Jul 28, 2020
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Press Conference Transcript July 28
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s July 28 press conference. She said: “If we’re going to continue to beat back this virus and help our state recover, we need more help and leadership at the federal level”. Read the full transcript of her news briefing speech here.
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Tyler Markel: (00:20)
Good afternoon. I’m Tyler Markel. Governor Gretchen Whitmer is getting ready to speak momentarily, giving an update on the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. After a sharp rise in cases over the past month, it is unclear if she will be taking the upper peninsula out of its current phase five status. As of this morning, there are a total of 438 confirmed cases in upper Michigan during this outbreak. 18 people have died, and at least one 141 of those cases are considered recovered. Of the 32,000 diagnostic tests reported to the state from upper Michigan, 1.05% have come back positive.
Tyler Markel: (00:57)
Also as of this morning, Michigan has a total of 78,507 COVID-19 cases, more than 57,500 people in Michigan are considered recovered, and 6,154 people with the virus had died in Michigan. The latest numbers will be released around three, you can find those on our website, mobile app, or catch your TV Six first look at five, four central. And here’s the governor now.
Gretchen Whitmer: (01:35)
Good afternoon. Today is Tuesday, July 28th. I’m glad to be with you, and I am glad that you’ve joined us. I am also joined today by, of course, Dr. Khaldun, our Chief Medical Executive, the Director of the State Budget Office, Chris Kolb, Sandy Baruah, the president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Paula Mandeville, the co owner of El Granjero Mexican grill in Grand Rapids. I also was wearing a mask when I started that says, “Vote”, because we have an election in one week. And if you’ve got an absentee ballot, I encourage you to throw it in the mail today or tomorrow to make sure that your vote gets counted. And if you haven’t yet voted, go online and figure out how to do that safely.
Gretchen Whitmer: (02:20)
In Michigan, we have spent more than four months fighting back hard against COVID-19 and the pandemic that has ravaged the globe. People across the state have made unprecedented sacrifices throughout the crisis. We know that Michiganders have missed funerals, and weddings, and graduations, and births, and birthday parties. And I’ve always said that the greatest thing about being a Michigander is the people who call our state home, celebrating and spending time with our families, and our friends, and our loved ones. It’s in our blood. It’s who we are. It’s what makes life, life. And whether it’s over a beer at our favorite restaurant, or at the sandbar on a Lake, or in church on Sunday, that’s how we define our big life moments, and our happiest moments. And yet, this virus has forced us all to put aside those traditions for the greater good. The vast majority of Michiganders have done just that. You’ve stayed safe at home. You’ve worn a mask when you’ve gone out in public. You’ve maintained six feet of social distancing.
Gretchen Whitmer: (03:31)
In the past, we have proven that when we work together, we can push these numbers down and we can save thousands of lives. But what we know, too, is that this virus is still very real. It is still very present, and we cannot let up for one second. Because while we’ve continued to keep the number of deaths in Michigan low over the past several weeks, our case numbers have continued to increase since June. So we’ve got to all double down and do our part right now. Please wear your mask, maintain physical distancing, and get tested. As I said, the vast majority of Michiganders have been doing their part to fight this virus. As a state, we’ve done tremendous work together. And if you look at the national news, you see that there are states that are in a terrible crisis, where we were months ago. But if we’re going to continue to beat back this virus and help our state recover, we need more help and leadership at the federal level.
Gretchen Whitmer: (04:36)
Last week, I called on the president to issue a federal mask mandate, because when more Americans wear a mask in public, we can save lives and put ourselves in a better position to send our kids back to school this fall. Governors of both parties, and at least half of the states, have issued mask orders to protect their residents. I think of Kay Ivey in Alabama who’s required everyone to wear a mask in indoor spaces, very similar to what we have done here in Michigan. Wearing a mask has been proven to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by 70%. Modeling from the University of Washington indicates that more than 40,000 lives, 40,000 American lives, would be spared nationwide if 95% of us wore a mask. And last Monday, the president tweeted that it’s patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance. I applaud his statement, and urge him to embrace a nationwide mask order. Back up that statement, and let’s take action.
Gretchen Whitmer: (05:40)
We need to require masks on public transport, indoors and outdoors, when six feet of distance can’t be maintained. We have a chance to save tens of thousands of American lives. I’m hopeful that we will seize this opportunity. A federal mask mandate would be a great start, but we also need a strong recovery plan from the federal government to help our small businesses, our owners, the first responders, our state government, our local government, so that we can all recover from this. Yesterday, the president and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell released a plan that fails to support states and communities as we continue to respond to this crisis. Their plan does not give adequate relief to millions of hardworking Americans who’ve lost their job as a result of the mishandling of this crisis. And last week, 1.4 million people across the US filed initial unemployment claims. That’s the first increase since April.
Gretchen Whitmer: (06:38)
And yet, the proposal that just came out of Washington would reduce pandemic related unemployment benefits that have been a lifeline for so many people, including 1.1 people in our state, who are relying on that $600 federal supplement to make ends meet before it expires. Making matters worse, the US Senate leader and the White House are also proposing to move to a complicated benefit system that would create an already overburdened state unemployment agency, would give them more work to do in terms of months that it would take to implement. And that means families who are already struggling would struggle for longer, waiting on the help that they need. Our working families can’t go that long without this important economic lifeline.
Gretchen Whitmer: (07:26)
So the proposal that came out of DC yesterday ties critical funding to our schools, critical funding for the education of our kids, to reopening plans, and makes it contingent on that. Here’s what we know about education: we got to continue to follow the science. We can’t move, unless we know it’s going to be safe to do that. The Michigan safe schools plan that I announced last month requires districts to put together plans for three different phases of the my safe start. I want to thank our parents and local health experts, management and labor leaders in our schools. They’re playing a vital role in this process. And parents everywhere, I hope that you are engaged as well. We’ve got to show respect for one another, and cooperation. That’s how we’re going to get through this together.
Gretchen Whitmer: (08:15)
In April, the United States Senate leader McConnell said that he’d rather see States declare bankruptcy than to give us the federal support that we need. And while the tune has changed a bit in recent days, I can tell you that the plan they put on the table does not accomplish the goal of helping states. And I implore everyone in Washington DC to stop the partisanship and get something done. I have been spending a little bit of time writing some remarks for a Memorial for Governor Milliken, and it just strikes me that in this moment, it’s more important than ever that we have leaders that are not going to be tethered to political parties, but are going to be tethered to this done for the people of this country. Because COVID-19 doesn’t stop at a state border. It doesn’t observe party lines. This is an insidious virus that has hurt us all and damaged our economy.
Gretchen Whitmer: (09:07)
So what we need is the US Senate to come to the table, ready to negotiate with the House. The House has shown leadership in the HEROES package that would dramatically improve our ability to support our frontline workers, to expand access to healthcare, to help our local municipalities do the important work of tracing, and gives us the kind of support that we need to educate our kids in a safe manner. Now, I know how this works. The Senate’s got to put their print on it. Well, they got to come to the table and get this done, and get it done now. Michigan is not the only state calling on them. We need them, as Americans, to deliver for us all. We’re grateful for the leadership of the US House, and hopeful that the Senate will come ready to get serious and negotiate, and that the president will sign something quickly.
Gretchen Whitmer: (09:56)
The COVID-19 pandemic has required sacrifice and leadership, has demanded that we all work together to protect each other. Michiganders are doing their part. We’re showing the rest of the country what it looks like to work together against this crisis. In Michigan and States across the country, we need the Trump administration and our federal representatives to get this done. As I’ve said, every one of us, doesn’t matter what party you’re in, every one of us has to be a part of making sure that this country navigates the pandemic and comes out stronger. That’s what we need right now, more than anything. I’ll continue to do my part, working with my fellow governors on both sides of the aisle, calling on Washington to deliver for everyone in this state and beyond our borders. And I’m hopeful that Michiganders will continue to do your part. Mask up, take care, look out for one another, and show one another a little bit of grace. These are trying times. We will get through this together if every one of us does our part. And with that, I will hand it over to our Chief Medical Executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.
Joneigh Khaldun: (11:08)
Thank you governor. So today, we are announcing 79,176 cases and 6,170 total deaths due to COVID-19 in Michigan. Overall for the past two weeks, we’ve seen a plateau in the number of daily new cases. We continue, as the governor said, to see low levels of deaths, and hospitalization rates remain steady. These are both very good signs. The rate of new cases, however, continues to vary by region, with Detroit, Grand Rapids, and [Saginaw 00:11:43] regions all have a little over 40 cases per million people per day. The good news is that the Grand Rapids region has seen a two week steady decline in the rate of new cases, and today we will be able to move them out of the high risk category. The Kalamazoo and Lansing regions have over 30 cases-
Joneigh Khaldun: (12:03)
The Kalamazoo and Lansing regions, have over 30 cases per million people per day, but they have seen a recent decrease in cases as well. The Jackson region, has just under 30 cases per million people per day, although this area has actually seen a continued slow increase in the case rate for the past six weeks. The Upper Peninsula and Traverse City areas, are seeing under 20 cases per million people per day as well. So, each region of the state, also this is good news, is now meeting the goal for testing in their region, which is a good sign. Combined, over the past week, we’ve tested an average of 27,000 people per day, and that’s 5,000 more people than the previous week. However, we continue to see the percent of tests done that are positive slowly creeping up, and last week, that was about 3.7% up from 3.6% the previous week.
Joneigh Khaldun: (12:59)
As I’ve said before, 3% is the cutoff that many experts say you want to be under to know that you’re not having community spread of disease. And while we’re not as high as some other states across the country are that are seeing a significant surge, this is something that we definitely want to continue to monitor. When there’s increased testing and the percent of tests that are positive goes up, it indicates that there may be community spread going on. I also want to spend a little time talking about what we are seeing with outbreaks across the state. So, last week alone, there were 78 new outbreaks identified by our local health departments. And I’m going to break those down for you. 31% of those outbreaks, were associated with nursing homes or other adult care facilities. 22% of those, were associated with social gatherings. 10%, were associated with workplaces. And another 9%, were associated with restaurants. Other places where we were finding outbreaks includes childcare, agricultural work settings, bars, personal care services, and gyms.
Joneigh Khaldun: (14:05)
And there are still times, and this is important, when the local health department is unable to identify where a person may have gotten the disease from. Local health departments, last week, were able to identify a source of infection for about 32% of the new cases that occurred, meaning, we don’t know where about 68% of cases were exposed. This means it continues to be incredibly important for people to do the basics, wear your mask, wash your hands, and maintain six feet of distance away from others as much as possible. There are still many new outbreaks that we’re identifying every week and there’s evidence that there is spread in the community. And we also know that people can spread the disease even when they do not have any symptoms. I also want to continue to emphasize that we… You must make sure that you’re getting tested.
Joneigh Khaldun: (14:55)
Anyone who’s working outside of the house, anyone who’s been exposed, who has symptoms of COVID-19, should get a test. And you can still go to our website, www.michigan.gov/coronavirustest, or you can call 2-1-1, and they can help you find a testing site as well. We’ve also talked a lot about case investigation and contact tracing. So, once the state receives a positive test result, state and local public health staff are reaching out to about 90% of those people who tested positive within 48 hours. However, we’re still only able to complete that initial interview of those positive cases about two thirds of the time, mostly due to people having wrong contact information or not answering the phone. Our preliminary data is also showing us that about a third of people who test positive, are already in quarantine at the time that we contact them. This is an important metric that we will continue to monitor. The more people know that they’ve been exposed and are in quarantine before they have a positive test result, the more we will be able to box in the disease.
Joneigh Khaldun: (16:02)
This is why contact tracing work is so very important. However, as I mentioned, we’re still having challenges with people not answering the phone, wrong contact information that we received at the time they got the test, and people not wanting to give us information about their close contacts. So, MDHHS is actively working to build out the infrastructure to be able to support this active work. As part of that, we’ve actually given our local health departments, $10 million to hire additional people to do this contact tracing work. And yesterday, we announced a new text messaging platform. Our public health staff will now be able to easily send you a text message to your phone if you were potentially exposed and you can be expecting a call. The most important thing we need everyone to do is, answer their phone when public health staff attempt to call you. And I know that sometimes people do not pick up their phone if they see a number that they don’t recognize, but this additional text messaging platform will allow you to know that there’s a call that will be coming from a public health staff.
Joneigh Khaldun: (17:05)
I want to continue to emphasize, we won’t ask for any bank information or social security numbers, but please do share information about who you may have been in contact with. So, I know 2020 has been an incredibly challenging year for everyone, but if we are patient, if we do what we are supposed to do, we can beat this disease. That means that if you are sick, get a test and stay home. If you’ve been exposed, get a test and stay home. Wear a mask at all times if you’re going to be out in public. Maintain six feet of space between yourself and others as much as possible. Wash your hands frequently. And answer the phone if a public health staff person calls you. These simple measures will slow the spread of the disease and they will save lives. And with that, I will turn it over to our State Budget Director, Chris Kolb.
Chris Kolb: (18:09)
Two months ago, I stood before you after the May Revenue Estimating Conference, and we announced the massive economic impact that COVID-19 placed in our state. We announced that we are facing a $6.2 billion loss in revenue over fiscal years ’20 and ’21, with a tremendous budget challenge in front of us. Michigan, like every other state, had suffered a devastating blow to our budget. At that time, we announced the need for a third Revenue Estimating Conference in August, so that we could get the most up to date revenue picture possible before beginning negotiations on fiscal year ’21 budget. We also called on Congress for additional funding. Those two things still hold true today. We need additional information from our August Revenue Estimating Conference, and we need help from Congress to address our fiscal ’21 budget shortfall. Having said that, a lot has happened over the last two months. By working with the legislature, we have managed to address the budget shortfall for the current fiscal year.
Chris Kolb: (19:26)
I truly appreciate my working relationship I have with the Appropriations chair, Representative Hernandez, and State Senator, Jim Stamas. And I’m pleased that we are able to resolve the budget for the current fiscal year, and we are able to do it and still protect key priorities like our schools, healthcare, public safety, support for local governments, and critical state services. An important part of the budget fixed for 2000, included a total of $475 million in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds, which were used to replace eligible public safety payroll costs within the Department of Corrections and state police. These services provided by the state police and corrections, are critical to Michigan and they have been funded. In short, federal funding was key to balancing our current fiscal year budget. But now that federal funding is gone and fiscal year ’21 is staring us right in the face. We have just two short months to address fiscal year ’21. The budget shortfall for the next fiscal year, which does begin on October 1, is a huge challenge.
Chris Kolb: (20:46)
We know that the shortfall, again, will be in the billions of dollars. Additionally, we know that we have increased Medicaid costs and other DHHS costs in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The state continues to implement the hiring and spending freezes which have generated important general fund savings, and we will continue to look at the rainy day fund as an option. But the fact of the matter is that, when we are facing a shortfall in the billions, we need additional aid from Congress to help us solve it. We know that the timeline for resolving fiscal year ’21 is growing short, the budget must be enacted and signed into law in September. We need to work quickly after the August Revenue Estimating Conference to reach an agreement on the budget for the coming year. I know that the legislature will have ideas on how to address these budget challenges themselves, and I’m ready to work with them.
Chris Kolb: (21:50)
But with a general fund that has been flat for more than 20 years, there’s very little left to cut from state government without impacting essential services and programs. Over 90% of the state general fund and school aid fund, helps to support schools, colleges, and universities, local governments, public safety, and healthcare. As the governor has already expressed, the proposal released yesterday by Leader Mitch McConnell is woefully lacking in many ways, notably with the absence of additional fiscal support to help states and localities with their collective budget shortfalls that are a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is not a single new dollar in the McConnell package allocated to the needed economic relief that Michigan and the other 49 states need. Frankly, that’s pretty unbelievable.
Chris Kolb: (22:54)
Under the current revenue projections for May, next year our budget forecast is to be hit by another large shortfall estimated at more than $3 billion, just part of the estimated collective 615 billion, and all of the state budget shortfalls across the country through the year 2022. One of the most effective steps to help states would be to provide substantial federal aid to address these huge revenue shortfalls, just like the House passed HEROES Act would do. The HEROES Act would allocate over $13 billion to our state in direct support over the next two years. This effort to provide critical funding, to help states and local communities avoid cuts in services and investments, that would worsen the current situation, and would also help us avoid laying off teachers and other essential workers that have been impacted by the need to impose additional budget cuts in fiscal year ’21.
Chris Kolb: (24:02)
Impose additional budget cuts in fiscal year ’21, which would only make the recession even worse and last longer. In recent testimony before Congress, the Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell noted that it would hold back the economy if states and local governments lay people off and cut essential services. So far, more than 1.5 million state and municipal jobs have been cut in the pandemic, double the size of the loss in the Great Recession.
Chris Kolb: (24:37)
The HEROES Act would also provide Michigan with $2.8 billion to help stabilize our investment and education, where 65% of those dollars would flow through the state to local school districts, with 30% set aside for public colleges and universities. The McConnell proposal holds two-thirds of its education funding hostage unless schools reopen. I have never seen anything like that in my career, let alone during such an unprecedented time as this pandemic. The McConnell plan does not provide the additional federal funding we need to solve our budget shortfall. With his plan, the budget reductions in the coming year will be severe as cuts to education, public safety, and healthcare services at both the state and local level will be unavoidable given the current revenue dollars.
Chris Kolb: (25:37)
The State Budget Office continues to review every dollar and every line in the state budget, but the fact of the matter is department budgets are already skinny and there’s simply no way to cut the budget in fiscal year ’21 without impacting essential services. The McConnell plan does not work for Michigan. We need and deserve better. Thank you and I’ll now turn it over to [inaudible 00:26:07].
Sandy Baruah: (26:19)
Governor, thank you for your public service and your public leadership. We’re all building this plane as we fly it and we appreciate that you’re both our chief pilot and our chief mechanic. Good afternoon everyone. I’m Sandy Baruah with the Detroit Regional Chamber. The COVID health crisis has created an economic crisis we all now know far too well, but this crisis is not just limited to our businesses and to our family finances. This is an impact on our state and local governments. Governments are bearing the brunt, the direct brunt, of addressing COVID-related costs as well as reduced tax revenues. Our state and local governments are strapped for resources and will be further strapped for resources as this crisis continues, just when our citizens need it the most.
Sandy Baruah: (27:14)
This is why every major business organization in the state, 15 in total, including the Detroit Regional Chamber, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Business Leaders for Michigan, Michigan Manufacturers Association, Small Business Association of Michigan, Grand Rapids Chamber and business groups representing every corner of Michigan have signed on to a joint letter to Michigan’s congressional delegation urging chiefly that the upcoming CARES Act legislation that is being discussed as we speak include assistance to state and local governments to help states like Michigan address the needs of people and businesses as this COVID crisis continues. This is not a political or a regional perspective. These 15 business associations represent virtually every business in every corner of the state.
Sandy Baruah: (28:14)
This position that the pending CARES Act legislation must include aid to state and local government is echoed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The budget director referred to the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank. I have the honor of serving on the Federal Reserve Bank board here and I too will quote Chairman Powell. “The record shows that deeper and longer recessions can leave behind lasting damage to the productive capacity of the economy.” He goes on, “Additional fiscal support could be costly but worth it if it helps avoid longterm damage and leaves us with a stronger economy.” Chairman Powell has been consistent in this regard. The seriousness of this crisis needs to be met with an equally serious response.
Sandy Baruah: (29:04)
Businesses and their employees across Michigan should urge their member of Congress to support federal assistance to Michigan so our state and local governments can help our fellow Michiganders when they need it the most and our schools can have the resources that they need to address the needs of their students. The other thing that all Michiganders can do to help their local businesses and help their local economy is exceptionally simple. Mask up Michigan. Wearing a face mask is the easiest thing you can do to keep your local business open. Your local Mexican restaurant, your local hardware store, antique store, dress shop or even Ford dealer, keep them open for business by wearing a mask. Please, please, please. This is what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to keep businesses open and we’re trying to keep those employees working in those businesses. Thank you.
Gretchen Whitmer: (30:08)
That’s great. Thank you.
Paola Menddivil: (30:23)
[Spanish 00:30:23]. My name is Paola Mendivil. I am catering coordinator for my family business El Granjero Mexican Grill. Since 2007, we strived to provide authentic Mexican dishes in the Grand Rapids area. When we opened our business 12 years ago, we went through a difficult economic stage in our country going into recession, but even then, we have never seen the damage that this crisis has done to our small business community in the nation, in the world.
Paola Menddivil: (30:56)
Even through the stage of recovery, we have seen the disparities because of the decisions that our federal government is making. Small businesses are the heart of the economy not only locally but globally and there is no denying small business owners have suffered major setbacks because of this crisis. We are one of those. Since March 16, we closed our dining room and that resulted in 75% decrease in our sales. Our catering business is completely paralyzed because of all of the events postponed canceled because of the right reasons. We have seen a decrease in our employees as well and thus affecting their families too. But even through these challenging times, we need to see … We are inspired by the hard work and collaboration of several small businesses, specifically in the restaurant industry. A small group of business owners came up with a Michigan restaurant promise idea where we want to commit to the [inaudible 00:32:10] not only of our customers but our families and we want to also keep each other accountable by following the guidelines.
Paola Menddivil: (32:18)
So a shout out to all those small business owners that started that and now hundreds of other restaurants have joined the cause. We also on behalf of the restaurant community in Grand Rapids, we want to thank Governor Whitmer and the MEDC team for their hard work and leadership in this crisis. By securing small business loans that are going to help our business continue to provide services to our communities. Very important.
Paola Menddivil: (32:48)
Earlier this month, the MEDC announced that at least 30% of the Michigan small business recovery funds will be awarded to women-owned and minority-owned businesses. Because everybody is going through difficult times, but a small business around Michigan are more impacted, especially the women-owned and minority-owned segment. I can attest to those disparities. I know of several Grand Rapids business owners that have their PPP obligation denied, just like ours.
Paola Menddivil: (33:28)
We needed support also from the MEDC because it’s crucial for our businesses to continue to provide services in our communities. We still need more support and funds from the federal government to work together to secure our businesses to continue to be open. That’s why I’m urging today our Congress and our president to put aside the political infighting and aspects to work quickly and pass a recovery act that will help businesses move forward in our area. The U.S. House of Representative passed the HEROES Act in May, so it’s been a few more weeks now, and the HEROES Act will help the small business owners and families across the country. That’s the type of leadership that we need at the federal government level.
Paola Menddivil: (34:28)
This isn’t just about businesses. It’s about protecting our families and our communities. It’s about protecting businesses like mine, my employees, their families, our customers, our communities. There is no question, Michigan small businesses, our working families, need more federal funding to survive. We need that support to contribute to [inaudible 00:34:55]. We need leaders in the federal government to work together to pass a recovery act that will help businesses like mine, like my neighbor’s, like those who have joined the Michigan restaurant promise. Our economy will suffer but other millions of working people will count on small businesses for employment and so today I call on Congress to start working together today to provide Michigan workers, small businesses and our families with additional support if we want to move forward in our area in our country. Thank you.
Gretchen Whitmer: (35:38)
Thank you Paola. Thank you Sandy and Chris and Dr. Jay. With that, I’d be happy to open it up for a few questions. I know we don’t have a ton of time today but –
Speaker 1: (35:47)
Governor, this is a broader question of you talked about how getting children back in school in the fall is sort of the target that the state is looking at. We have the city of Detroit in litigation over in-class instruction [inaudible 00:36:01] summer school, that promise is to
Speaker 1: (36:03)
… In class instruction and not for summer school, that promises to go into the Fall. Where is the state of Michigan in terms of what it’s going to look like in the Fall to get there? Are our numbers in the right spot to get there, the trajectory? And then what does this look like in the Fall in terms of in class instruction and not having it, because some districts are saying they want to be in and some say they don’t?
Gretchen Whitmer: (36:24)
Yeah. So I think that you’ve articulated all of the primary pressure points here. We’ve got 800 districts in the state of Michigan in various regions that have different experiences with COVID-19. That’s why the council that I named of educational experts that came from very different walks within the educational ecosystem, and of various different expertise, put together the plan to return to learn. The safe re-engagement of in-person instruction. The executive order that I signed requires that each district board come up with a plan for phase three, phase four, phase five. Phase three, we’re not in person. Phase four, there can be in person, but there are a lot of requirements that need to be observed in order to keep students and the workforce safe. Phase five, fewer requirements, a lot more discretion from the school board. But they’ve got to have a plan for all of these phases. Right now in the city of Detroit, there is a debate that is happening.
Gretchen Whitmer: (37:21)
That is a debate that is with the DPS school board, as well as the superintendent. They are in phase four. And so, so long as they observe certain protocols, they are able to have in-person. Now, that’s a decision at the local level. If there is a debate to be had, whether or not it’s the right decision locally, that has to happen at the local level. And that’s precisely how this was designed. We can’t dictate for all 800 districts precisely what a day looks like. However, I can say this. We are watching the numbers very closely. We are three to four weeks out from when schools are supposed to resume.
Gretchen Whitmer: (37:58)
Our actions today are going to yield what the numbers are on those days that the kids are supposed to get back in school. So while I can’t tell you what it’s going to look like, I can tell you every day between now and then we’re watching the numbers very closely. That’s why masking up and tightening our protocols right now in hopes that we don’t have to take a step backward and that we can at least stay where we are. That’s the goal here. If the numbers continue to go up, then we may not be able to resume in-person instruction. That’s what we’re trying to avoid with things like the masking requirement and doubling down on these protocols.
Speaker 2: (38:35)
Given the recent reports of COVID stopping off season workouts, has your office advised the MHSAA on how to proceed with Fall sports? And are you confident that high school players can be tested?
Gretchen Whitmer: (38:48)
There’s a dialogue between my office and them, but they’re the ones that are making the… Promulgating the recommendations for districts across the state. Dr. J, did you want to add anything? Okay. They’ve been talking with Dr. J.
Gretchen Whitmer: (39:04)
I’m concerned. Obviously, we’ve got Major League Baseball. These are adults, this is a contained theoretically workspace. They’re having a hard time. And it just shows that this is something that everyone has to be committed to getting it right for us to have some success here. It’s about all of us. We don’t wear masks just for us. We wear them for our communities. We wear them for our kids. We wear them for our businesses. We wear them for our economy. That’s what this is all about. Yeah, Jonathan.
Governor, this might be a question Dr. Khaldun. I’m not sure.
Gretchen Whitmer: (39:33)
I’m curious how the state defines outbreak. Dr. Khaldun mentioned 70+ outbreaks in the last week. And then further among the 31% associated with nursing homes or long term care, what did contact tracing or public health investigations tell you how that virus got into the homes? As you know, there’s a big policy debate right now over how to treat those patients.
Gretchen Whitmer: (39:56)
Of course. And it still being a novel virus, we’re learning, we’re getting smarter, we’re understanding it better every single day. I’m going to let Dr. J answer your questions though, because you’re right. She’s the appropriate one to do that.
Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun: (40:08)
Yep. So, great question about how we define an outbreak. Every time there’s a positive case, we do an initial case investigation. And then we identify where that person has been, who they’ve been in close contact with. And then we go and call those close contacts. If we find that there is a close contact that’s associated with that initial index case, if you will, then that’s how we define an outbreak. And outbreaks can be different sizes, but once you have an index case and it spreads to other people, that’s how we define an outbreak.
Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun: (40:36)
For our nursing homes. We often, sometimes we don’t find out how the disease got into the nursing home. But again, we do the contact tracing in the nursing homes as well. We identify if staff may have it. We still have a visitation limitation as well for the nursing homes. And we continue to emphasize PPE for them, testing of residents and staff, and then just the best sanitation protocols that they can implement.
Is there any indication for these outbreaks that a returning patient has exposed others to the virus?
Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun: (41:10)
I have not seen information that indicates that.
Gretchen Whitmer: (41:14)
We’ll take just a couple more. All right, David.
Governor, the State House voted last week to essentially require districts to at least offer in-person instruction to I think grades K-5. I just wanted your stance on that policy issue.
Gretchen Whitmer: (41:29)
I think that some of the work that’s coming out of the Republican led legislature has merit. Other pieces are modeled after the DeVos plan to force schools to put kids back in classroom. We’re going to be focused on the science. I understand that different political agendas are afoot here, but at the end of the day, this isn’t a political issue. This is about making sure that when we’ve resumed, we do so in a way that is safe. That is safe for our students and safe for our teachers. One of the things that I do regular, and I’ve not done it as frequently, but I’ve continued to do it throughout the pandemic, is to get on the phone and call constituents. And I don’t always call people who agree with me. It’s never a dull conversation when I catch someone on the phone.
Gretchen Whitmer: (42:14)
But yesterday I spoke with a teacher in Portage who is taking care of two parents who are medically vulnerable. She is a teacher in public schools and has kids in the public schools. She is understandably very worried about resuming in-class instruction, especially with younger students who don’t wear masks, because she doesn’t know where the students and their parents and everyone who lives in their household have been all day long. And doesn’t want to take home a potentially deadly disease to anyone in her family, but especially her parents who are particularly vulnerable.
Gretchen Whitmer: (42:50)
We have to remember that we’re talking about our children. We have to remember we’re talking about our children’s families. We have to remember we’re talking about everyone in the workforce. And that’s why where the numbers are headed are going to dictate any policy that we ultimately embrace, because we’ve got to get this right. And if the numbers… If it’s too dangerous, we are not going to be able to proceed. And that’s why masking up today increases our odds of resuming in-person instruction in the Fall. Mackenzie.
Sticking with schools. How long are you willing to wait before making the decision for allowing some of these? I know parents are calling us and asking us all the time, how can they plan? How can they go back to work? What can they do for childcare? Are they going to have to have a parent stay home and teach while their kid is learning online? What’s the timeline for this? Because we know some districts are starting in a few weeks.
Gretchen Whitmer: (43:40)
There’s not a perfect time that we will have a precise understanding that gives people notice where they can do all the appropriate planning. We all have to remain nimble. And it’s hard. I don’t like saying that, because my personal motto is if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. We’re doing planning for lots of different contingencies. That’s why we take this so seriously. But we have to recognize there may be different contingencies. It all depends on the saturation of COVID-19 cases across our state. Whether or not we are able to identify a nexus, and do the tracing, and do the isolation, or if we have rampant community spread. If we look like Florida, it would be inadvisable for us to resume school, much less continue all of the different pieces of our economy that we’ve reengaged. We’re trying to avoid that. We’ve had a lot of success in that. We have to keep doing what we know to be the right thing. And then we can have a lot more confidence. It’ll be safe to reengage. So what is the timeline? I mean, in a couple of weeks from now, we’ll know what actions today yield in terms of COVID cases. A couple of weeks after that, we’ll see what it means in terms of hospitalizations. That’s the lagging indicators of this particular type of virus. And so what we know is if we do this simple act, we’re going to put ourselves in a much stronger position, economically speaking, health, speaking of course the health and safety of our residents is paramount.
Gretchen Whitmer: (45:07)
But also in terms of giving parents and workplaces the confidence that their kids are going to be safe to return to school. So you’re going to know before we get to that first day, but it’s going to be a lot closer to it than anyone’s going to be happy with. And that’s just the nature of this disease. And I wish I could make it differently, but that’s a part of the problem that we have as a nation around this. Thanks, everybody.
Thank you, Governor.
Tyler Markel: (45:37)
Michigan’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All regions are now meeting testing goals and case numbers seem to be plateauing. The governor, once again, calling on Michiganders to wear a mask when in public. Governor Whitmer even going as far as requesting that President Trump and the federal government enact a federal mask mandate. She went on to denounce the GOPs latest pandemic relief bill, saying it does nothing to help American struggling due to the pandemic. Whitmer asked that members of the U.S. Congress come together to find a solution for all Americans and deliver a relief bill.
Tyler Markel: (46:10)
Guest speakers also requesting the state of Michigan come up with a budget as soon as possible. Also, asking consumers to continue supporting local businesses in wearing masks. We’ll have a full recap of the governor’s remarks, as well as the latest numbers on our newscast tonight. We have much more information about the coronavirus on all of our platforms. Download our free TV6 & FOX UP mobile news app or check our website, uppermichigansource.com. The state of Michigan also has its own site set up for coronavirus coverage specific to Michigan. That’s michigan.gov/coronavirus. Stay safe and have a great day.