May 4, 2020
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Press Conference Transcript May 4
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer held a May 4 press conference on COVID-19. Read the full transcript here.
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Gretchen Whitmer: (00:00)
This is where we’re seeing has decreased or plateaued in most areas across our state. We’ve partnered with businesses like CVS and Walgreens and Rite Aid to set up drive through testing sites for Michiganders and we’ve been encouraging people who think they may come into contact with someone or they know someone who’s been tested positive for COVID-19 to go get tested. Go to michigan.gov/coronavirustest to find a site near you.
Gretchen Whitmer: (00:31)
As always, I will continue to listen to the medical experts as we move forward and take our next steps. We must continue to stay home to stay safe until at least May 15th and only loosen it when public health experts and data say it’s safe. Listening to medical experts will reduce deaths, keep our healthcare system from collapsing and protect our health workers who are looking out for us. We’ve already loosened some restrictions on gardening, lawn care, outdoor recreation.
Gretchen Whitmer: (01:05)
We’re being smart about getting people back to work where we can while keeping people safe in areas where people are the sickest. This plan opens up things slowly and deliberately to avoid a second wave of infections, like we’re already starting to see it in other countries. If we open up too fast, we will have to go through this pain all over again. Let’s not do that.
Gretchen Whitmer: (01:29)
I don’t think any one of us wants to put our medical system at risk and go through a stay home order again, so we all have to keep doing our part. The bottom line is we can’t move forward and reengage everything until it’s safe to do so and that means having enough tests, being able to do the tracing, having few enough cases and ensuring that our hospitals are ready in the event we see some cases go back up.
Gretchen Whitmer: (01:56)
I’m always going to put the health of the people of this state first as we make these decisions. Michiganders and businesses have stepped up. Detroit Denim Company has been manufacturing face shields for our frontline health workers and worked with Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center in Detroit to produce hospital gowns. If you know any other businesses that are stepping up, post about them on social media with the hashtag #doingMIpart, doing M-I part.
Gretchen Whitmer: (02:29)
Also, we should know it is Michigan Nurse’s Week, Michigan Teacher’s Week and Corrections Officer’s Week. Ironic because it is all three of these professions that are on the frontline every day to keep us all safe. Our nurses have been on the frontline of this pandemic since day one. They’ve been the real heroes during this crisis and deserve our utmost respect year round. Our teachers are finding new and creative ways to reach their students, whether it’s over Skype or Zoom, by phone, by mail.
Gretchen Whitmer: (03:04)
This has been a hard year for educators everywhere, but the dedicated women and men in our schools are doing everything they can to help our kids. And our corrections officers have some of the toughest jobs in the state. They deserve our year round appreciation as well. If you know someone who serves our state as a nurse or a teacher or a corrections officer right now, reach out to them this week and please thank them. Tell them how much you appreciate them.
Gretchen Whitmer: (03:34)
Thank you, especially to our nurses and our corrections officers and our teachers and everyone who stepped up to help out in this time of crisis. Protecting the people of Michigan and lowering the chance of a second wave has demanded flexibility and decisiveness. It has also required funding. The dollars we’ve used to keep people safe during this pandemic have come not only from the state treasury, but also from philanthropic sources and the federal government. Michiganders have the right to expect no less so in a time of crisis that state government will be responsible stewards of their resources.
Gretchen Whitmer: (04:14)
I will continue to work around the clock to ensure these resources are spent wisely in compliance with the law and in a transparent and accountable manner. That’s why today I signed an executive directive creating the Michigan COVID-19 Office of Accountability within the state budget office. The accountability office will provide oversight of all spending to address this crisis. The Department of Technology, Management and Budget will designate a chief COVID-19 accountability officer to lead this office. And as an interim director, I appointed Michelle Lange to that spot. The accountability office will report regularly to me and I will work closely with them to ensure we’re using our resources wisely.
Gretchen Whitmer: (05:04)
The May 5th election is tomorrow, and this is an unprecedented time. We must do everything we can to slow this virus spread and lower the chance of a second wave. The fewer people we have lining up at polling places, the better. And that’s why on March 27th I signed an executive order expanding absentee voting and encouraging Michiganders to vote absentee for the election tomorrow. The order I signed allows the Department of State to assist local jurisdictions and mailing absentee ballot applications to every registered voter and to provide absentee ballots directly to new registrants.
Gretchen Whitmer: (05:44)
Local jurisdictions still need to keep at least one polling place open for those who wish to vote in person or who are unable to vote by mail. Elections are crucial to our democracy and even though we are in the midst of fighting a global pandemic, Secretary Benson and I agreed we must do everything we can to ensure that all Michiganders, that their right to vote is pristine and respected and insured and that we encourage people to exercise that right to do in the safest manner they can.
Gretchen Whitmer: (06:18)
In a moment Secretary Benson will speak more on the election and how the state will ensure that all registered voters can vote safely. I’ve said before that the data we’ve seen in the past couple of weeks is a sign for cautious optimism, but I want to reiterate, we’re not out of the woods yet. We’re still seeing a rapid increase in cases on the West side of the state and in rural areas up North.
Gretchen Whitmer: (06:43)
If we reengage too soon or too quickly, we run the risk of a second wave of COVID-19. I expect that we are unanimous in that none of us wants that to happen and none of us wants to be in another stay home order later this year, so we have to recognize this is not over. Michiganders are still losing their battle with COVID-19 every day. We’re coming off of a beautiful warm, sunny weekend here in Michigan and I want to reiterate how important it is for people to maintain social distancing when you are outside.
Gretchen Whitmer: (07:19)
As the weather improves, I know that you’ll want to get out to the park or go for a boat ride or go for a run in your neighborhood, but it’s crucial that you continue to stay safe when you do it. Stay six feet away from others. If you’re going somewhere where you’re not sure if you can maintain a distance, keep that mask on or in your back pocket so you can put it on if necessary. We are not out of the woods yet.
Gretchen Whitmer: (07:46)
I know you’re going to hear that from me over and over again until we can safely say that we are. So we have to be smart and we have to continue to be safe. And remember that just by wearing this mask, you’re doing your part. Yesterday, former president George W. Bush called for an end to partisanship in our fight to combat this virus.
Gretchen Whitmer: (08:08)
He said, “Remember that empathy and simple kindness are essential powerful tools of national recovery”. Over the past two months, we’ve seen so many simple acts of kindness from Michiganders, whether it’s the teacher who is sending letters to their students letting them know that they’ll always be there for them or it is the nurse who sings Amazing Grace to her colleagues to lift their spirits at the beginning of their shift or people doing their part by staying home and staying safe. We must remember to continue showing empathy and kindness and protecting those around us. I know we are capable and it’s because we are Michiganders first and foremost. With that, I’ll turn this over to Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (09:03)
Thank you, governor. Overall, I’m pleased with our progress in fighting COVID-19 and I believe the state is on the right track when it comes to containing it. On a state level, some of our key indicators for COVID-19, the numbers of daily cases, deaths, hospital capacity and testing are absolutely moving in the right direction, although there continues to be a difference and differences regionally that we are closely monitoring. Much of the Southeast part of the state so it’s largest surge in cases about a month ago. We still are seeing parts on the Western side of the state with increasing numbers of cases reported daily.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (09:40)
We’re closely working with our local health departments in those areas to make sure we are monitoring any outbreaks and isolating and quarantining people as necessary. We also know that there is hope and people are beating this disease. As of last Friday at least 15,659 Michiganders have recovered from COVID-19. This means they are alive 30 days after the onset of their illness.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (10:07)
While the overall rate of rise in cases is slowing and people are beating this disease, this is not a reason to become complacent. Social distancing, staying home unless you absolutely have to go out, wearing a mask when you’re out in public and washing hands frequently remains very important. One of the most important things we can do is increase our testing, and that’s the only way we’re going to be able to really know where this disease is so that we can appropriately isolate cases and prevent the spread.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (10:37)
I’m pleased to announce that this past Friday, May 1st, the state tested 11,385 people. That is our highest number yet. We are actively working to expand our testing even more. Overall, as the governor mentioned, the percent of tests in the state that are positive is 23% and it continues to trend down and stabilize. That is movement in the right direction and as we aggressively identify disease-
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (11:03)
In the right direction. And as we aggressively identified disease and contain it, we expect it to go down even more.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (11:08)
I also want to applaud our healthcare system leaders and our clinicians who are on the front lines and are battling this disease. In recent days I’ve spoken with many physicians and healthcare system leaders regarding ways in which medical establishment can safely reengage with their patients. Yesterday, I mailed a letter to every Michigan clinician providing further guidance on how they can see patients safely. This includes ways to safely see patients in hospital and ambulatory settings and making sure infection control practices are appropriate and also reaching out to patients who may have chronic diseases that need to be managed or those who may need to get up to date on their immunizations.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (11:49)
While the healthcare system is not yet ready to get back to the way it was before COVID-19, physicians do have the discretion to be able to determine what care is necessary and urgent for their patients. And things that were not urgent a few weeks ago, may now be urgent more than ever.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (12:07)
These decisions about medical care are best made between a physician and a patient and I encourage everyone to reach out to their medical provider to talk about their particular needs and how they can safely seek medical care.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (12:22)
I also want to take the time to highlight the extraordinary work of the child welfare staff at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. They’re doing great work during this pandemic to support families and preventing abuse and neglect before it occurs. Despite the challenges that COVID-19 has presented, our public and private child welfare staff are taking measures to ensure that children remain safe and families feel supported during this time. They’ve initiated a new outreach effort to about 13,000 families who have previously experienced challenges to ensure they are aware of resources available and to help them access services they need, whether it is goods or other types of supports.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (13:02)
During these difficult times, I like to encourage everyone to play their part in preventing child abuse and neglect. You can call (855) 444-3911 if you know of a child who is being abused or neglected. A family wellbeing guide is also now available online outlining tips and resources to help support children and families during this time and you can find that on our website www.michigan.gov-/coronavirus, it’s in our resources section.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (13:37)
We know the toll COVID-19 is taking on the emotional wellbeing of many Michiganders. On Friday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services launched a new crisis text line to help Michigan residents cope with the stress and anxiety that this pandemic is causing. By simply texting the word restore, R-E-S-T-O-R-E, to 741741. Residents Can have a confidential text conversation with a crisis counselor. Trained counselors are available to offer help with everything from anxiety and financial issues, to suicide and domestic violence and they can offer referrals to other local mental health resources if needed. They’re available 24 hours, seven days a week, and I’m pleased that since Friday we’ve actually helped over 400 people with this service. These other mental health resources can be found on our webpage at www.michigan.gov-/stay well. Please remember to take care of both your physical and your mental health during this time.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (14:42)
We are certainly making progress, but we really must remain diligent as we continue to battle this virus and with that I will turn it over to secretary Benson.
Good afternoon everyone. Thank you governor Whitmer, Dr Khaldoon for having me here to join you today. I greatly appreciate the leadership you both have demonstrated throughout this health crisis and your commitment to ensuring we protect the health and safety of Michiganders, while also protecting their ability to vote.
Democracy is essential, and in times of crisis, the ability to ensure that our citizens are able to hold their elected officials accountable and weigh in on issues critical to their local communities is all the more important. In Michigan, we have the tools to carry out elections that are secure, accurate, and safe to participate in. Tomorrow, roughly 50 local communities will hold the first elections in our state since Coronavirus was reported here. Shortly after the first case emerged in mid-March and after my team spoke with clerks from both sides of the aisle, I worked with governor Whitmer and legislative leaders on the executive order that required these local communities to conduct these elections primarily by mail.
My office first gave each local community the choice and ability to withdraw or postpone items on their ballot until a later election, recognizing that for some this could be done with ease, but for others this would cause significant financial hardship, either way, the choice was theirs to make.
About half of the communities chose to postpone their elections and others informed us that among other things, local schools would not have the funds to operate this fall if a summer millage was not voted on this May. Since then, my team and I have been in near constant contact with local clerks to ensure that we have been supporting each of their specific needs. We mailed all registered voters living in a jurisdiction with a local election, just over 740,000, applications to request for their ballot to be mailed to them directly with instructions on how to receive and return that ballot by mail. We covered all postage and recognizing the unique needs of many voters, including our disabled citizens, we also required that one location in each jurisdiction be open tomorrow on election day to provide citizens a limited opportunity to, if needed, register to vote, request their ballot and return it in person.
We have provided detailed guidance to our local clerks to ensure social distancing practices are in place and that in-person voting location, and we’ve also provided masks, gloves, hand sanitizers, wipes, and other personal protective equipment for election workers to utilize.
Whether processing and counting ballots that have come in via the mail or managing a limited in-person option, we also know that it takes people to carry out any election. So we recruited more than 1800 Michiganders throughout the state to assist clerks and ensure that anyone who did not feel comfortable working for any reason was not required to do so.
Already, we have seen signs of success. Voter turnout in this election is at 20% right now and will ultimately be more than twice the average turnout for our may local elections, which is typically around 12%. More than 140,000 citizens have returned their ballots by mail, demonstrating that even in times of great uncertainty, people want to vote and they want to weigh in on important local issues. That’s all the more reason why we must work together across the state to ensure that for these voters and for every voter, democracy marches on.
Voters should take assurance in this, with two statewide elections on the horizon this August and November, we have shown that we can protect your health and your right to vote. We must and will continue to do this throughout this year. And unfortunately we do this while seeing that some will still use false information to discredit our elections. Coming from a place of fear, of partisanship, or foreign interest, they will attack the safety, sanctity, and security of our system. As Michiganders and as Americans, we cannot let them carry the day. Facts must prevail over fear and at this time of uncertainty, our commitment to democracy must not waiver. We must and we can preserve the integrity of our elections by holding them and doing so in ways that are safe for all involved.
Before I close, I want to share some specific instructions for tomorrow. In each jurisdiction with an election, there will be at least one voting location open. Visit michigan.gov/vote to get contact information for your local clerk who can apprise you of the address and hours for that location. For voters who do live in a community with an election tomorrow and who choose to request or return their ballot in person, please plan to wear a mask, practice social distancing at all times and clean your hands after voting. This will keep you and our election workers safe while also ensuring you get to vote and that our democracy stays strong.
I’ll close now. Thank you again governor Whitmer for your remarkable leadership throughout this crisis and for your commitment to our democracy.
Gretchen Whitmer: (20:26)
Thank you Madam secretary. With that, happy to open it up for some questions.
Speaker 1: (20:45)
You said on Friday that you don’t know when various additional industries will go back to work, but I was wondering do you have any details on what the best case scenario for various Michiganders returning to work will be? And do you have any information about what types of businesses and workplaces will be among the last to return to work because of their risk.
Gretchen Whitmer: (21:11)
I appreciate the question. I think that as this week goes on, we’ll be able to share more about what we believe the next safe steps are to take. We have been working diligently with the Economic Recovery Council that you heard from last week, continuing to finish up our scoring for the level of have risk associated with different sectors of our economy, with an overlay for protocols, for PPE and other social distancing mechanisms that we can advise so that when practice, it brings the risk down and makes it safe to resume those.
Gretchen Whitmer: (21:48)
What we know is that with COVID-19, you can be carrying that and transmitting it without exhibiting any symptoms. Asymptomatic COVID-19 is a reality and that’s how this virus spreads and that’s why it’s really important…
Gretchen Whitmer: (22:03)
That’s how this virus spreads. That’s why it’s really important that between each of these moments where we reengage in other sector that we have some time go by so we can assess. Is COVID-19 starting to rise in a particular area again or not? Is it safe to turn the knob for the next step? Those are the two sides of the equation: assessing the risk inherent in particular sector of our economy as well as continuing the testing so that we’re watching the data. To the extent that we see this plateau or even maybe a decline in COVID-19 presence, as well as our ability to detect it fast, we know that we can safely re-engage and we’ll continue to do that.
Gretchen Whitmer: (22:45)
This week, we know that construction will be reengaging on the 7th as well as a couple of other sectors of our economy that I announced last week. We’ll have to have a little bit of time go by before the next wave. We’ll make some announcements later in the week and share more thought in terms of what that cadence will look like in a bigger picture sense. We’re waiting on some of the scoring from the University of Michigan and working with Merck. I would anticipate being able to share more with you later in the week.
Speaker 2: (23:17)
Just to clarify, you’ll leave a two-week window, following industries like landscaping and construction, and waiting to see the data from those industries reengaging before opening others.
Gretchen Whitmer: (23:28)
That would be the ideal cadence. As we’re navigating this, we’re working closely with Dr. J. and our health experts. We may need to take a little bit shorter period of time in some industries if we feel like a particular region… It’s safe to do so. There’s that kind of an overlay, as well, that comes into the determination.
Speaker 2: (23:51)
Governor, what did you make of the large crowds on Bell Isle and at Grand Haven State Park over the weekend? Do you think people are still doing the right thing? Are you going to have to consider closing state parks?
Gretchen Whitmer: (24:09)
Well, I’m very concerned about it. We’ve seen across the country that the cautious optimism that we’ve shared when we see cases plateau… Some people, I think, are assuming that means that we are out of the woods. That’s why we have to keep doing the work. We have to all keep doing our part. As we’ve seen in different parts of the world, when social distancing practices are dropped, that’s when you are vulnerable to a second wave. As tough as this moment has been, as great as the price that we have paid in this moment, we know we don’t want to do it again.
Gretchen Whitmer: (24:48)
Let’s not make all the work that we have done meritless. Let’s not make it for not. Let’s make sure that we continue to do the right thing by wearing masks, by keeping social distancing. I am very concerned as people abandon that, that they’re going to be vulnerable, and create vulnerabilities for others that they don’t intend to, that they’re not thinking about. That’s why it’s so important that we stay safe. In looking at our state parks, I mean, they have been open this whole time. Obviously, the warm weather is contributing to people’s interest in getting out. Excuse me. I have allergies. I mean, we’re looking at the state park question, Zach. We’ll have more to say on Wednesday.
Speaker 3: (25:46)
Governor, what is your response to the murder of a Dollar Store security guard in Flint that happened on Friday resulting from an argument about asking someone to wear a mask?
Gretchen Whitmer: (25:55)
Well, first and foremost, my condolences go out to the family of the security guard. It is incredible, the people that continue to show up to work to protect everyone else. It is incredibly sad that in this crisis, that this life was lost. We are mindful of how important it is that people keep a level head, that we do the right things, protecting ourselves and protecting others. It’s really important that as people go into stores, they think about all the people that are in there that are putting their lives on the line to keep serving us. I send my condolences to the family of the security guard. I ask that all Michiganders do the right thing, keep their wits about them, and take actions to protect themselves and others in this incredibly stressful time that we’re all navigating together.
Speaker 2: (26:58)
A question for yourself and also, probably Secretary Benson… Has the state considered sending absentee voter ballot applications for the November and August elections, as well?
Gretchen Whitmer: (27:11)
Well, I’m going to let the Secretary of State answer that question.
Secretary Benson: (27:17)
Thank you, governor. The reality is in Michigan, every citizen has a right to vote from home. We’re going to be spending every moment we can between now and our two statewide elections this year, making sure that every citizen, every voter has the ability to do that, to exercise that choice. We’re working with our local clerks in various other media outlets to ensure that the education, that voters know exactly how to request their ballot be mailed to them, is in place. The immediate next step is to ensure that citizens know that they can request to vote from home. They can request a ballot be mailed to them by going to michigan.gov/vote where you can see and access the application to have your clerk mail you that application when the time comes.
Secretary Benson: (28:06)
What we want to emphasize to every citizen, every voter out there is that you will have that right to vote from home, to mail in your ballot. You will be able to request it through your local clerk and through our office, through going to our website. We’re going to be monitoring the health and safety situation as things continue to unfold.
Speaker 2: (28:25)
If you did decide to send absentee voter applications to every voter, would you need legislative approval to do that?
Secretary Benson: (28:32)
Again, our focus is on making sure that citizens know exactly how to request their ballot if they do choose to vote from home this August, this November. We’ll be working with clerks, certainly legislative leaders, and everyone else with an interest in making sure the integrity and the accessibility of our elections is preserved in the months ahead.
Speaker 2: (28:54)
Governor, will your administration cooperate with the new joint committee on requests for witnesses, documents, testimony, that kind of thing? What do you say to the separation of powers argument that members of the legislature in the majority have been raising regarding your orders that this wasn’t intended to be a unitary government, that there are supposed to be checks and balances, and how can there be any checks on the executive branch?
Gretchen Whitmer: (29:22)
Here’s what I have to say. We are in a global pandemic. We have lost thousands of Michiganders to a virus. None of us has seen anything like this in our lifetimes. That’s why it’s so important that we get this right. I am happy to work with the legislature. I think, ideally, we all get on the same page here. What I can’t do is negotiate like this is a political issue. This is a public health issue. I need to listen to the epidemiologists and the health experts in our state and across our country. That’s precisely what I’m doing. I would welcome partnership from people of both sides of the aisle in every branch of government. This needs to be all hands on deck. We are not one another’s enemy. The enemy is the virus.
Gretchen Whitmer: (30:17)
Now, we have worked really well with the legislature. I know that that doesn’t get a lot of headlines. My legal team has worked very closely. We have adjusted orders because of input from the legislature. That’s something that I think is really important. That’s something that I would like to continue. This partisan conversation that has been started and inflamed is not something that is really constructive right now. I do think that accountability is important. That’s precisely why I signed the executive directive today. I’ve asked Michelle Lang to lead it.
Gretchen Whitmer: (30:56)
We will always be very transparent and responsive when inquiries are made because I think that the people of this state have a right to know that their government is working for them. That’s what’s centered all of the work and every decision that I’ve made since this pandemic came to the state of Michigan. That’s precisely what will center every bit of work that we do from here on out. The slow, thoughtful reengagement of our economy is something that we want and need to get right. Anyone who wants to be a part of that… I welcome and invite them to participate in a way that helps us all have confidence. This is the steps that we need to take to keep people safe and get reengaged in a way that prevents a second wave here in Michigan.
If they ask for documents or for department directors to participate in committees, that will happen?
Gretchen Whitmer: (31:54)
Yes, of course. I think that it’s going to be really important that we observe all of the best practices as we are doing this. Absolutely. In this moment, our energies should be going into meeting the needs of our people in the midst of this crisis and making sure that we do it as well as we possibly can. The more often we can do that together, the better.
Speaker 3: (32:27)
Governor, what are your thoughts on today’s protest outside of MDOC headquarters? A lot of people say they want you to use your executive powers to allow more inmates to be paroled and get out of prison so that they’re not exposed to the virus.
Gretchen Whitmer: (32:40)
My thought about the safety in the Department of Corrections is that it’s important that we continue to parole people at the rate that we have been. People that are eligible for parole in the next 365 days are the first that are being determined. The parole board is working seven days a week to make sure that there are people that can be safely…
Gretchen Whitmer: (33:02)
… A week to make sure that there are people that can safely return to home and they’ve got a home to go to and they’ve not tested positive for COVID-19 that, that process is underway. To the extent that, that process can be expedited, we have expedited that process and that’s something that the public safety and the safety of our men and women who work in and around the correction system and who reside in the correction system is paramount.
Speaker 4: (33:36)
Dr. Khaldun issued guidance on Sunday allowing health providers discretion to perform previously non-essential services. Why not issue an amended executive order making clear to healthcare providers exactly what things they can and can’t do?
Gretchen Whitmer: (33:53)
I’m going to actually ask Dr. Khaldun to come and talk to you a little bit about that.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (34:00)
So yes, we thought it was important to issue further guidance to explain executive order 20-17. Again, I’m a practicing emergency medicine physician. You do not want people in Lansing dictating what an EMT specialist or cancer doctor would be doing. So I don’t know right now if it’s necessary to specify what specific procedures should be happening.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (34:21)
What I can say is the most important thing about this order is that it maintains the integrity of the physician and patient relationship. So again, if someone has a chronic disease, they need it managed. If someone’s immunizations are not up to date, they need it managed.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun: (34:38)
Physicians and healthcare systems are already moving forward with doing this in a safe manner, protecting patients, implementing social distancing and PPE. So I think within the scope of the current executive order, physicians are able to do what they need to do to keep people safe.
Speaker 4: (34:53)
Speaker 5: (34:59)
Governor, on the budget, if the federal government doesn’t come through with a big package of aid for the States, are you going to have to look at dramatically furloughing more workers and possibly new revenue? Like if were to increase the gasoline tax, that could free up money in the general fund or some other revenue and other reductions since we’re already seven months into the fiscal year.
Gretchen Whitmer: (35:21)
Right. So obviously we are well into the fiscal year and yet we are not quite sure what we are going to be working with from the federal government. And that’s why governors from both sides of the aisle have been relentlessly trying to encourage the White House and Congress to ensure that, that fourth supplemental happens with the kind of flexibility that States need.
Gretchen Whitmer: (35:45)
We anticipate that we will have a major budget issue if we don’t get that flexibility and we are doing the hard work of assessing how we might go about starting to mitigate some of the harshness of those decisions. But we’re going to have to stay close to our treasurer, to our congressional delegation, to our budget director to ensure that as we’ve got to make some decisions and we get closer to the May 15th revenue estimating conference that we’ve got the best information so we can make decisions that are informed as we’re moving forward.
Gretchen Whitmer: (36:19)
We’ll be working with the legislature to determine what that looks like. I think that it’s really important that we maximize our ability in this moment to utilize the federal dollars that have come in. But that we keep pushing to get a little more support out of the feds and that’s precisely what we’re doing.
Speaker 5: (36:39)
What would you say is sort of the go no go date when the feds haven’t come through? Then you’ve got to move forward or the state has to move forward with a plan.
Gretchen Whitmer: (36:47)
Well, I think by the end of May, we’re going to have to make some hard decisions one way or another. The feds come through, we’re still going to have a tough budget to work through. But that’s kind of the timeline informally that I’ve had in my mind. Obviously, we got to work with the legislature to get this done and that’s something that the conversations have been ongoing and hopefully we’ll have some more to work with in short order.
Speaker 6: (37:21)
During his Fox News town hall, the president alleged last night that you haven’t made it clear that Michigan needs more reagents and swabs. I know you had a teleconference with the vice president and other governors previously today. Have you made it clear to the president that the state needs more swabs and reagents?
Gretchen Whitmer: (37:41)
Speaker 6: (37:43)
And any additional information that you’re receiving from the federal government on if we’ll receive those things?
Gretchen Whitmer: (37:49)
I believe that we’ve got some swabs that are going to be coming in from the federal government. They’re not here yet and that’s why we’re not going to stop making sure that people understand. We still have needs that haven’t been met. Same with reagents. Now, I can’t say that we’ve, we know that we’ve got some coming in this week, but that is a critical component to ramping up our tests.
Gretchen Whitmer: (38:10)
As Dr. J said on Friday, we did over 11,000 tests. We need to be doing that every single day. We should be doing about one to 2% of our population per week. We’ve got to get to between a hundred and 200,000 people a week in Michigan. We’re not near that yet. We’re getting closer, but those reagents are a critical component of it. And so yes, I have reiterated that every single time that I have an opportunity to interface with the White House.
Speaker 6: (38:39)
Thank you, governor.
Gretchen Whitmer: (38:39)
Yeah. All right. Thank you. All right, we can go.
Speaker 7: (38:44)
Speaker 7: (38:45)