Aug 5, 2020
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Press Conference Transcript August 5
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s August 5 press conference. She said: “today I’m joined by leaders from across the state to announce a series of new initiatives to prevent discrimination and racial inequity in Michigan”. Read the full transcript of her news briefing speech here.
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Andrew Lacombe: (00:00)
With breaking news coverage for TV 6 and Fox UP, I’m Andrew Lacombe. We’re a minute away from a COVID-19 update from Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lansing, it’s just before 10:30 Eastern Time right now. It’s unclear if the governor will change any restrictions like she did last week. Remember she limited indoor bar service and indoor gatherings in upper Michigan. The UP remains in phase five of her reopening plan. The governor issued an executive directive yesterday telling state departments, including the Michigan State Police to make enforcing COVID-19 restrictions A priority. I think we can expect to hear more about that today.
Andrew Lacombe: (00:42)
Upper Michigan’s 580 confirmed coronavirus cases, two thirds of those have come in the past month. 39,000 diagnostic test results from the UP have been reported to the state health department, with 1.27% of those coming back positive. You can find much more case numbers and information from the state on uppermichigansource.com, and our TV 6, and Fox UP mobile news app.
Andrew Lacombe: (01:07)
Again, we are awaiting a live news conference from Lansing and Governor Gretchen Whitmer here on August 5th.
Gretchen Whitmer: (01:13)
Good morning. It is August 5th, and I am joined today by the Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, our Chief Medical Executive, and Flint mayor, Sheldon Neeley.
Gretchen Whitmer: (01:25)
So I want to start today by talking about Michigan State Police Trooper Caleb Starr, who passed away after he was struck by a drunk driver on July 10th. Trooper Starr joined the Michigan State Police in September of 2018 as a member of the 135th trooper recruit school. He was 33 years old. I want to offer my sincerest condolences to his wife, Rachel, and their two little girls. And I want to remind all Michiganders to stay safe on the roads.
Gretchen Whitmer: (02:04)
It’s nearly five months since the first cases of COVID-19 hit our state. Five months and we still don’t have a comprehensive national strategy from the federal government. We don’t have a federal mask mandate, or a widespread testing plan. And the federal government has not yet agreed on a recovery plan to help the states and locals mitigate the unprecedented impact that this virus has had. Yesterday we announced that president Trump has granted my request, that he authorized the use of the Michigan National Guard forces for COVID-19 response through December 31st of 2020. And for that, we are grateful.
Gretchen Whitmer: (02:56)
I do think it’s worthy of note, however, that the president to fully fund the National Guard activities in two other states. While the rest of us are funded at 75%, the states of Florida and Texas have been determined to be funded at 100%. It’s unfortunate that this is the case because every one of us is confronting COVID-19. The rest of the states who’ve got to operate at 75% will have to make some hard choices about whether to continue National Guard missions for testing, disinfecting public spaces, distributing food, and more.
Gretchen Whitmer: (03:37)
This is yet one more reason that we need direct funding to the states for the next recovery, in the next recovery package. Michigan and states across the country need the federal government to step up so that we can continue providing critical services and protecting families and businesses from COVID- 19. It’s time for the president and Congress to work together in bipartisan way to pass the recovery package to support state governments, families, frontline workers, and small business owners.
Gretchen Whitmer: (04:14)
People across the country are counting on the federal government to put partisanship and games aside and start working together for the benefit of all Americans. And here’s what we need, aid to state and local governments so we can continue providing critical services to families. States across the country are struggling because of unprecedented impact that this crisis has had on our budgets. We also need extension of pandemic unemployment benefits, so that working families can pay for things like rent and utility bills.
Gretchen Whitmer: (04:52)
We needed an increase in SNAP benefits because nobody should have to worry about how they’re going to put food on the table during a global pandemic. We need funding for childcare to help our crucial frontline workers who put their lives on the line every single day to take care of us, so that their kids can be taken care of.
Gretchen Whitmer: (05:14)
We need an extension on the federal student loan payment and interest freeze past September, so that we can give borrowers additional relief while the economy recovers. We need an increase, an extension of the FMAP, so that federal government covers a greater share of Medicaid costs. And we need aid that helps and starts with funding our K-12 schools and higher education institutions, without insisting that schools open even if it’s not safe.
Gretchen Whitmer: (05:54)
After delaying action for months, Senator McConnell in the Senate, Republicans released a proposal last week that fails to meet the scale of the crisis we confront. Unlike the House-passed Heroes Act, McConnell’s plan guts benefits for millions of Americans, and puts our economic recovery more out of reach. With more than 25 million people out of work, and unemployment claims on the rise for the second week in a row, now is not the time to slash benefits that have been a lifeline for so many Americans.
Gretchen Whitmer: (06:32)
People all across our country are struggling with the need, and the need for real help to pull; to pull the rug out from under them right now, while we’re still very much in the midst of the public health crisis and economic recession doesn’t make any sense. Republicans need to drop this plan and join Democrats in a bipartisan way and construct a comprehensive stimulus package that meets the need of everyday Americans. We need leaders who are going to work together to help families, and frontline workers, and small business owners.
Gretchen Whitmer: (07:05)
Nobody has time for election-year partisan games when lives are on the line. This is a crisis and we need bipartisan action right now. So today I’m joined by leaders from across the state to announce a series of new initiatives to prevent discrimination and racial inequity in Michigan. Since I was sworn in as governor, I’ve made it a top priority of mine and my administration’s to include more people of color, more women, more members of the LGBTQ+ community, more people who are representative of the socioeconomic classes in Michigan, and the geographic areas in Michigan, at the table. And not a tokenism way, but in an empowered way.
Gretchen Whitmer: (07:48)
We’ve been able to build a more inclusive state government, but there certainly is more work to do. Today I signed an executive order to create the Black Leadership Advisory Council of Michigan, which I will work closely with to develop our policies and paths to opportunity for black Michiganders.
Gretchen Whitmer: (08:06)
I want to thank Senator Erika Geiss, who sponsored the original legislation, for her leadership. This is the first advisory council of its kind focusing on African American issues in Michigan. And I’m proud to work closely with leaders like those here today to build a more just and equitable state. The deadline to apply for the council is 5:00 PM, Wednesday, August 19th. And the link to apply is michigan.gov/appointments. And candidates should select Black Leaders Advisory Council from the drop menu on the application.
Gretchen Whitmer: (08:42)
Today, I also signed an executive directive declaring racism as a public health crisis in Michigan. I want to thank the Michigan Legislative Black Council for their leadership. This pandemic has confirmed and highlighted the deadly nature of these preexisting inequities caused by systemic racism. COVID-19 is more than four times as likely to take the life of a black Michigander than a white one. And this reflects longstanding deep societal economic and environmental disparities.
Gretchen Whitmer: (09:13)
This executive directive directs MDHHS to work with other state departments to examine data, develop and plan policies, engage, communicate, and advocate for communities of color. Dr. Khaldun will also touch on further steps the department will take to address systemic racism in Michigan. And I want to thank Dr. Khaldun for her leadership. She’s the reason Michigan was one of the first three states to release demographic data so that we could help better act to protect people in our state. DHHS is the largest state department that touches the most citizens in our state. And so her work is crucial, and the work that director Robert Gordon is doing as well. They’ll work around the clock to help us reach our goals.
Gretchen Whitmer: (09:59)
And I know how important it is for state government to lead by example, which is why I’ve directed that all state employees be required to take implicit bias training, including myself, and our entire executive office. Implicit bias is simply an unconscious preference that exists in each one of us. And as public servants, we have a duty to understand how those tendencies impact our actions on the lives of others. The training is required for both existing employees, and must be completed within 60 days for newly hired employees. This is not alleging that people are racist; it’s recognizing that everyone has biases from where we grew up, or how we were raised. It’s just a fact. And that’s why we’ve got to acknowledge it, and seek to address it.
Gretchen Whitmer: (10:51)
We have a lot of work to do to eradicate the systemic racism that black Americans have faced for generations, and it’s going to take time. But the most important thing we can do during this time is work closely with leaders across the state, in every community, to find the root cause of problems and work to eradicate them. This group will continue to keep an open dialogue as we work toward our goal of ensuring that we build a stronger Michigan where everyone, no matter what community they’re from, has a real opportunity.
Gretchen Whitmer: (11:24)
And with that, I want to introduce Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, chair of the COVID-19 Task Force on Racial Disparities, to talk a little bit more about the work that they’re doing. Thank you.
Garlin Gilchrist: (11:43)
Thank you governor. And good morning everyone. I would like to also acknowledge Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, and Flint mayor Sheldon Neeley, who you’ll be hearing from in a few moments.
Garlin Gilchrist: (11:55)
I too want to express my deepest condolences to the family of Trooper Caleb Starr, the entire State of Michigan is feeling this-
Garlin Gilchrist: (12:03)
Caleb Starr, the entire state of Michigan is feeling this tragic loss and he’ll be missed by all of his colleagues in the Michigan State Police. We thank him and all of you for your service.
Garlin Gilchrist: (12:12)
These past several months have been very difficult for all of us as we have dealt with this virus that moves quickly and silently. It has been tough for the families who’ve lost loved ones to this devastating virus. And I count myself among those, losing 23 people in my life to COVID-19. It’s been tough for the frontline workers who have faced great uncertainty as they showed up to work to keep vital, life sustaining services operating. I saw this firsthand yesterday when I went to get tested out of an abundance of caution when one of our sitting state senators in the legislature tested positive for COVID-19 and I pray for his recovery. And I pray that everyone who may have even feared they’d been in contact with someone gets tested. Thankfully, my results did come back negative. But I encourage every person again, to get tested. And you can find the nearest testing location at michigan.gov/coronavirustest.
Garlin Gilchrist: (13:16)
It’s been really difficult for our children who’ve basically had to relearn how to learn. Taking classes online, who haven’t seen their friends or classmates or even some family members in months. And again, I feel this personally with my twin six year olds and my baby girl, Ruby.
Garlin Gilchrist: (13:35)
This is really difficult for employees who’ve had to work differently or for those who hadn’t been able to work because their workplaces have had the pause operations in the name of public health and public safety.
Garlin Gilchrist: (13:49)
But if you’re a black person in Michigan, or if you’re a person of color in our state, the pandemic has been even more difficult in all of these cases. You see, we know the coronavirus itself doesn’t discriminate, but it literally feeds upon the discriminatory inequities that exist in our system. This pandemic has held a mirror up to our entire country’s healthcare system and we’ve seen that communities of color are suffering at higher rates in part, because of a lack of attachment to that healthcare system. In our state, we’ve still had about 40% of our stats be black residents from coronavirus, but our population is merely 14%. in addition to being more likely to work in one of those jobs that is really risky in the concert of the pandemic, but critical and needing to function, black and brown employees have been more likely to be laid off or to have their hours reduced.
Garlin Gilchrist: (14:43)
A report from the University of Michigan actually, found that nearly half of black Detroiters and a third of Latino Detroiters say they have lost their jobs due to this pandemic. And we all know too well that businesses owned by black and other people of color entrepreneurs have been more likely to have had to close down and less likely to receive government assistance, especially from the federal government. That the assistance that they would need to keep the paychecks flowing, to keep people on their payrolls and to not close their operations and continue to be the anchors that they are in the communities. While these injustices in our country frankly, have been exacerbated and intensified by coronavirus, they are as old as America itself. They’re the same inequities that after the killings of George Floyd and so many others, have motivated Americans from every background and identity to confront the legacy of systemic racism that has been a stain on our nation for centuries. That is why we’re saying what should have been said long ago, racism is a public health crisis.
Garlin Gilchrist: (15:50)
However, it is not enough to simply label an injustice. We have to actively take steps to replace injustice with justice. This formal declaration from our administration creates the space for state departments and agencies to specifically examine, respond to and coordinate all of our policies and programs to quickly and substantively put Michigan on a path to address these issues head on. The governor mentioned signing an executive order creating the Black Leadership Advisory Council. This will be a leading pillar of this effort to lay a new foundation of equity and inclusion in Michigan. The Black Leadership Advisory Console is among a set of diverse ethnic commissions within the state of Michigan’s government. This council will include at least one person between the age of 18 and 35, to bring the experiences of our young Michiganders. The council will also include at least one person who is an immigrant or has experience on immigration policy.
Garlin Gilchrist: (16:51)
See black folks, we are the largest racial minority in the state, but this council, as the governor alluded to, is the first of its kind in Michigan that will elecbate and engage black leaders and our representatives. It will build upon the work that we’ve begun with the Michigan coronavirus taskforce on racial disparities. And it will expand the scope of that work to develop policies to address disparities om health, create generational economic opportunity, lead to community investment, provide access to affordable and available housing, increase public safety in the truest sense, make investments in education, environmental justice and broadly create more opportunities for black Michiganders to pursue happiness and success. When we have full and complete representation, we have policies and programs that can address people’s full and complete concerns. We are one of the first states and still, unfortunately to this day, one of just a few states who are actually tracking and reporting our cases of coronavirus and COVID-19 deaths by race and ethnicity.
Garlin Gilchrist: (17:55)
We’re the first administration to join our in the March for Justice as we marched down Woodward in Detroit, after the murder of George Floyd. I was also proud to join protestors on the west side of Detroit and Dexter and Davidson. We were the first state to form a task force to specifically and explicitly apply the full force of state government to address the racial disparities that we have seen during this pandemic and how they connect to longer term health disparities. And we were the first administration to require implicit bias training in state government and in medical professionals licenser processes. Just as we’ve used data and science and evidence to drive action during this crisis, we will use data and science and evidence to act on equity and inclusion. The state will begin examining this data to document the differences in health outcomes among racial and ethnic groups in Michigan and how they must be collected, analyzed and made publicly available to help leaders implement equitable policies.
Garlin Gilchrist: (18:55)
This will help departments better understand how racial disparities and societal environmental and behavioral factors intersect to affect resources like good jobs, access to healthy and affordable food and housing, equitable transportation options, quality public education and opportunities for diverse entrepreneurs. The equity impact assessments, which I’m frankly, very excited about that Dr. Khaldun will speak to, is another thing that we’re introducing. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has launched this tool to further address implicit bias and how we can make sure that equity is centered in the choices that we make at state government. This will use data, community engagement and analysis as a way to make sure the policies and the practices within the department are providing the best services in mitigating inequities and disparities.
Garlin Gilchrist: (19:47)
If we are going to design a new system that works for everyone, we need to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table. That is why we’re putting out this call to action today for people to step up and lend their voices and experiences to building a better Michigan. You can start by applying for the black leadership council, advisory council. I want to second that and go to michigan.gov/appointments to do so.
Garlin Gilchrist: (20:18)
Those of us in positions of power and leadership at any level, have a responsibility to use the tools at our disposal to put everyone’s success within their reach. The actions that we’re announcing today are another step toward this administration fulfilling that responsibility. Now I’d like to close today with the words of James Baldwin, whose birthday recently passed. See James Baldwin said that, “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Neither I, nor this administration will turn our faces away from injustice when we have the opportunity and the power to write it. And with that, I’d like to welcome Dr. Joneigh Khaldun here to the podium for an update. Thank you.
Joneigh Khaldun: (21:18)
Good morning. And thank you, lieutenant governor and governor. I’m proud to stand with Governor Whitmer, Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist and Mayor Neeley today to declare racism a public health crisis. As has been discussed many times, communities of color are disproportionately impacted by many health conditions, whether it’s cancer mortality, heart disease, diabetes, maternal mortality, infant mortality and now COVID-19. The statistics are staggering and we must do better. And let’s be clear, these disparities have nothing to do with genetics and race. They are due to unequal treatment and racism that have plagued our society for centuries. But I’m encouraged because there is something that we can do about it. Declaring racism as a public health crisis means that we will and must tackle this with urgency and intention. I’m excited about the steps that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is taking under the leadership and commitment of director, Robert Gordon, but also the expertise and dedication of the department’s diversity equity and inclusion council that has been championing this work for years.
Joneigh Khaldun: (22:42)
One of the things we’re doing is expanding the application of a decision making process throughout the department that will work to decrease systematic disparities and inequities in marginalized populations. This tool is called an equity impact assessment and it provides a concrete, organized and objective way of assessing processes, budget allocations, policies and programs with an equity lens. We know that inequity is created and perpetuated by programs are sometimes unintentional and they’re embedded into historical government systems and processes. And the equity impact assessment will guide MDHHS leaders to think through implications of their decisions on minority populations and will absolutely help reduce disparities and inequities. We’re going to start with the Department of Health and Human Services, but then also work with other departments and agencies on implementation of this tool. I’m excited because this is something that is concrete and it will drive change. And I’m proud of our department for leading these efforts.
Joneigh Khaldun: (23:45)
Let’s talk about COVID-19 and where we stand in the state. Yesterday, we announced 84,050 cases and 6,220 total deaths in Michigan. Overall, we are seeing a plateau in cases after a slight uptick in June and July.
Joneigh Khaldun: (24:02)
… after a slight uptick in June and July. And as we have seen throughout this pandemic, the disease spread looks different by region. I’m going to go through that now. So the Detroit, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo regions have just over 40 cases per million people per day, and have seen a steady decrease over the past two to three weeks.
Joneigh Khaldun: (24:22)
The Jackson and Upper Peninsula regions both have about 35 cases per million people per day, and have also seen decreases over the past one to two weeks. The Saginaw region has just under 30 cases per million people per day, and has seen a decrease over the past week. And the Lansing region also has just under 30 cases per million people per day, but they have seen a two week increase in their rate of cases as well.
Joneigh Khaldun: (24:50)
The Travers city region is currently the only region of the state that has under 10 cases per million people per day, and they continue to see a decrease over the past three weeks. We also continue to focus on our testing. So we are now holding steady at about 28,000 tests per day, and that’s about 2% of our population per week that is getting a test. And the good news is that our percent of tests that are positive is also now trending down. It’s at 3.4% down from 3.7% the previous week. Our hospitalizations and deaths continue to remain steady and low, particularly the deaths.
Joneigh Khaldun: (25:32)
These are all good signs, and we will continue to monitor these metrics. But as we all know, even if a trend is stabilizing, it only takes a few people to create an outbreak and have the disease spread rapidly. So these plateauing trends are not reasons to let our guard down. There’s still disease spread across the state, and we’re still seeing several outbreaks across the state in every region.
Joneigh Khaldun: (25:59)
So last week, our local health departments identified 99 new outbreaks that they were investigating. And that’s an increase from the 78 new outbreaks that they had the previous week. These outbreaks continue to occur in a variety of settings. The top categories for outbreaks are our skilled nursing facilities and other longterm care facilities, social gatherings and schools, and it includes colleges, childcare centers, and day camps. So we still have to keep fighting this disease that’s still very present across the state.
Joneigh Khaldun: (26:34)
We’re seeing way too many outbreaks and our cases are not get low enough to think that we can let our guard down, even for a moment. So that means the basics again, wearing masks, washing hands, maintaining six feet of distance between yourself and others, really remain the best thing that you can do to protect yourself and the community. And please know, that even though our recent numbers of deaths are low, we’re still learning every day about new research on the longterm health impacts of COVID-19.
Joneigh Khaldun: (27:06)
So this means anyone, including young people, can have longterm lung, brain and heart damage. So please do not think that you are invincible. Testing continues to be incredibly important. So if you work outside the home, if you’re sick, or if you’ve been exposed to someone who has been sick, please go and get a test. You can go to our website, www. michigan.gov/coronavirustest, or you can call 211, and someone will help you identify a site.
Joneigh Khaldun: (27:38)
We have over 300 testing sites across the state. And I will continue to remind you, please answer the phone if someone from a health department calls you or now sends you a text message. We have been able to successfully reach out to 97% of contacts of positive cases within 24 hours, but only 47% of those calls are actually being completed. So this means that people are still not answering their phones, or we might have a wrong phone number. Please do your part, speak to us if we call you, it is one of the most important things that we can all do to keep disease spread as low as possible. So we’ve come a long way since the spring, but we still have much work to do, if we’re going to keep disease spread down and get our kids back to school in the fall. Thank you. And with that, I will turn it over to Mayor Neeley.
Mayor Neely: (28:44)
Good morning. And thank you, Dr. Calhoun, and also Lieutenant governor Garlin Gilchrist and also governor Gretchen Whitmer. I also want to lend my support and prayers to the Star family, lost trooper. Is definitely difficult times in our community when we lose a true community patriot and also officer, so we’ve from the community of Flint will also extend our prayers to the family. And being a strong man of faith, I’ve always been taught that praise is an act of your actions.
Mayor Neely: (29:17)
Praise is an act of your actions. And today’s actions by a governor Whitmer deserves praise. Being the former legislative black caucus chairman, and also a mayor of a black community, I do understand the disparities and what we have to overcome as a community and also as a state. And I am so proud of this governor and the Lieutenant governor and this administration and the state of Michigan for making these bold moves and really showing what leadership is all about.
Mayor Neely: (29:50)
The world can take a snapshot of what’s being done here today to really talk about the level of equality. Equality is only a word unless it’s met with unity and goodwill. And this administration is showing both unity and goodwill. The disparities that Dr. Calhoun talked about, infant mortality, maternal mortality, environmental injustices, disparate treatment by law enforcement.
Mayor Neely: (30:20)
We’re going to get beyond that, and it starts today in the state of Michigan. And I am so proud to be asked to be here, to speak to this. I’m so proud of our governor. I’m so proud of our lieutenant governor to take these steps, to move our communities forward. This is a wonderful day in Michigan, but I encourage all of you to be a part of the change, to be a part of equality, to be a part of unity, and to meet it with goodwill. So thank you, Governor Whitmer. Thank you, Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, and thank you, Dr. Calhoun for all of the benefits that Michiganders are going to benefit moving forward. Thank you and God bless.
Gretchen Whitmer: (31:05)
Thank you, Mayor Neely. Doing an enough important and strong job in the city of Flint. So thank you for being here, appreciate your leadership. All right, with that, this is a new one. We are taking questions from the press. They are via Zoom call because we wanted to make sure we keep everyone safe as we adhere to the new rules about indoor gatherings across the States, so we only have 10 people in this room, and so the press has had to Zoom in. So with that, I’d be happy to open it up for a few questions.
Speaker 1: (31:39)
Governor, the first question will come from Eric Wood.
Eric Wood: (31:43)
Hello governor. Now, despite the Traverse City region being so far ahead of others in numbers of cases, some restrictions were tightened last week. You said you wanted to nip this in the bud before school begins. So does that mean we can expect it not to see any changes or loosening of restrictions until school begins, especially coming up the labor day weekend, no matter positive changes in the numbers?
Gretchen Whitmer: (32:07)
Yeah. So I appreciate the question, Eric. I think that it’s really important that we stay focused on the fact that this virus still doesn’t show up in numbers until a couple of weeks later. That’s the dangerous, insidious thing about COVID-19 is that you can be carrying it and not even know it. I mean, they say 30% of the population that’s probably true for, is that accurate number?
Gretchen Whitmer: (32:29)
We’re learning a lot about this virus. So conventional wisdom is now though that maybe a third of the people who have it don’t even know they have it. And that’s why you don’t see the numbers in terms of the positivity cases until a few weeks later, and then a few weeks later seeing the hospitalization. So we know that our actions today are going to dictate whether or not we are in a strong position to safely resume some in-person instruction this fall.
Gretchen Whitmer: (32:52)
If you look around the world at what’s happened in countries that have resumed in person instruction, the countries that have done so successfully are the ones where they’ve seen their numbers continuously declining. Well, as Dr. Jay just explained, we are at a plateau, essentially. Countries that have been successful have less than 25 per million per day. We are well above that all across the state of Michigan right now, and that’s why it’s really important that we tighten up where we can.
Gretchen Whitmer: (33:21)
We’re trying to avoid moving back a phase. That’s something that I’m hopeful we can prevent from happening, but it’s all going to be dictated by what people do. And we will see it in the numbers and the next week, the next two weeks, the next three weeks. If people are serious about masking up and washing their hands and not congregating, it’s going to be really important.
Gretchen Whitmer: (33:41)
Eric, I’ll be up in your part of the state to memorialize former Governor Bill Milliken, who was our state’s longest serving governor. And we are very strictly observing the executive order when it comes to two gatherings. And it’s because every one of us has to do our part. So can I tell you with certainty that there will be no more changes for the next three weeks? No, of course I cannot. Because what will drive all the decision making will continue to be the epidemiology and the public health needs all across Michigan. And of course our goal of keeping the economy engaged and getting our kids back in school.
Speaker 1: (34:24)
The next question will come from Rob, from Channel Four.
Yeah. So hi, governor. The question about the mask mandate, your enforcement mandate, are you seeing enough results? And can you discuss the enforcement measures that are in place and whether you think that this is contentious and how you prevent it from getting there?
Gretchen Whitmer: (34:47)
So I appreciate the nature of the question. I know that every time we issue an executive order, people want to immediately go to enforcement and the punitive nature. But I think what’s really important is that these executive orders are about trying to increase compliance with what the scientists and public health experts are telling us are the best practices.
Gretchen Whitmer: (35:07)
It’s about increasing compliance. It’s not focused on punishing those who don’t, it’s about increasing the knowledge, the understanding, and really trying to change the culture. I’m grateful that President Trump has worn a mask. I am glad to see people on both sides of the aisle, starting to advocate mask. Because we’ve got to get the politics out of this. Now is a time for us to band together.
Gretchen Whitmer: (35:32)
It has been said, we are at war with a virus. It’s important that we act like we’re in war, that we lock arms from a distance and all do what we need to win this war. And it’s just as simple as a face covering remains the best tool we have to be successful. There’s still no cure. They’re making strides on vaccines, but there’s not a vaccine yet. And even if we get to a point where there’s a vaccine, when we get to a point that there’s a vaccine, it’s going to take time to produce it in mass so that there are-
Gretchen Whitmer: (36:03)
Time to produce it in mass so that there are quantities available for people all across the country and around the globe. And so that’s why we’re focusing on changing the culture so that people understand masking has got to be a part of our way of life for a while. Certainly, we do have some flagrant violations and that is why I’ve got an executive directive to all the departments of the state to make this a priority. I know that the vast majority of businesses are trying to do the right thing. We’ve seen increased compliance in our retail spaces and in our grocery stores. And that’s what we’re really going for. It’s not about punishing people. It’s about protecting people.
Speaker 2: (36:41)
The next question will come from Christina Ford.
Christina Ford: (36:46)
Governor, how comfortable are you with the return to learn plans you’ve been seeing? Many are going with hybrid plans and I’ve seen at least one district who’s going to be going in person full time.
Gretchen Whitmer: (36:58)
So right now we are in Phase Four in the majority of the state, we’re in Phase Five in two regions of our state and that would permit some in-person instruction. Because we have so many districts across the State of Michigan, it was important for us to give the guard rails about what is going to be expected in, in particular phases of the My Safe Start Plan. In Phase Four in person is permitted, but there are a lot of protocols and requirements to keep students safe. This is a decision that has to be made at the local level though. Because in Lansing, I can’t tell you precisely what the individual assets and challenges are of all these hundreds of districts that we have. That’s why the school board is there and that’s why the superintendents are there. And it’s also why it’s so important that parents are educated and engaged on the making of these plans, as well as our teachers and bus drivers and all of the educational workforce.
Gretchen Whitmer: (37:53)
This is about all of us and we got to get it right now. My daughter goes to East Lansing, she’s been informed that she will be learning from home, at least for the beginning of the term, perhaps longer, we will see. We know that the Lansing region is in Phase Four. As Dr. Khaldun just described, we are seeing our numbers have an uptick in the last couple of weeks. And so the Lansing School District has decided not to resume in person, to be at distance. These are decisions that have to be made at that level. Now we have given the guard rails and if we move back a phase, they will have to deploy their distance learning plans.
Gretchen Whitmer: (38:29)
But this is, I think, a source of consternation for all of us. Parents like me, leaders like me, as well as the mom and dad who are just simply trying to make sure their kid gets the education they need and that they can work so they can put food on the table. We’re going to have to be nimble. And it’s frustrating. And it’s hard to hear that. But that’s the nature of this virus. And that’s why it’s critical that we’re masking up. That’s why I think you see other states doing what we have done by getting aggressive and taking positions so that we can strengthen the likelihood that we can resume and safely do so
Speaker 2: (39:11)
The next question will come from Riley Atbridge.
Riley Atbridge: (39:16)
Hi Governor. How do you feel about how things went with the primary election yesterday and do think there need to be any policy changes ahead of the November election to handle a potential influx of absentee ballots?
Gretchen Whitmer: (39:31)
Yeah, thanks Riley. So I chatted with our Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson yesterday. I know that they’ve been doing an incredible amount of work and certainly our local clerks have been working their tails off to try to make this a successful election. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic. And so availing ourselves of the ability to vote from home is the safest way to make sure that you can participate in this important responsibility that we all should assume we’re going to undertake as Americans. And so I encourage anyone who’s watching to go online right now and reserve your ballot, request your ballot for fall so that you can vote from home. And as soon as you get it, vote and send it in because we want to make sure that every vote gets counted and more people vote.
Gretchen Whitmer: (40:18)
But in order for us to produce an accurate count as quickly as possible, I do think that it merits some changes. And I am glad that the Secretary of State indicated the Senate Majority Leader is open to taking some of these and that the Speaker of the House appears to be as well for at least my understanding. I’m eager to work with them to give our local clerks the ability to do some of the processing, not counting, but processing earlier on so that we can get a count closer to when the polls close. And I think that there are perhaps some additional reforms that we might want to undertake. By having this vote yesterday, learning the lessons from it and quickly adapting our system so that we are smarter and we can produce an accurate count quick is something that I think is important. And I hope it’s important to everyone in the legislature too.
Speaker 2: (41:13)
The next question will come from Mikenzie Frost.
Mikenzie Frost: (41:19)
Hi Governor. You’re mentioning the plateau and I’m just wondering how long does the state need to stay in this plateau of new cases before you’re willing to loosen some of these restrictions, especially as we get a little bit closer to school?
Gretchen Whitmer: (41:37)
Well, I’m going to ask Dr. Joneigh to step in and chat a little with you about that. But first I’ll say this. This plateau at this rate, it’s better than an increase, but what we want to see is a decrease over the course of a couple of weeks. And I think the fact that we’ve staved off what we saw to be very concerning increases, that’s positive, but now it was no time to spike the football. This is still concerning in terms of the number of positive cases that we’re seeing. And with that, I’m going to hand it over to Dr. Khaldun.
Joneigh Khaldun: (42:14)
Thank you. So that’s right. What you want to see is not just a plateau, but also a decrease in cases. And if there is going to be a plateau, it’s a plateau that’s very low. So ideally we would want it to be under 10 cases per million people per day, and a trend that continues in that way. Again, we’re also looking at other data, we’re looking at percent positivity. We want it to be at least below 3% and ideally much, much lower than 3%, but we want that trend to also maintain for some time. Again, we’re also watching our hospitalizations, we’re watching our deaths. We’re making sure our testing capacity is what it needs to be. So there are many things that we’re looking at to determine how we move forward with the phases across the state.
Speaker 2: (42:56)
Governor, the last question will come from Chad Livengood.
Chad Livengood: (43:02)
Governor given that Michigan State is encouraging students not to come to campus or basically not to come East Lansing, do you want to see the universities, public universities come together and basically formulate a policy on their own to try to keep as many kids out of college grounds this fall?
Gretchen Whitmer: (43:23)
So Chad, I’m going to answer that wearing two hats, one as the mother of a rising freshmen at one of our universities and as the Governor of the State of Michigan. We know that where we are seeing increases, very concerning increases, are amongst the age group that you are describing. We also know that college campuses are places where people love to congregate, whether it’s in the Greek system or it is in a dorm, or it is in a bar, depending on the age of the students, of course. And this makes it uniquely susceptible to COVID outbreak. So we’re very concerned about it. And I was pleased to see that Dr. Stanley made that policy decision at Michigan State University. He is, by profession and epidemiologist.
Gretchen Whitmer: (44:12)
So I know that the fact that our three largest universities, Wayne State, U of M and MSU are led by people who are men of science, I think gives me some comfort here. But I do think that it’s important that we… This is an evolving conversation as this, our knowledge of this viruses is always evolving as well. And so that is something that I think would be beneficial to their students, their faculty, all of the workforce on our campuses. And so that is, I think, something that is would be very helpful and I’m encouraging them to do that.
Speaker 2: (44:53)
Thank you Governor.
Gretchen Whitmer: (44:54)
All right, thank you everybody. Mask up Michigan, stay safe. Take care.
Andrew Lacombe: (45:04)
For the last 44 minutes, you’ve been listening to and watching today’s COVID-19 update from Governor Whitmer in Lansing. No new restrictions announced today. And the UP remains in Phase Five of the Governor’s reopening plan. Governor Whitmer says we are in a plateau with the spread of the virus right now, statewide. Today, Governor Whitmer declared racism, a public health crisis. She signed another executive order was creates the Black Leadership Advisory Council. The Governor also signed an executive directive, which asks the State Health Department to make health equity, a major goal, as well as required implicit bias training for all state employees.
Andrew Lacombe: (45:44)
Governor Whitmer says the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed, confirmed and highlighted the deadly nature of preexisting inequalities caused by systemic racism. Dr. Joneigh Khaldun also said trends across the state are showing the coronavirus spread is stabilizing, again, calling it a plateau. However, there are still outbreaks and it’s no time to let our guard down. The Governor’s administration emphasizing wearing face masks, washing hands and not congregating. Remember we have comprehensive coverage about back to school and beyond and coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and recoveries at uppermichiganssource.com and our TV6 and Fox UP mobile news app. That’s all for now. Stay safe. Then I’ll see you tomorrow on your TV6 Morning News, starting at 5:00 Eastern.