared with the governor and with the CEOs on the Michigan Economic Recovery Council. Michigan workers are tough, gritty people who appreciate the dignity that a job provides. They take great pride in producing high quality products or providing services for the companies who employ them. And they love their companies. And every worker realizes that the hopes, dreams, and aspirations that they have for their families are directly tied to their job.
Rob Bieber: (29:46)
Now, there’s a lot of people out there itching to get back to work, but I can tell you this, there’s also a lot of workers who are just plain scared. They’ve been staying home for weeks now to protect themselves and their families. And by now, most people probably know someone who has died from this awful virus. I know more than I cared to know.
Rob Bieber: (30:12)
It’s many. And all of these workers that I have talked to all over Michigan have told me the same thing. More than being worried about themselves, they’re worried that when they do go back to work, they could bring the virus back home to their families and infect them and make them sick. So going back to work isn’t going to be like flipping on a light switch. Workers are going to be very apprehensive.
Rob Bieber: (30:39)
And there’s going to need to be a whole lot of patients shown on everyone’s part as they get comfortable in these new work environments with new work rules and more safety gear to deal with. I think mostly workers just want to know that someone’s looking out for them. If they’re represented by a union, they trust that their union will do everything it can do to protect them.
Rob Bieber: (31:06)
But the labor movement cares about all workers. And for those who aren’t fortunate enough to have union representation yet, they’re going to need to know someone has their back too. And fortunately, Michigan workers can feel confident that our governor and her team are making these right return to work decisions using the absolute best information available. At a time when it seems clear that national direction and policy is lacking, we should all be grateful for the strong decisive state leadership we have benefited from through this crisis. And because of that strong leadership and working through the coalition of healthcare and public health experts and labor and business leaders, the labor movement stands committed to working together with all parties to identify guidelines and best practices that put worker safety first, and at the appropriate time and in the safest manner possible as dictated by science data and health experts will get Michigan moving again. And I’d now like to turn it back over to our governor.
Governor Whitmer: (32:22)
Thank you. So with that, I’m happy to open it up for a few questions from the press.
Speaker 2: (32:29)
Governor, earlier this afternoon, your office released communication between your office and the Senate majority leaders indicating that you did not agree with their offer of two one-week emergency extensions in exchange for the public promise to do the next stay-at-home order legislatively. Why is negotiating stay-at-home orders with the legislature off the table at this point and where do negotiation stand? Is the state of emergency extension not coming at this point?
Governor Whitmer: (33:01)
So a couple of observations. First, the Republicans in the legislature want to negotiate opening up sectors of our economy. They’re acting as though we’re in the midst of a political problem. This is not a political problem that we have. This is a public health crisis. This is a global pandemic. We’ve already lost over 3,700 Michiganders more than we lost in Vietnam. I am completely focused on saving lives. I’m not going to engage in political negotiations with anybody. We don’t have time for politics and games when people’s lives are on the line. I’m going to make decisions not based on negotiation, but based on facts and science and data and risk. That’s what the Michigan Economic Recovery Council work is all about. That’s what our re-engagement turning the dial up and going forward with construction next week. And there may be other things to come and to be announced.
Governor Whitmer: (34:15)
But the fact of the matter is we remain in a state of emergency. I don’t know of any other legislature in the country that is just deciding to declare that the global pandemic that killed 103 Michiganders since yesterday is over. It is not over. We remain in a state of emergency until the order is rescinded and I do not have any intention of rescinding that right now.
Speaker 3: (34:46)
Governor, I guess with the construction going back into business, why May 7th? Why sign it Friday and then wait seven days? It seems a bit arbitrary, especially being a Thursday.
Governor Whitmer: (34:57)
It’s not arbitrary at all. It’s to make sure that the industry has noticed, so that they can start to get prepared for reengagement on the 7th. It also gives us enough time between the first wave and when this begins to really make sure that we are watching where COVID-19 is present. We continue to up the number of tests that we are doing, the tracing that we are doing.
Governor Whitmer: (35:18)
We do have a few places in Michigan that we are keeping our eye on. On the West side of the state, we have seen numbers increase. We’ve seen that in a few of our rural counties as well. And so it is not arbitrary at all. It is defined by what we believe is the lowest risk and the right cadence to keep risk down.
Speaker 4: (35:40)
Governor, can you hear me?
Governor Whitmer: (35:41)
Speaker 4: (35:43)
It’s the mask. So we have CDC data that suggests that there is an increase in the number of deaths that are not or do not appear to be COVID-related. Do we really know how many, and this may be for Dr. Khaldun. How many actual COVID-related deaths we have compared to non COVID-related deaths? Why are we seeing an increase in non COVID-related deaths as well?
Governor Whitmer: (36:06)
I’m going to hand that one over to the doctor.
Dr. Khaldun: (36:17)
Thank you. So that’s a good question. We’re actively looking at all of our deaths. We look at all of our death certificates in the department. We are currently looking at how many deaths we’re seeing that are related to COVID-19 versus things like heart disease and strokes .and we’re actually partnering with some academic folks as well to look at those more closely.
Dr. Khaldun: (36:38)
But again, it’s really too early to really know exactly retrospectively why we’re seeing increasing in deaths that are not necessarily related to COVID-19. I’ll also add that what we’re seeing in hospitals is that even though someone may have COVID-19, they may be dying from a stroke or something else that may be related to it. So we’ll have to flush all that out in the data.
Speaker 5: (37:02)
Governor, where are you at on lifting the ban on elective medical and dental procedures and would you consider lifting it based on regions as outlined by the Economic Recovery Council?
Governor Whitmer: (37:13)
So we’ve been having a lot of conversation around that. I think part of the importance here is to acknowledge that when people use the phrase elective procedures, that actually is considering a number of different types of procedures. Emergent procedures, time-sensitive and urgent procedures like oncology procedures, time-sensitive, but non-urgent, I’m sorry, non-urgent procedures like a hip replacement or a knee replacement.
Governor Whitmer: (37:41)
And then truly elective which would be kind of in the cosmetic realm. I’m looking at Dr. Joneigh and make sure that I get this right. So as we are proceeding we’ve been having intensive conversations with our public health experts as well as our leadership in our various hospital systems. And I do think that there is going to be something in the coming days on that front.
Speaker 6: (38:10)
Right now we’re across the street the House and Senate are meeting potentially extending or denying the state of emergency. Will that play any role in rolling out this safe start plan? Is there any impact that could come either way with whether they extend it or not?
Governor Whitmer: (38:24)
I don’t think if whatever determination they make changes the cadence that we have to proceed with. We are making decisions based on the best science and data with the council of some of our great business leaders as well as our public health leaders, as we score risk and plan for protocols to mitigate risk. I think you saw the reaction from a lot of different businesses in the construction industry about how pleased they are with this cadence.
Governor Whitmer: (38:51)
I think that people are going to be able to really see that each of these steps depends on the level of risk and the ability to develop protocols to mitigate that risk. We’re going to keep moving forward, but we’ve got to keep measuring every step of the way and listen to scientists and get the facts and make sure that we keep people safe.
Governor Whitmer: (39:10)
We don’t want a second spike. I know that we maybe don’t all see eye to eye on everything here, but I would put a lot of money on the fact that we’re probably unanimous and that no one wants to see a second spike where we have to come back and do a stay-at-home posture. I can tell you I don’t want to see that and I presume that that’s the case for everyone.
Speaker 7: (39:30)
This is regarding the executive orders, that there’s either some confusion or some conflict on your authority to issue them, and how long they last. Why do you get to decide which statute you’re going to follow when it comes to emergencies and executive orders?
Governor Whitmer: (39:51)
It’s not for me to decide which statute. I am citing all of the realms of authority that are vested in the executive branch, especially in a crisis. This is a crisis that we haven’t seen it in a 100 years in this country. We’ve lost 103 more Michiganders since yesterday at this very time. Garlin Gilchrist stood here on the stage last week and talks about the fact that he’d lost 15 people in his life. We are nowhere near out of the woods on this.
Governor Whitmer: (40:20)
We are flattening the curve. We do have reasons to feel like the work that we’ve done is paying off. As we re-engage. We have to do so slowly. This is not a political conversation. This is not a political negotiation. This is about the public health. That’s precisely what these emergency powers are all about. And so as I use them, we cite all the sources of that power so that people understand.
Governor Whitmer: (40:47)
This is the very kind of crisis that they are used in. I don’t enjoy using all of these levers of this office, but I have to do this to save lives and that is what centers every decision we’ve made. I know that it’s hard. I know that people are stressed out, that people are feeling squirrelly from being at home so much with their family. I know that people are worried about getting a job so that they can pay their bills or whether or not their small business is going to make it.
Governor Whitmer: (41:16)
I have those same fears and yet I know we can’t make decisions based on feeling and fear. We have to go with the facts and the science lives are depending on this. And ultimately our economic health is depending on us getting this right. And that’s why I stand here with experts so that you know we are doing the hard work, the data is driving this and our plans to reopen are thoughtful.
Governor Whitmer: (41:45)
They will keep workers safe. They will continue to put us in a position where we can keep engaging additional sectors of our economy and we will get there. We are making progress, but we’re not out of the woods yet.
Speaker 8: (42:00)
So you’ve said that workers would not be punished for staying home if they don’t feel safe when their job reopens or businesses would be banned from forcing their workers to come in.
Speaker 8: (42:11)
So what’s the administration’s plan for making sure that’s the case? Are there going to be any additional executive orders or any additional rules necessary to ensure businesses comply with this?
Governor Whitmer: (42:25)
I know it’s kind of natural to ask the punitive question, right? But I think what is really important about the work that we’re doing that is happening in the MERC, that is happening in the executive office as we’re getting all of the data. We know that employers want to go back to work and stay at work, that they want their employees to be safe. That having confidence of their employees, that it is a safe workplace and of the public that they can go there and be safe as well. All of these are to our mutual benefit.
Governor Whitmer: (42:57)
And that’s why I think we’ve seen such great businesses step up and really inform the kind of protocols that they think are necessary to keep people safe. Whether it is an auto manufacturer who’s built in plexiglass separations, where we can’t have the six foot distancing that we are all supposed to be observing. Whether it is let’s see a landscaping business that knows that where you share instruments, they’ve got to be sanitized between uses.
Governor Whitmer: (43:27)
Our businesses are interested in making this work and making this work, so that we don’t ever have to think about shutting down again. And that’s why we’ve partnered with them and our labor leaders, and our healthcare leaders to make sure that we get this right. It’s in everyone’s interest to avoid a second wave at all costs.
Governor Whitmer: (43:45)
And so if a worker test positive for COVID-19, the workplace, the employer won’t want them showing up. And we don’t want them to feel economic pressure to not be honest about their health. And so it is in all of our interests to make sure that we get this right. And I know that our great employers across the state, small businesses and large businesses are vested in the same outcome that we are.
Speaker 9: (44:14)
Your Futures for Frontliners plan, where is this money going to be coming from? Is this part of the projected one to $3 billion shortfall that’s projected, especially with the unofficial budget deadline looming in a couple months?
Governor Whitmer: (44:26)
These are federal dollars, some of which is the biggest chunk of which is from the federal CARES Act. And then in the department of Labor and Economic opportunity, there’s another $30 million. Wait, I’m conflating two things aren’t I, Jeff? And the Department of Education, we have dollars that are also federal but that are dedicated toward upskilling. So that’s the two sources, but there are federal dollars.
Speaker 10: (44:56)
The TCF Field Hospital in Detroit. You were talking about the trends. How long do you anticipate that, that will have to remain open?
Governor Whitmer: (45:06)
We’re making some decisions right now. The great victory here is that we were ramping up the building of offsite alternative care facilities. Because we saw the trajectory that Michigan was on. The people of Michigan have done the right thing. The stay home, stay safe order has helped to flatten this curve, but an order doesn’t flatten the curve. It’s the actions of the people. People of Michigan have done the right thing by staying home. We’ve seen this curve absolutely drop.
Governor Whitmer: (45:39)
And so these 1000 bed alternate care sites are not necessary. They’re not filled. Thank God. They are functioning and they’re attending to some patients, but they’re nowhere near used as we were preparing for. And that’s a good thing. So we’re going to make some adjustments.
Governor Whitmer: (46:01)
We know that it’s critical that we continue to be good stewards of the taxpayer dollar that we are able to meet need if we do see a spike. And so all of these pressures are driving the conversation about what our next steps are with TCF. And you’ll know something in the next few days. I think we’re on that trajectory. Is that about right, Dr. J? Okay, good. All right. Thanks everybody.