May 26, 2020
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Press Conference Transcript May 26
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s Tuesday, May 26 press conference on COVID-19. Whitmer addressed the controversy with her husband’s boat dock request, calling it a “failed attempt at humor.” Read the full transcript of her news briefing speech here.
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Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (00:31)
All right. Wonderful. Well, good afternoon. Today is Tuesday, May 26th. I am joined today by Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, our chief medical executive; Dr. Emily Martin, the associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health; Beverly Allen, chief executive officer of Aetna Better Health of Michigan, a subsidiary of CVS Health.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (00:55)
The coronavirus has devastated families all across the world. People everywhere have grieved the loss of parents, of siblings, of children and friends. Nearly 100,000 people in the United States have died from the coronavirus. The New York Times reported that more Americans have died of the coronavirus in the last 12 weeks than died in Vietnam and the Korean Wars combined, and nearly twice as many as died of battle wounds during World War I.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (01:29)
In terms of American deaths, this virus is the equivalent of 22 Iraq Wars, 33 September 11th attacks, 41 Afghanistan wars, 30, sorry, 42, Pearl Harbors, or 25,000 Benghazis. It’s been devastating on our country, and more than 5,000 of those deaths have happened right here in Michigan. It’s important to never stop recognizing the toll, the human toll that this has taken. I want to highlight just a couple of people from our home state who lost a battle with COVID-19. Lyle [Oglivie 00:02:07] from White Hall died at the age of 64 on May 13th. Lyle worked at the Muskegon Community Mental Health, and most recently was working at the Roosevelt Park Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (02:23)
Edmond C. Carmichael and Gwendolyn A. Carmichael were married for 53 years. Both passed from COVID-19 complications in April, just one day apart. Edmund and Gwendolyn lived in Rosedale for decades. They participated in Meals On Wheels and the Rosedale Park Radio Patrol. Edmond was a Vietnam veteran and deacon at Hartford Memorial Baptist Church. Gwendolyn had a master’s in social work from Wayne State and was involved in many church leadership organizations. Families across Michigan and across the United States are grieving. Most of us know someone who’s been impacted by this virus, whether it’s someone who passed away, someone grieving a friend or one of those serving on the front lines of this crisis as a healthcare worker, a first responder, a utility worker or grocery store clerk. We all have a responsibility to do our part to protect our neighbors, our friends, and our front line heroes. We must all continue to be smart, to stay safer at home, and do everything in our power to lower the chance of a second wave.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (03:39)
One of the most powerful tools that we have in the fight against this virus is widespread testing. We need to keep working to expand testing and require people who test positive to isolate from others so we can prevent that community spread. It’s crucial that people who are at risk of catching this virus get tested. We’re working incredibly hard to make it easier for everyone to get tested.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (04:05)
The Michigan National Guard partnered with the Michigan Veterans Association, the MD, I’m sorry, administration MDHHS, the state emergency operation center, Muskegon County, and the city of Muskegon Heights and numerous other local partners this weekend to offer no costs COVID-19 tests to residents in Muskegon County. They tested 1018 people. We had testing expanded in Flint as well this past weekend.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (04:37)
Today, I signed an executive order that expands the types of medical personnel that can order a test to include nurses, physician’s assistants, and pharmacists. This creates a new category of community testing sites that offer testing to anyone with reason to be tested without an advanced order and without charging out-of-pocket costs to any Michigander. Under this executive order, anyone who leaves their work for home or who has symptoms of COVID-19, even mild symptoms, may receive a test at a community testing location without securing a doctor’s order in advance. Dr. Khaldun has also announced expanded criteria today.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (05:25)
Now Michiganders who are eligible for this expanded testing include someone who exhibits any symptom of COVID-19, someone has been exposed to a person diagnosed with COVID-19 or has symptoms, someone who has been working outside their home for at least 10 days or resides or works in any congregate care setting, such as longterm-care facility, prison or jail, homeless shelter, or migrant camp, as a few examples. If you go to a community testing location, medical personnel will be able to order testing upon arrival. A person who wishes to be tested may call the Michigan coronavirus hotline at 1-888-535-6136 or visit www.michigan.gov/coronavirustest to find an appropriate testing location.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (06:19)
Now getting tested is simple. I went last Thursday to the Sparrow testing facility at the former Sears Auto Center in Lansing. It was quick and it was simple and it was painless, despite some of the funny pictures of my face after the test was taken. I thought I was going to sneeze, but that was it. It was pretty easy. If you fit this expanded criteria, I hope that you will find a test site near you and go get tested.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (06:48)
Beverly Allen from CVS is here today to talk about how CVS is partnering with the state to help get more people tested. In April CVS joined forces with our state government to provide drive-through rapid testing in Dearborn in the parking lot of Henry Ford Centennial Library at 16301 Michigan Avenue at no cost to eligible Michiganders. A doctor’s referral is not required. The site has the capacity to test 500 to 750 residents daily who are experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms. In a moment, Beverly will talk about further measures CVS is going to be taking to help expand testing.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (07:33)
This executive order that I’ve signed also paves the way for more community testing sites. We owe it to the real heroes of this crisis, our medical workers and first responders and other essential workers, to do what we can to stop the spread of this virus.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (07:50)
Another way that Michiganders can do their part is by staying informed. Dr. Martin and her colleagues at the University of Michigan have been working around the clock to develop a resource for people to learn more about COVID-19 in their area and across the state. They’ve developed a dashboard at mystartmap.info designed to monitor the status of COVID-19 indicators across the state of Michigan. The dashboard tracks and displays the current risk phase of Michigan regions and counties due to the virus. The two goals of the dashboard are to assist public health officials in making state regional and county-level decisions related to COVID-19 and to provide the general public with insight into some of the indicators that affect our public health decisions.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (08:43)
Some of the data points you can find on this dashboard are among other things, the percent of positive tests, the number of tests that are being administered, the number of new cases and the number of deaths. This is a great visual representation of where we are as a state in terms of COVID-19 cases. It shows us which phase of My Safe Start Plan each Merck region is in, and it can give you a sense of what we’re looking at as we make decisions about how to safely re-engage our economy. In a moment, Dr. Martin will give you a brief overview of the dashboard, and I encourage everyone to stay informed.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (09:21)
This has been a tough 12 weeks. I know a lot of people are feeling restless. I can tell you, I am as well. I urge you to stay safe, to do everything in your power to protect yourself and your family. If we all keep doing our part, we’re hoping that we can continue to announce additional timelines for shifting more regions of the state into Phase Four soon.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (09:47)
COVID-19 is still very present though. It’s still a reality here in Michigan, and that’s why we all have to continue to do our part. People are losing loved ones every day in this country. We owe it to our fellow Michiganders and our heroes on the front lines of this crisis, to be smart and to do our part. We will get through this together.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (10:08)
Thank you. With that, I’ll hand it over to Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (10:15)
Thank you, Governor.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (10:16)
Today we announced 55,104 cases and 5,266 deaths in the state of Michigan. The rate of rise of cases continues to decline overall as a state. We also know that people are recovering. As of last Friday, 33,168 people have survived 30 days after being diagnosed with the disease. This is good news. On a regional basis, cases are steadily declining in Southeast and Southwest Michigan. Cases continue to be low in the Upper Northern Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula. However, the Grand Rapids region of the state continues to have the highest rate of new cases per million people, with rates above 40 cases per-
Speaker 3: (11:03)
Cases per million people with rates above 40 cases per million people per day. As we slowly reopen the economy, it will be important for us to monitor data, to make sure we are testing sufficiently and to make sure we are swiftly responding to and containing any outbreaks. Even if cases are low in an area, it does not mean that all of the risk is gone. People should remain vigilant in all areas of the state, practicing social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands frequently. As we move to reopen the economy, it will be paramount that we continue to expand and improve our data reporting so that the public has a good understanding of where we are with the spread of the disease across the state. We are grateful for the partnership between the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the University of Michigan, to be able to develop the, MI Safe Start Map, a dashboard that will help the public understand how the disease is spreading across the state and in their community.
Speaker 3: (12:05)
In this dashboard, local health officials and the general public will be able to understand where we are as a state with several indicators. This includes cases, deaths, and tests completed. This will be important so everyone understands where we are with the disease. We’re also making great progress in expanding diagnostic testing across the state. Last week, our diagnostic tests increase 5% over the previous week with a seven day average of 14,420 tests per day. The state of Michigan has received and processed more test results for COVID-19 in the past three months than we did for all reportable diseases in all of 2019. Today, we are announcing that we’re removing even more barriers to testing so that those who need a test can get one. As the governor mentioned, we are expanding our testing criteria significantly.
Speaker 3: (13:03)
Anyone, even if they don’t have symptoms, can get a test if they have been diagnosed or exposed to someone with symptoms or someone who has a diagnosis of COVID-19, if they are leaving their home for work, or if they are determined to be a priority for testing by local health department or a clinician, even if they do not have symptoms and with the governor’s executive order today, no one needs a doctor’s order before they can go to a testing site. Nurses, pharmacists and physician’s assistants are now able to administer a test without a doctor’s order. So anyone who wants to test can go to our website, www.michigan.gov/coronavirustest to find a testing site nearest them. We have over 250 testing sites across the state, and we are expanding more and more every day. And many of these sites offer testing with no out-of-pocket cost. So again, I encourage people to seek out a test if you believe that you need one. COVID-19 is going to change the way we live for some time, but we are making progress because of the great work of all of you across the state.
Speaker 3: (14:16)
Things like social distancing, wearing a mask and washing hands, we’re seeing cases and deaths decline, but no matter what part of the state that you live in COVID-19 is still a threat. Please do not let down your guard and remain vigilant. We will get through this. And with that, I will turn it over to Dr. Emily Martin.
Dr. Emily Martin: (14:49)
Thank you. Today, on behalf of our team at the University of Michigan, I’m happy to announce the MI Safe Start Map. The MI Safe Start Map is an interactive dashboard with real time regional and county specific data on the coronavirus epidemic. The dashboard includes a display of key epidemic indicators along with benchmarks to guide individuals in understanding the spread of coronavirus in their communities and across the state. The indicators and the risk benchmarks that are displayed on the dashboard are going to be based on the best available scientific data evaluated by a team of faculty members at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. The risk levels on the dashboard tell us whether there’s a high, medium, or low risk of COVID-19 in the community. This highlights areas where more social distancing may be needed or where vulnerable individuals should be particularly careful.
Dr. Emily Martin: (15:45)
MI Safe Start Map has been collaboratively developed by a group of volunteer faculty, students, alumni, and friends of the University of Michigan School of Information guided by faculty from the University of Michigan School of Public Health. This group has done incredible work in a very short time to apply cutting edge data visualization methods, to make these indicators accessible for everyday use, as well as giving everyone the ability to see the data behind the indicators in the most transparent way possible. Keeping our families and businesses safe and healthy during this epidemic requires us all to keep a watchful eye on COVID-19 in our communities. It is our hope that the MI Safe Start Map will be a useful tool for guiding our own choices, serving as a window into the data as we continue to fight the coronavirus epidemic together. Thank you.
Beverly Allen: (16:46)
Thank you, Governor Whitmer for inviting us here today. My name is Beverly Allen, Chief Executive Officer of Aetna Better Health of Michigan, a subsidiary of CVS Health, which provides health insurance to approximately 50,000 individuals and families in Michigan. On behalf of all of us at CVS Health, especially our 6,400 colleagues here in Michigan, I want to thank you and your team for your continued partnership. Because of our expansive capabilities across Michigan, including 250 pharmacy locations, a leading pharmacy benefits management, a business that serves 400,000 members and Aetna that delivers market leading health plans to 380,000 people, CVS Health is uniquely positioned to partner with the state of Michigan, not only in its response to the pandemic, but also taking care of Michiganders in each community we serve including the most vulnerable on Medicaid. The Governor’s order allows pharmacists to conduct COVID-19 tests in recognition of the critical role that pharmacists play in our communities in providing access to healthcare. Today’s action will help us as we expand our testing capabilities in Michigan. Working together, we can help slow the spread of the virus.
Beverly Allen: (18:18)
I am particularly proud that we have been able to immediately respond to the needs of the communities we serve, and that includes opening and operating large scale testing sites like the one in Dearborn. What we’ve been able to accomplish so far could not be done without the tireless efforts of CVS Health employees all across the state. Whether it is overseeing test sites, ensuring patients are getting the coverage they need, providing medication and care or ensuring our stores are stocked with essential goods, I’m inspired by my colleagues each and every day. The Dearborn testing location, which was made possible through a partnership with the state, has been operating for the last month and has the capacity to complete approximately 750 tests per day with real-time results. We have had these sites up in five states and have been able to complete testing for 30,000 individuals every week. Since opening our first test sites, our focus has been on people’s health and uniting around one common goal, increasing the availability of testing.
Beverly Allen: (19:41)
Later this week, we will be expanding our testing capabilities across Michigan by offering self-swab tests at 16 CVS pharmacy locations, part of our goal of having up to 1,000 CVS pharmacy locations across the country. Testing will take place at drive-thru windows, not inside our stores, which will remain open to customers. This nationwide expansion will give us the capacity to process up to 1.5 million tests per month, contributing to the country’s effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 and helping states like Michigan safely reopen their economies. Another important consideration in our testing strategy is the reality that minorities have been disproportionately impacted by the virus. We’ve partnered with several organizations, including the National Medical Association, to help improve access to testing and necessary care for historically underserved communities. Our COVID-19 testing effort is just one of our many pandemic focused initiatives.
Beverly Allen: (20:59)
Another critical part of our response has been in mental health. We believe that while it is less visible, the escalating mental health crisis is emerging as a second curve we are hoping to help flatten. Since March 1st, we have seen a 200% increase in virtual mental health visits as compared to the same period last year. Healthcare workers are under extreme stress and anxiety fighting to save lives, while in many cases isolating themselves after shifts to keep their own family members safe. Addressing mental health needs is a priority for us as CVS Health and we are offering expanded services and resources through Aetna to all frontline healthcare workers, essential workers, and senior citizens, whether or not they are covered by Aetna health plans. Our COVID-19 response has been comprehensive, including helping patients access care by-
Dr. Martin: (22:03)
… Including helping patients access care by waving cost sharing for COVID testing and treatment and making telemedicine more available, supporting healthcare providers and clinicians so they can focus on the critical patient care and ensuring patients have options when filling prescriptions. The CVS health team is part of an army of countless healthcare professionals and frontline workers who have brought the country together through their efforts and compassionate, selfless acts. We owe them all a debt of gratitude. Governor Whitmer, thanks again for your partnership and your leadership and for including and inviting us here today.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (22:53)
Thank you. We appreciate your partnership as well. And Dr. Martin, thank you for all the work that the University of Michigan has done to help us. Really appreciate it. So before I open it up for Q&A, I thought that I would take a moment to say a few words. This has been a tough time. There’s no question. We’ve been 12 weeks into this, and it is something that I think has been difficult for many. This crisis is not about me, and it never has been. It’s about a killer virus that is confronting all Americans. We need to have some perspective and remember that this is about the people of Michigan who are mourning the loss of a loved one or the loss of a business or a job. It’s about our brave first responders who put their lives on the line taking care of others.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (23:43)
Over the past couple of months we have seen an explosion of rampant rumors and violent death threats against my family and me online. Because of that, I’m not going to get into the business of refuting and discussing every aspect of my whereabouts or dispelling every inaccurate statement or post, because frankly, there’s just too many to keep up with. That said, I do feel compelled to address the most recent one about my husband, Mark. My husband made a failed attempt at humor last week when checking in with the small business that helps with our boat and dock up north. Knowing it wouldn’t make a difference, he jokingly asked if being married to me might move him up in the queue. Obviously with the motorized boating prohibition in our early days of COVID-19, he thought it might get a laugh. It didn’t. And to be honest, I wasn’t laughing either when it was relayed to me because I knew how it would be perceived.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (24:49)
He regrets it, I wish it wouldn’t have happened, and that’s really all we have to say about it. My family, like most, has been staying home these last couple of months. For me, that included effectively canceling my own daughter’s prom and graduation ceremony, but it gets worse. My family has had men with automatic rifles standing in view of our front window outside of our home. We have read the vile things people have said and written in response to my stay home, stay safe order. My daughters have seen the likeness of their mother hung from a noose in effigy. We have weathered demonstrations that were egged on or participated in by some sitting Republican leaders. Even my neighbors have been terrorized as they tried to enjoy their Memorial Day weekend up in Antrim County, despite the fact that I was 200 miles away.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (25:49)
COVID-19 has been a tough chapter for us all. I’m not likening my experience to that of someone who is mourning the loss of a loved one or their business or their job, but that’s why precisely we have to get this right. Because none of us, not one of us ever wants to go through this again with a second wave. Now, I’m not going to be bullied into ignoring the science and making political calculations. And as we have seen across the country, let’s not us here in Michigan have made this sacrifice in vain and see our numbers start to rise again. It will be a long time before we have vaccines or herd immunity or a cure. And that means we have to learn to live with this virus for the time being. That means masks and distancing and hand-washing. It means staying close to home.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (26:49)
We need to rise to this occasion and not devolve into our worst selves. And that means everyone should take a deep breath. Let’s all take a moment to show some empathy. Let’s all try to show a little kindness, and let’s all try to have a little patience. That goes for my family and for yours, because we are all Michiganders and we are all in this together. With that I’d be happy to open it up for a few questions.
Speaker 4: (27:21)
Governor, one of the questions that we’re hearing about is what the status is of cooperation between the Midwestern governors. You’ve talked about this before, but we know that someone who lives in Niles can just go south of the border and do things in Indiana that they couldn’t do in Michigan. So where’s the status of the regional arrangement that you’ve talked about in the past?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (27:48)
So when we announced our consortium coming together, it was really so that we were able to share best practices, best information, help one another and one another’s states confront issues and try to improve upon experiences. We have been having regular conversations with the governors. We had one last week. I know that our staffs are talking even more regularly than the governors are, because we’re all confronting a variation of the similar issues that we have to navigate here. On our last conversation last week we talked a lot about childcare, and how do we reengage in that sphere so that people who are going back to work have the care that they need for their kids? And states are proceeding in different ways. But I think that the goal of this coming together has really been to make sure that we are able to share information and our best practices and our thought processes.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (28:47)
When I contemplated shutting bars and making restaurants dine out only, we were just days after having seen Ohio and Illinois take similar action. So I jumped on the phone with them. And so instead of hunting one another down, having a regular cadence where we are sharing what our thought processes are, I think, has been very valuable. When I talk to the Governor of Ohio he gets the benefit of a lot of counsel that I’m getting here across our state, including that of University of Michigan public health. And similarly, when I’m talking to him I’m getting the benefit of Cleveland Clinic science that is informing a lot of the work that he’s doing. And so it’s been mutually beneficial. It was never intended to say that this whole region takes every step choreographed together, but we are sharing information. I think that it’s made all of our work product a lot better, and it means that we’ve been in a stronger position to save lives and try to get this economic re-engagement right.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (29:45)
I want to show you a picture that I saw on CNN earlier today. I think that as we are coming off of a holiday weekend where we know some people drop their guard, we saw it across the country, everyone saw the pictures in the Ozarks. This is something to be proud of. Now, this doesn’t mean we’re done. For those who dropped their guard this past weekend, and we know that that happened, we know of some cases in Grand Travers.
Speaker 5: (30:11)
For people who are listening, not watching, just a little bit about what we’re seeing?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (30:15)
So this is a map that was on CNN this morning. The source is John Hopkins. It shows that there are nine states that have started to see a decline in coronavirus in their cases this past week versus the week beforehand. Michigan is one of only 10 states that is in that light green. There’s only one state that is in the dark green and I can’t even tell you which one it is from this picture, but everyone else is either steady or climbing. Michigan, the work that we have done is paying off. This is just one representation. The better information is going to be on the website that we discussed earlier during this press conference.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (30:54)
But I just pointed this out. We can’t afford to drop our guard now. And some of the stories from this weekend were disturbing. I want people to recognize that in order for us to keep moving forward as a state, we are looking at the possibility of moving other regions into phase four, but it’s really dependent on everyone continuing to do their part. And we should be proud of what we have done here as a big group of individuals. We’ve got to keep it up.
Speaker 6: (31:25)
Governor, I know you did just address some of the rumors that were surfacing the Internet. When you opened regions six and eight you advised people not to rush up there and overwhelm the area. Just moments ago you mentioned that your family has been staying home for the past several weeks, but there were some reports that you did spend time up north. Are those reports true?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (31:42)
So as you know, a few weeks ago we dropped the travel ban so that if people had a second residence it was permitted to go to a second residence. My husband did go up to our place in Antrim County and raked some leaves and came home. So he was there. We did not all pile in the car to go enjoy our second home, although that would have been permitted if we had. But the fact of the matter is he was there briefly for a night, I think, one or two nights, and came right back home after he raked our leaves.
Speaker 7: (32:19)
Could you update us on the status of long-term care facility reporting? I know we’re transitioning to a new process. Tell us what hasn’t been worked and what we can expect.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (32:30)
You see me grabbing my mask because I’m going to hand this over to Dr. Jay.
Speaker 8: (32:36)
Yeah, so great question. If you go to our website now it will say that we are currently updating it. Because what has occurred is we are working with our long-term care facilities to make sure we’re getting accurate information and that they understand what we’re actually asking them to report. What we found before is that every facility had a different interpretation of how to report. So we wanted to fix that. In the meantime, CMS at the federal level has actually asked everyone in the country to report in a certain-
Speaker 9: (33:03)
Well has actually asked everyone in the country to report in a certain way. So now we’re aligning what we previously had asked our longterm care facilities to do with the CMS guidance. And then we will be updating our website with the most accurate data when that’s available.
Speaker 10: (33:19)
I’m not sure if this is for you governor Whitmer or for Dr. Khaldun, but you talked about the difference in experience in the Grand Rapids area, where we’re seeing more new cases than we are in other places. Do you have any understanding of why that might be?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (33:35)
Again I’m going to hand it over to Dr. Khaldun.
Speaker 9: (33:39)
Sure. So what we’ve said all along is that as a state we have kind of one trend, but we knew just like across the entire country, every region might have a different look when it comes to the rate of rise and when cases go up and how high they go up. So right now what we’re seeing in Grand Rapids is that they have a higher rate for cases per million than any other part of the state right now. But what’s important is that they are also continuing to come down. There are several outbreaks, our local health departments are working closely on that. But again it will change on a daily basis.
Speaker 11: (34:17)
Governor, is there any update on the return to learn advisory council and plans to how we would safely reopen schools if that’s done in the fall?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (34:23)
So we had over a thousand people apply to be on this council, which is not going to be a thousand person council. So it’s a great thing that we’ve got so many people that bring different experience and expertise to the table. As we determine precisely who’s the part of that council we want to get to work right away. One of the I think fundamental things that we want to start talking about right away are camps. I know that there are a lot of camps in Michigan that are trying to determine whether or not they open and we want to give them some guidance soon. I think in the coming weeks, we will have that. I know that for some that might not be fast enough, but we want to get it right. And so this would be an initial task that I hope that they’ll be able to undertake very quickly. So there’ll be a lot more to report in the coming days on that.
Speaker 12: (35:15)
When will we start to see results from antibody testing and so far what are we learning from those tests?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (35:24)
I’m going to hand it back to Dr. Jay. I’ll just say this, last Thursday I took my COVID-19 tests and I got a serology test. Both came back negative, both were very easy to do. It is my hope that anyone in these guidelines get out and get tested. The more people that get tested, the better. We can get a better appreciation for how real COVID-19 is, how many people are really carrying it. That gives us all in a much stronger position to make determinations about when we can safely take that next step forward. And so it really is important that we continue to ramp up and that’s why this announcement today is so great. So Dr. Jay talk about serology.
Speaker 9: (36:09)
So we are now reporting serology tests across the state. If you go through our website, we actually improved it over the weekend. I think it’s also important that we understand the difference between the serology tests and the DNA PCR tests, which are diagnostic. Right now the FDA has really only approved the serology test to look at broad communities or populations. It should not be used to determine what an individual should do. There’s just so much more we still have to learn if you have the antibody does it actually mean that you’re immune? We don’t know that yet. And even if you are immune, we don’t know how long you’re immune for. So a serology test really shouldn’t be used to tell if someone should go back to work or if they should quarantine or not. But we are now posting the serology test and the diagnostic PCR test on our website.
Speaker 12: (36:55)
Are you posting results of those or just the number of them?
Speaker 9: (36:58)
The numbers, the number of positive serology tests are on our website.
Speaker 13: (37:08)
I’m taking this from a Wall Street Journal piece that was published today. And it says that we still have a testing shortfall. We know that in order to get a test you have to have a reason to get a test. So does this mean that we are actually under counting the number of COVID cases out there? And if so, do we have any idea of what that range might be?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (37:37)
So again, I’m going to hand this to Dr. Jay. She is the physician here.
Speaker 13: (37:42)
Seems like a good idea.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (37:43)
I’m just going to say what I’ve come to appreciate about this being such a novel virus. There are a lot of things we don’t know, and everyone wants answers including me. I would love to be able to give you a definitive response to every question you have including will my daughter actually have a graduation this summer? I’m not sure what that’ll look like. She’s graduated and that’s a great thing but we’re hoping to have that milestone moment that we can at least get a picture of her in her cap and gown. That being said, when it comes to the testing, the best thing we can do is do more testing. And that’s why we really need assistance from the federal government to make sure that we’ve got access to all of the reagents and swabs.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (38:24)
We want to be able to execute every test we are capable of here in Michigan, but it’s dependent on those particular items. Which we’re still working every day with the federal government and procurement to try to make sure we’ve got an abundance of these things. But that still is a shortcoming and it’s critical to point out that if we could just perform tests the way that we do a flu test for anyone who walks in, we would have a lot more information to determine how prevalent COVID-19 is. Right now there are asymptomatic people who will not fall into our guidelines and not think to go and get a test because they don’t fall in these guidelines. We have to have guidelines because we need more testing supplies. And so as we continue to ramp up that will be improved, but we’re not there yet. And that continues to be an issue for us. I don’t know Dr. Jay [inaudible 00:39:16].
Speaker 9: (39:18)
Sure. So there’s no question that as a country we were behind in getting testing up. If you remember a few months ago, we could only test people who were in the hospital. So we knew we’ve always known that we weren’t testing enough people, but what we focused on is getting up our capacity. And as we’ve expanded our capacity, we’ve also expanded our testing criteria. So with the memo that I sent out to our healthcare providers today, actually any clinician or any local health department who believes that someone regardless of if they have symptoms or not needs to get a test, they can get that done.
Speaker 9: (39:49)
Anybody who’s in a population where there has been not enough testing, whether you’re in a rural area or urban area, you can get a test done regardless of if you have symptoms or not. So we’ll continue to work. I’ll just add, it’s important that when we think about these tests, if you do a test on someone who does not have symptoms and they’re also at very, very low risk, you’re likely to get what we call a false positive result. So the test may say that you’re positive for the disease when you don’t in fact have it. So it’s important that we use the tests appropriately and understand the characteristics of them. But there’s no question we need to continue to expand our testing significantly. And we’ve been doing that in the state.
Speaker 14: (40:28)
Governor do you plan to make an exception for census takers to go door to door in regions of the state that have not reached phase four yet?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (40:36)
We have not talked about what that looks like at this juncture. I’ll tell you that some of the initial census response was that Michigan was I think third best in the country when it comes to per capita response to the census. It doesn’t mean we’re done, it doesn’t mean everyone’s responded. And the I think tough irony of taking a census in COVID-19 is that COVID-19 funding is based on the last census. And that’s precisely why it’s so important that everyone gets counted. That they go online and do it. It is nine questions, it’ll take 10 minutes. I did it months ago and I’m hopeful that people will do that. With regard to whether or not we’ll be getting to the doors with the census, I can’t give you a definitive response at this point, but it’s something that we’re talking about.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (41:25)
Speaker 16: (41:28)
I’d like to transition a little bit to the flooding in Midland, what will be the state’s role in the future of Wixom and Sanford Lake particularly when it comes to investigating what happened? Will you name someone independent to do that? And what is the future of rebuilding that infrastructure and taking control of it?
Governor Gretchen Whitmer: (41:47)
I appreciate the question. I think that tomorrow we’ll have something to talk about on that front specifically and I do plan to make another trip to Midland tomorrow. I think that it’s really important to know that I met with FEMA at the SEOC at the end of last week. We talked quite a bit about the variety of work that we are doing jointly on behalf of the people of Midland and the greater area. I also spoke with the head of the admin… The title is the chairperson of FERC, which is the federal commission oversees three out of the four dams. And that there is work that is being done at that level in conjunction as well. And so we plan to do our due diligence and ensure that we have a full vetting of all of the information and that we’ve got a plan going forward. All right, thank you.