Aug 25, 2020
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Press Conference Transcript August 25
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s August 25 press conference. Gov. Whitmer and state leaders urged the public to get flu vaccines. Read the full transcript of her news briefing speech here.
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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (05:21)
Good afternoon. Today is Tuesday, August 25th. Of course, I am joined by Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, our chief medical executive, Brian Peters, the CEO of the Michigan Hospital Association, Dennis Litos, who is the CEO of the Michigan Primary Care Association, and Veronica McNally, the founder of Franny Strong Foundation and a member of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (05:45)
I want to start with some good news today. Today, Michigan welcomed a $1.2 million donation from Ikea that will go to Michigan’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Initiative. This is the largest donation to fund to date and will help support Michigan’s ongoing COVID-19 relief efforts and other critical services. This donation is crucial to saving lives and providing much needed support through our COVID-19 response. So thank you to everyone at Ikea who helped put this donation together.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (06:19)
Flu season is right around the corner, and I’ve invited some experts here today to talk about how important it is for Michiganders to get our flu shots. Preventing the flu will help us save lives and preserve the healthcare resources that we will need this fall to continue fighting COVID-19.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (06:41)
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people get hospitalized with the flu. The CDC estimated that between October, 2019 and April of 2020, as many as 740,000 Americans were hospitalized. And as many as 62,000, it was fatal for. So when we all get our flu vaccine, we can help keep thousands of flu patients out of the hospitals and prevent overcrowding.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (07:12)
Now, imagine if we had a major flu outbreak on top of the surge that we experienced in March and April of this year. Thousands of more people who needed to be hospitalized. That would mean more people would lose their battle. And we can help prevent that when we all get our flu vaccinations.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (07:35)
As many Michiganders as possible should get vaccinated for the flu. And it’s especially important for students and educators. Many students are heading back to school in the coming days, and others are hopeful to return at some point during the fall. So it’s vitally important that both K-12 students, educators and their school staff get the flu shot if they are planning face to face instruction. The same is true for college students on our campuses at community colleges or our higher education institutions, like our universities. I hope that schools and colleges and any programs that anticipate face-to-face instruction work very concertedly with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to promote the importance of flu vaccinations in their communities.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (08:26)
To help spread the word today, MDHHS announced it is launching a statewide media campaign called Facing the Flu Together, encouraging Michiganders to get their flu vaccine this fall and to help prevent an outbreak of the flu.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (08:41)
Additionally, the state’s I Vaccinate campaign is working to educate residents about the safety of vaccinations. Last flu season, 3,262,317 people in Michigan received the flu vaccine. The state has set a goal of achieving a 33% increase in flu vaccinations this season, which means vaccinating more than 4.3 million people. We would love for that to be the low bar, but that is our goal right now. Let’s make that all of our goal.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (09:15)
Getting a flu shot is simple, and it’s effective. The CDC estimates that from 2010 to 2011, that flu season through the ’15, ’16 flu season, flu vaccines prevented as many as 6. 7 million illnesses, 3.1 million outpatient medical visits, 87,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 respiratory and circulatory deaths in the United States. And it’s so simple, that I am going to get my flu shot right here during this press conference, at the end of it.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (09:51)
The vaccine is already available in many parts of Michigan, with an ample supply expected across the state and across the nation by early fall. In Michigan, you can get a flu vaccine at clinics, doctors’ offices, your local health department, retail pharmacies, some schools and workplaces. And in most cases, they are covered by your insurance. So for a full list of flu vaccine clinics near you, visit the flu vaccine finder at www.flu.gov. Getting a flu vaccine is one of the many ways we can protect ourselves and our families from this risk this year.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (10:32)
There are still crucial precautions we must all take to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and the flu. Number one, wear your mask. You can show your Michigan pride for the Great Lakes. Wearing your mask can save your life and reduce transmission of COVID-19 and the flu by 70%. wearing a mask is simple. And we’re doing everything we can to ensure that everyone in Michigan has access to one that they can use while they’re out grocery shopping or on a trip to the pharmacy.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (11:03)
Last week, we announced the MI Mask Aid program that will provide 4 million free masks to people in Michigan who need it most. Anyone interested in receiving a free mask can find a distribution location by calling the COVID-19 hotline at (888) 535-6136 or looking at their local community action agency online. It’s crucial that we continue to maintain six feet of physical distancing as we head into flu season and COVID increase this fall.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (11:40)
So the COVID-19 pandemic is still a very real threat. It is still very real all across the state of Michigan. It’s a threat to our families. It is a threat to our healthcare workers and people on the front lines. And it is a threat to our economy. Until there is a coronavirus vaccine, we must do everything we can in our power to protect one another. Nobody is immune to this virus. So remember, wear a mask, maintain social distancing, and go get your flu shot.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (12:09)
Thank you. And with that, I’ll hand it over to Dr. Khaldun.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (12:17)
Thank you, Governor.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (12:19)
So as of yesterday, Michigan has 97,660 total cases and 6,397 deaths due to COVID-19. We continue to pay close attention to the trends in the data across regions. It’s also important to know that, even within a region, different counties may differ in the way that the virus is spreading. So here is the data update as of last Friday, August 21st. The Detroit region still has the highest case rate at 69 cases per million people per day. But that trend has been decreasing over the past week. The upper peninsula and Saginaw regions both have about 57 cases per million people per day. However, the upper peninsula has seen a decrease-
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (13:03)
People per day. However the Upper Peninsula has seen a decrease in the case rate over the past week and the Saginaw region has seen an increase. The Kalamazoo region has a case rate of 53 cases per million people per day and has seen a decrease over the past two weeks. The Grand Rapids region is seeing 40 cases per million people per day and has seen a decrease over the past two weeks. The Traverse City region has about 32 cases per million people per day, and has seen an increase over the past two weeks and the Jackson and Lansing areas have around 25 cases per million people per day and have seen decreases over the past one to two weeks.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (13:44)
Overall the percent of tests that are positive is at about 3.3% and is holding steady. Ideally we will want that number to come down even lower, below 3%. We also continue to aggressively trace outbreaks which are happening in every region of the state. Last week our local health departments identified 70 new outbreaks that they were investigating and I am pleased to announce that information about these outbreaks will now be posted weekly on our website at www.michigan.gov/coronavirus.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (14:17)
Our state and local health departments continue to be laser-focused on actively investigating positive cases, contact tracing and identifying people who may have been exposed so that we can slow the spread of the disease as much as possible. So as the governor noted, while we’re focused on fighting COVID-19, we also know that COVID-19 and flu viruses will be circulating this fall. This is incredibly concerning. People with symptoms of the flu will need to stay out of school and work or they could get very sick and need to be admitted to the hospital or even god forbid they could lose their life. This is not a joke. I’m a practicing emergency medicine physician and I’ve taken care of many patients who have battled the flu and some have even lost their lives.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (15:03)
Last year in the United States, an estimated 39 to 56 million people got the flu, and up to 62,000 of those people died. This includes children. 157 children in the United States lost their life to the flu last year, and that includes six children right here in Michigan, and no one wants that. Given all that we’ve been through with COVID-19 this year, and the need for us to preserve our hospital resources to fight a possible surge of COVID-19. But unlike COVID-19 there is a vaccine for the flu, and that’s why today, we are launching the Facing the Flu Together campaign to increase awareness of the importance of flu vaccinations. I think we have a little video to show you.
Speaker 1: (15:55)
In the face of COVID-19, staying healthy is important, and now the same is true in the face of flu. Influenza has the power to infect millions, putting lives and the healthcare system at risk. Fortunately, it’s easy to protect yourself. The flu vaccine is safe and effective and with COVID-19 still spreading, it’s essential. To see how you can hit this virus head-on, visit michigan.gov/flu.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (16:26)
Thank you. So this is incredibly important. Last season, only about 31% of Michiganders age six months and up received their flu vaccine, and in 2018, Michigan ranked 38th out of all 50 states for flu vaccination rates. We can do better and we must do better. The stakes are simply too high. I’m pleased to stand here today with the leadership of the Michigan Primary Care Association, the Michigan Hospital Association, and the Franny Strong Foundation. They are critically important partners in our fight against the flu and are taking important steps this year to expand access to the vaccine. This includes making the flu vaccine more accessible in clinics, at community sites, and even at current COVID-19 testing centers. Our goal is to increase flu vaccination rates by 33% this year. That’s one million more people who get the flu vaccine in Michigan than last flu season and with these important partnerships I’m sure that we can do it.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (17:28)
Let me also dispel some myths about the flu vaccine. So first, the flu vaccine does not cause the flu. There are some people whose bodies may respond to the flu vaccine with mild body aches or a runny nose. That s not the flu. That’s your body mounting an immune response so it can fight off the flu if it comes in contact with the virus. Some people also say that the flu vaccine does not work. That’s also not accurate. The flu vaccine prevents anywhere from 40 to 60% of cases of the flu every year, and even if someone who gets the vaccine gets the flu, the disease tends to much less severe and you’re less likely to end up in the hospital or even worse, lose your life. So I’m asking everyone this year to please do their part. Part of fighting COVID-19 this year means getting your flu vaccine, and tell your family and friends to do the same. Talk to your primary care provider, go to the pharmacy nearest you, or you can go to our website, www. michigan.gov/flu to find out more.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (18:35)
Soon the weather’s going to start getting cooler and I know it has been a tough year for everyone, but please, keep on doing your part. Wear your mask, wash your hands, keep maintaining your si feet of distance from others and get your flu vaccine. With that, I’ll turn it over to Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.
Brian Peters: (19:07)
Thank you so much Dr. Khaldun and Governor Whitmer. I can tell you it’s been a great privilege for the MHA and our member hospitals and health systems throughout the great state of Michigan to collaborate with you and your entire administration from the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic here in the state of Michigan, and I can tell you without question that your decisive actions, your amazing leadership has unquestionably saved lives. I will tell you that the Michigan Health & Hospital Association mission is to advance the health of individuals and communities and I’ve never been more proud of that mission than I am today, and I’ve never been more proud of the amazing hospitals and health systems throughout our state who are truly on the front lines of this pandemic. Our association has been in constant daily contact with the amazing men and women who work in those hospitals and health systems and it’s from that unique perspective that I can tell you we are very concerned about the potential for a COVID surge at the same time as a flu surge here in the state of Michigan later this year.
Brian Peters: (20:17)
In that scenario, many of our hospitals could potentially fill to capacity. That is a scenario that we have seen earlier this year in a number of communities throughout the state of Michigan. It’s something that we have the opportunity to avoid by taking strong action now. Looking back at the 2019-2020 flu season, we had 952 flu-related hospitalizations here in the state of Michigan and as you heard tragically, six pediatric deaths. Now we can avoid that same scenario if we take the right actions today, but the bottom line is this is deadly serious business. Everyone’s speculating today about when we’ll have an effective and widely available vaccine for COVID-19. When you talk about the flu, the reality is that tool is already in our toolbox today. We know that flu vaccines work. From the perspective of the MHA and our hospitals and health systems, we know that flu vaccines have been proven to reduce the risk of flu-related hospitalizations for both children and adults, and that’s proven and borne out by a wide range of peer-reviewed literature in the medical field. The bottom line is the science is clearly with us.
Brian Peters: (21:40)
As a result, we’re very proud today to announce that we are continuing to strengthen our relationship and our collaboration with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services in the following ways as we head into the 2020-2021 flu season. First, all hospital and health system CEOs earlier today received a letter co-signed by myself and Dr. Khaldun urging all of our hospitals to use both existing and new innovative outreach modalities to offer the flu vaccine to their communities. That could include mobile clinics, emergency departments, outpatient facilities and think about this, in the last several months, we have seen a very large number of new COVID testing sites sprout up around the state, organized and funded by our member hospitals. Those are perfect opportunities we believe to also provide the flu vaccine to the public.
Brian Peters: (22:42)
Secondly, we’re asking our hospitals to both mandate and provide flu vaccine to all healthcare personnel. Now the vast majority of our members for a number of years have had mandatory flu vaccine policies in place for frontline caregivers. We certainly want that to continue but we’d like to expand that to all employees of our hospitals and health systems because they could very easily come in contact with those frontline caregivers, not to mention families, friends and others. Think about the fact that in Michigan, hospitals employ over 230,000 individuals. We have the opportunity as employers to lead by example in this way, and finally, we are urging our members to amplify the public messaging that you’ve just heard about, to use our powerful communication channels in all of the communities served by our hospitals and health systems, to lift up the importance of flu vaccinations this fall. It’s more important now than ever. So again, I’d like to thank Governor Whitmer, thank Dr. Khaldun. You can rest assured that the Michigan Health & Hospital Association and our membership stands ready to be your actively engaged partners as we continue to combat COVID and we combat the flu in the state of Michigan. We are committed to advancing the health of all Michiganders. Thank you very much.
Dennis Litos: (24:28)
Well good afternoon everyone. As I was introduced, I am the CEO of the Michigan Primary Care Association, the voice of community health centers here in Michigan. Community health centers are open to everyone regardless of who they are, where they came from, or the patient’s ability to pay. They can operate in federally designated underserved areas, helping to improve the population health of people who would otherwise find it difficult to get access to patient care. As part of that mission, the MPCA is partnering with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to promote flu vaccinations at our 45 member health centers which represent 330 sites throughout the state of Michigan, both in our urban and rural areas. This partnership will fund additional flu vaccine resources and trainings for healthcare providers and clinical staff as well as link our health centers to new patients with outreach and engagement technology to spread vaccine awareness throughout the state. Community health centers are adopting innovative ideas to increase vaccination rates, by operating drive through locations, extending clinic hours, and deploying mobile medical units that help bring vaccinations directly to those communities that are in need the most and don’t have other access.
Dennis Litos: (25:45)
The keyword here is communities. Getting a vaccination is not just about an individual choice. It is a community choice that has the potential to help or harm our communities that we live in. Vaccination helps protect the people who can’t be vaccinated due to their age, allergies –
Dennis Litos: (26:03)
… protect the people who can’t be vaccinated due to their age, allergies, illness, or weakened immune system. Like Dr. Khaldun said, the flu is not just a bad cold, it’s an often devastating illness that, at best, might sicken you for weeks, and worse, could land you in the hospital or may cause your death. Vaccination is both safe and easy to receive. If you need an appointment at one of our community health centers, we’re located at 330 sites throughout the state, so there’s going to be one near you if you need access. And all you have to do is go ahead and reach out to us online at mpca.net and click “Finding a Health Center.” It’s mpca.net, and click “Finding a Health Center.”
Dennis Litos: (26:47)
But remember, if calling, make an appointment at a community health center. If it does not work for you for whatever reason, as mentioned earlier, you can get a flu shot at many local pharmacies, including the ones that are in your local grocery stores. So when you are putting your shopping list together, get out there and get your flu shot at the same time. We have a real opportunity as Michiganders to collectively make an impact on our own health by getting our flu vaccine, strengthening our own immune systems and the community around us and taking the pressure off hospital capacity at a time of a COVID-19 emergency. This is critical to our communities that we serve.
Dennis Litos: (27:27)
We are grateful to the MDHHS, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, support of our health centers, playing a bigger role in the flu vaccination effort here in Michigan this year. And for everyone’s health and wellbeing, let’s get together, get our flu shots, and stomp out the flu this season, and we’ll be a better community for that. And thank you so much. And I’ll turn the podium over to Veronica.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (27:52)
Thank you [inaudible 00:27:52].
Veronica Valentine McNally: (28:08)
Good afternoon. My name is Veronica Valentine McNally, and I’m appearing today on behalf of the Franny Strong Foundation. I’m speaking to you today as a mother who lost a child to a vaccine preventable disease. In 2012, I lost my infant daughter, Francesca Marie to pertussis, also known as whooping cough. A highly contagious respiratory disease. She died just a few days after showing symptoms from this disease. And we were having her baptized as they were taking her from us. We never saw it coming. Shortly after Francesca died, we founded the I Vaccinate campaign, a public education campaign to help Michiganders get answers to their questions about vaccines and vaccine preventable diseases based on credible scientific information. I also have the unique privilege of serving on the advisory committee on immunization practices, a committee within the United States Centers for Disease Control and prevention. The ACP develops recommendations on the use of vaccines to control disease in the United States.
Veronica Valentine McNally: (29:20)
I serve as the consumer representative and I provide perspective on the community and social aspects of vaccination. It’s based on this experience and my advocacy work, that there are a few things I think people should know about influenza vaccination. First, this year, there is significant concern over influenza and COVID-19 epidemics happening together. If you’ve never received a flu vaccine before, now is the time to start. Influenza is very serious and I’m going to repeat some of the statistics that you’ve already heard here today because they’re important. The CDC estimates that between October of 2019 and April of 2020, as many as 740,000 Americans were hospitalized and as many as 62,000 died. The CDC also estimates that between the 2010 and 2011 flu season through the 2015, 2016 season, flu vaccine prevented as many as 6.7 million illnesses, 3.1 million outpatient medical visits, 87, 000 hospitalizations and 10,000 respiratory and circulatory diseases in the United States.
Veronica Valentine McNally: (30:38)
And unfortunately, during the 2019, 20 flu season, over 150 flu related pediatric deaths were reported. It’s important to remember that the common signs and symptoms of COVID-19; fever, cough, and difficulty breathing are also present, can also occur with influenza illness. So vaccination this season will reduce doctor visits and hospitalizations and the need for diagnostic testing, which will decrease stress on our healthcare system. Next, I want you to know that this is a community effort. The more people who are vaccinated in a population, the larger effect the vaccine has. And finally, I want to talk to our expectant moms for a moment. Influenza vaccination has been shown to be safe and effective in pregnant women. And pregnant women and their fetuses are at high risk for severe complications of flu. So vaccination is strongly recommended for you. I want to thank the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Governor Whitmer and Dr. Khaldun for their support of the I Vaccinate campaign and their strong leadership during this pandemic. Please know that protecting yourself and others against influenza will save lives. I vaccinate to protect myself, my children and my fellow Michiganders. Thank you.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (32:12)
Well, thank you. Veronica, thank you so much. There are a few things as powerful as a parent who’s turned their loss into a crusade to save others. So thank you. And Brian and Dennis, appreciate it. I’m going to get my flu vaccination now, show you how easy it is, and then I’ll return to the microphone for a few questions from the press.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (33:50)
(silence). Thank you, Wendy. I appreciate it. Literally the easiest thing I will do today. So thank you. With that, happy to open it up for a few questions from the press. I hope that if you’re afraid of needles, you looked away for a second there. But wanted you to see that this is something that is easy, it protects you and helps protect all of us if we keep more people out of the hospital as we go into the fall. So thank you. Let’s open it up.
Speaker 2: (34:17)
All right, governor. The first question will come from Tim [inaudible 00:08:20].
Governor, political question. Do you favor the secretary of state going in to take over the voting in Detroit in November?
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (34:32)
So the question about making sure that this November we’re prepared statewide is one that’s very important. It’s important to everyone, regardless of who you’re voting for. I hope that people are going to avail themselves of the opportunity to request an absentee ballot. That process became open on August 20th. So anyone who is eligible to vote in November can go online right now and request an absentee ballot. I’ve been having ongoing conversations with our local clerks, but also the secretary of state. I do recognize that there are some unique challenges that we are going to confront because we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. And we are for the first time implementing the people’s will, when we amended our constitution in 18 to make it easier to vote from home. So I recognize that there are some challenges that we’re going to have to navigate.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (35:20)
I’ll be working very closely with the clerk, but also with the secretary of state to make sure that we have the support to get this done right. We want to get every vote counted and any Michigander who has not yet ordered your absentee ballot, I hope you’ll go online today and order that so that you can vote safely from home. We are still in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s always safer to do these tasks from home. And it’s really important that people vote and get their ballots in as quickly as you can.
Governor, the question was Detroit, taking over the vote in Detroit?
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (35:54)
So I’m going to watch and work closely with the secretary of state and the clerk in Detroit. We all have a vested interest in getting this right. And there are unique challenges. And so the secretary of state and the clerk though, are the point on this particular one, Tim.
Speaker 2: (36:12)
Okay. Governor, we’ll go to Sam with WWMT.
All right, governor. Either you or Dr. Khaldun can answer this, but you referenced that there had been 70 outbreaks, I believe, in the last few weeks. We saw last week that there were 14 outbreaks at schools. How many of these 70 outbreaks have been at schools and how concerned should parents and families be about that?
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (36:39)
Well, I think every one of us should be concerned, right? We know that as we congregate, as we bring people back in for face to face instruction or in communities where people are moving back in such as dorms, that it’s going to be really important that we are vigilant and wearing our masks and staying six feet apart and washing our hands, getting the flu vaccine. All of these things are important components to getting this right. With regard to your question specifically about what we have seen in terms of school outbreaks, I am going to hand that over to Dr. Khaldun and she’ll be able to shed a little more light on it.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (37:20)
Right. So as I said, we are now posting all of the information about our outbreaks on the website. So you can go there and kind of track it there as well. So right now we’re still seeing the majority of our outbreaks, the new outbreaks every week, being in longterm care facilities. There’s a lot of people that are still doing just social gatherings and weddings. We’re still seeing some outbreaks in childcare facilities and some, again, with K-12 school and with universities. Haven’t memorized the numbers for all of those, but they are on our website. And again, we continue to work very closely with our local health departments to track those outbreaks.
Speaker 2: (38:01)
Okay. The next question will come from Jonathan with Bridge.
Sorry. Governor, you said last week that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services was revealing the status of [inaudible 00:38:22] that remain closed in various parts of the state. Where is that now? And are gyms and movie theaters and other businesses that have been shut six months going to be able to reopen soon?
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (38:34)
So I’ll just make a few observations here. We know that there is a lot of pressure, of course, on our business owners, as well as on decision makers, and on our public health officials. We’re going to continue to make decisions based on facts and data and recommendations from health experts like Dr. Khaldun and the University of Michigan Public Health et cetera.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (39:01)
-the University of Michigan Public Health, et cetera. Because we took aggressive action early on to fight this virus, our state is faring a lot better than a lot of states are right now, and while I’ve reported this month that despite being one of the hardest hit states early on, we currently rank 40th in the nation in terms of seven-day average of new coronavirus cases per capita and 40th in the number that are testing positive on the diagnostic tests. Those are good pieces of information, positive pieces of information.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (39:34)
Yesterday, CNN Business published a ranking of states’ economies that are getting back on track, and Michigan ranked number seven in the nation. That’s a testament to the work that we’ve done, it’s a testament to following the science, and it’s a Testament to the people of Michigan taking this seriously and doing the right thing.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (39:52)
The economy in Michigan is operating at 87% of where it was in early March. So that’s a powerful story to tell. Certainly, we know that all of this success is precarious, that we can see these numbers move real quickly in the other direction, and that’s why watching these seven-day averages is really important. That is why the context is really important. It is also why we are assessing if there are sufficient protocols around businesses that have not yet been engaged to see if we can start to reengage at some level on those fronts.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (40:28)
I’m not going to be bullied into making that decision. I’m going to follow the science. I’m going to work with Dr. Khaldun. But we are looking very closely at those businesses that have been closed for the duration to determine if those protocols are there and if the seven-day averages and the number of positive cases per million per day would support doing a little bit more on those fronts.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (40:54)
But there’s no decision that I’m announcing today. It is something that we are continuing to scrutinize and determine if it’s safe to move forward. So I am in earnest looking at that, working with the department, working with Dr. Khaldun on those fronts. It’s too early to say yet.
Okay. The next question comes from David with the Associated Press.
[inaudible 00:41:21] follow up on that, and this could be a question for you and Dr. Khaldun. Some of those businesses that have not opened, and much of the state have opened in Northern Michigan, have you seen evidence of any outbreaks in bowling alleys, gyms, movie theaters?
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (41:41)
I can’t give you data off the top of my head with regard to bowling alleys and gyms specifically in those regions, but I think you’re asking a good question, David, and we will definitely share more detail. You can see it on the website, but I can’t tell you off the top of my head. Could you, Doctor?
There are some, but I don’t have the exact numbers.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (41:59)
Yeah. I mean, certainly there are gyms that are flouting the law and have seen outbreaks, and they’ve closed within days of when they’ve opened. I know that when you look at consumer confidence and you look at how we’ve reengaged our economy, you can tell that we’re in a stronger position than a lot of other states, because people have to know that they’re going to be safe. So it is on the business owner as much as it is on the customers to ensure that we’re masking up and we’re keeping one another safe. I think that that’s a big issue in places that open and don’t follow the rules and then have an outbreak. I think that we know that they’re going to struggle for a longer period of time because of the fact that it wasn’t safe to re-engage. So just a couple of observations. But Dave, we’ll follow up with you with a little more information on that specific question, but I invite you to check out the website. There’s a lot of detail on there that you can see.
Okay. We’ve got time for just a couple more questions. So the next one will come from Rob Maloney with [inaudible 00:43:03]. (silence).
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (43:01)
I’m not getting anything, Tiff.
I apologize. I thought I was unmuting. You had said that this is the time for [inaudible 00:43:26] watching in terms of schools opening and the metrics you were watching. Where is the state in terms of in-school learning, and is the state going to have to step in or be involved in any of these local decisions?
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (43:40)
So I think we’ve been very clear. With over 800 school districts in the state of Michigan, there are different challenges and different opportunities in different districts. Some districts have an abundance of space. That’s an opportunity where you can space students out more and keep people safe. Others have greater access to broadband and devices.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (44:06)
That’s precisely why one size fits all wasn’t going to work for every district in the state of Michigan. That’s why we articulated guardrails. If the region is in Phase 3, it’s got to be distance learning. If the region is in Phase 4, there are specific protocols that must be followed. But it’s a design that comes from the school board and the superintendent working with the teachers’ unions and working with parents organizations. If it’s in Phase 5, there are even more discretion, but all of those things still hold.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (44:38)
That’s precisely why these decisions are going to have to be made at the local level with the … and they are being made at the local level. Now, if we see uncontrolled community spread all across the state of Michigan like we were seeing in March when we had a lot less information about this virus, about how to keep ourselves safe, that was why we stepped in when we did. We know a lot more. We promulgated protocols. We know what it’s going to take to stay safe, and we’ve also ensure that there are more resources for schools to do this if that’s what the community and the district has decided to do, if it’s a face-to-face instruction situation. So at this juncture, it is really a decision that needs to be owned at the local level with the buy-in of the workforce as well as the parents and the student body.
Okay, Governor. The last question will come from Chad with Crain’s.
Governor, the legislature and you have already dipped into the rainy day fund for the state to the tune of about $350 million to balance this [inaudible 00:45:43] budget. There has been some suggestion in Lansing that school districts should spend down their fund balances, basically their rainy day funds, in lieu of or trying a way of avoiding cuts, in exchange for cuts. Is that something that you would support by having school districts spend down fund balances?
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (46:03)
Chad, thank you for the question. I am not familiar with the conversation that’s been happening on this front, so I’m not comfortable endorsing or advocating against it. I think that we’re all in a position where we’re making a lot of tough decisions, and the good news from the revenue estimating conference yesterday is that the issue is not as bad as we were preparing for for this year. But we still know that the outlook is very concerning as we go into next year, and we still know that all of the work that we’ve done, the sacrifice that we’ve made is precarious.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (46:38)
This situation can change fast, and that’s why it’s important that we all remain vigilant. With regard to districts we have, I know many were sighing a sigh of relief yesterday with the numbers that came out, but it is no time to spike the football. I would caution against rash decisions around something as critical as spending down all of our funds to get through this moment, because we know that this moment doesn’t end tomorrow or in six weeks from now, maybe not even six months from now. In fact, it could be longer than that that we’re still confronting COVID-19 and that we’re still longing for a vaccine that can be distributed to the masses.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (47:24)
So this is, I think, a moment that is challenging for a lot of leaders. There are no easy solutions, and we’re going to work closely with districts to make sure that we do everything that is within our control to give them the support that they need to get through this.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: (47:39)
All right. Thank you, everybody. Stay safe. Don’t forget to wear your masks. Bye.
Governor Whitmer Provides Update on State's Response to COVID-19
The live stream will begin at 1:25 p.m. and the press conference will start at 1:30 p.m.Posted by Michigan State Police on Tuesday, August 25, 2020