May 7, 2020
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Press Conference Transcript May 7
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer held a May 7 press conference on COVID-19. Whitmer announced that she is extending the Michigan stay-at-home order until May 28, 2020.
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Gretchen Whitmer: (00:00)
Making decisions, what data we’re using, and what the path looks like going forward. I know that there is a lot of anxiety and hunger for information, and so we’re going to share some more detail. We’re going to go a little bit deeper today than we have in press conferences past. So first I wanted to start with how I am making decisions, and the incredible talent and mindset I am discussing our next steps with. And, as we navigate this, I think it’s really important to stay very close to our healthcare professionals, on the front lines of this crisis. The epidemiologists, that I’ve sought counsel from for the past two months, have some of the most crucial insight on, what steps we need to take to protect our families, and to protect our people. These experts have informed all of the actions that I’ve taken, each step of the way, and the actions we’ve taken, have flattened the curve, reduced deaths, helped keep our health system afloat, and protected frontline healthcare workers, all in the process.
Gretchen Whitmer: (01:07)
And that’s why as we continue to navigate this crisis, I’m staying close to them. And, these people are people like Dr. Khaldun, of course, who is by my side every step of the way, Epidemiologists at the University of Michigan, and the School of Public Health at U of M as well. The Michigan Economic Recovery Council, which is made up of a tremendous number of leaders in both healthcare and in industry, including, four of our great university presidents, most of whom have medical backgrounds, on top of it. We’re still in close touch with, trade associations, so, as we are promulgating protocols and best practices that they, make sense in the workplace. And of course, talking with my fellow Governors across the country, both sides of the aisle. Sharing our thought processes and, when we do that, we get the benefit of one another’s resources, like the ones I just named here in Michigan.
Gretchen Whitmer: (02:01)
But I’ve also, gone out of my way to make sure that we have a continuing conversation with national experts like, Dr. Zeke Emanuel from the University of Pennsylvania. You’ve probably seen him on television quite a bit. He’s a Professor in Health Care Management, Medical Ethics and Health Policy, at the Perelman School of Medicine. Dr. Emily Martin, who is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. Dr Josh Sharfstein, at Johns Hopkins who oversees the Office of Public Health Practice and Training and is a director of the Bloomberg American Health Initiative. You’ve probably seen him on television. As you have seen Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and former Commissioner for the FDA. Dr. Ashish Jha, Professor of Global Health, at Harvard. And Dr. Vikas Parekh, Professor Michigan Medicine, University of Michigan, and Dr. Marisa Eisenberg, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health.
Gretchen Whitmer: (03:08)
This is a sampling of the kind of expertise that we are soliciting, to inform each step that we’re taking as a state. From the very early days, where we had to take aggressive steps, to take kids out of school, and go into a shutdown, to the steps we’re taking now, to turn the dial and to start to reengage sectors of our economy. We’ve come a long way in the last two months. I think it’s really important to have that perspective. I know it’s been two months and it seems like a lot longer in many ways. But we have to remember, two months ago when our numbers were climbing exponentially, Michigan had the third highest number of COVID cases, and we still have the third highest number of deaths in our country. And we are the 10th largest state. And so because of this, Michigan’s had a uniquely tough time with COVID-19, and that’s why we had to be so aggressive, and that’s why I’ve solicited all of this expertise as we’ve made decisions along the way.
Gretchen Whitmer: (04:09)
Just eight weeks ago, you might remember, we were scrambling, to set up a global procurement office in the State Emergency Operation Center. With the aid of people in the private sector, with the aid of the federal government, and the incredible work that our state employees have done, we have made a huge difference in these last eight weeks, in just our ability, to meet the needs of our frontline healthcare workers. We’ve been fortunate, that we’ve had a lot of partners in the private sector, like Ron Mills who came from General Motors, Laura [inaudible 00:04:41] and Adam Carlson from the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, Lynn [inaudible 00:04:46] and former CEO of Henry Ford, with countless Michigan National Guard members, to aid in logistics, and working in lockstep, with Michigan-based companies, FEMA, the federal Department of Health and Human Services, to assist in materials, and supply chain, and logistics of PPE receipt.
Gretchen Whitmer: (05:08)
Our COVID-19 cases were growing exponentially in those early days. And many of our hospitals were at capacity, immediately at the onset of this crisis. I bet you might remember that there was a weekend where we had one shift’s worth of PPE, meaning, that in a hospital, they only had enough PPE for one 12 hour shift. Where doctors and nurses were wearing the same masks for days. This is the work that has been done in these intervening weeks. And that hard work is paying off. We’re now testing more and more Michiganders. You can see how our testing has ramped up, from the early days where we were setting up a state lab, to now where we’ve got partnership labs across the state. And, the number of cases that we are seeing, has started to plateau. This is because, your staying at home has made a difference.
Gretchen Whitmer: (06:08)
This is because, of all the actions, the people, and the businesses of Michigan have taken, to make sure that we flatten our curve. Now I want to be very clear, COVID-19 is still present, in Michigan. It is present in 79 out of 83 counties. And that’s why it’s terribly important, that we not let our guard down now. That we consider this a very real threat because it is. Those slides I showed you about how we’ve ramped up PPE, and testing, and we’ve seen our numbers start to plateau. Those are all great signs. But, COVID-19 is still present and can grow, if we don’t, continue to be vigilant. If we let our guard down.
Gretchen Whitmer: (06:54)
And that’s why, every one of us must continue to do our part, so we can keep taking these steps forward. Now because of the hard work that this team of private sector, public sector, inside Michigan, and outside of Michigan. Because of the hard work that we’ve done, and because of countless Michiganders, and businesses, and organizations, that have played their part, we’ve really pushed the curve down dramatically. We’ve saved our health system, and we’ve ramped up our PPE, and testing, and tracing, which has enabled us, to safely begin, to phase in sectors of our economy.
Gretchen Whitmer: (07:33)
Last week, members of the Michigan Economic Recovery Council joined me, and they discussed the eight regions that they divided our state into. Now, they’re not perfect, and I’ve heard from people in counties, that question if they’re in the right region. But here’s what we know. These were determined based on our natural labor sheds, essentially, how people travel to and from work. Also, with the overlay of our geography of our healthcare regions in Michigan. For example, which hospital system serves which regions? And so, the council, the Michigan Economic Recovery Council, has addressed the status of the epidemic, its intensity and trajectory, and the status of our healthcare systems, in each of these eight regions. With their recommendations, and the work that we have done with public health experts, we’ve designed a staged recovery for Michigan. And it’s important that we remember, we have to reengage, like a dial. Not a switch that goes on or off. But a dial that we can turn, and we can continue to turn the intensity up, if everyone does their part.
Gretchen Whitmer: (08:40)
We have to remember, the threat of a second wave, is very real. And it’s one that I hope we are unanimous in, that none of us wants to see that happen. In the 1918 flu, or the pandemic that is playing out right now around the globe, there are case studies abound, that those who resume life as it was, who drop all of the social distancing and the masking, can go right back into a second wave. And that wave can be, as deadly, or worse, than the first. And certainly, as economically damaging, as the first. And that’s why this staged recovery is so critical. We have to continue to move incrementally. And measure our data every step of the way. That means, continuing to ramp up our testing, and our tracing capabilities, to isolate when we detect COVID-19, so that, we keep this number low and don’t get overwhelmed again and have community spread.
Gretchen Whitmer: (09:39)
There are six stages to our MI Safe Start. And each step forward is contingent on factors relating to the spread of COVID-19, and our ability to detect it, trace, and isolate, positive cases. And that’s why it’s really up to the people of Michigan, to do your part, so we can keep moving forward. Phase one is uncontrolled growth. That’s where we were eight weeks ago. That’s where the increasing number of new cases every day begins to overwhelm our health systems. And that’s when we start to, take serious steps to curtail the spread by stopping, education of our kids, for instance, or closing bars, going to a stay at home order.
Gretchen Whitmer: (10:23)
The second stage is persistent spread where, we don’t see the exponential growth, but we continue to see high case levels, with concern, about our healthcare system. The third phase, which is flattening, and that’s where we are right now. It’s when the epidemic is not increasing at those great rates. And our healthcare system is sufficient, to meet current needs. That’s where we are right now. So we are in the third phase of this. We’ve reopened, some construction, or all construction. We’ve reopened, manufacturing that will go into effect this coming week and really, more into effect the week after. Has strict safety measures, but we will continue to move forward. And in order to stay safe, as we reengage these sectors, we need to continue practicing strict social distancing, wearing face coverings, using safe workplace practices.
Gretchen Whitmer: (11:23)
The state will continue to work on our testing capabilities, and tracing capabilities. And, in this phase we can permit, outdoor activities, with distancing maintained. We know, that even in this phase, we are still safer at home. And that’s why we’ll be extending the order through the 28th, because we are still safer at home. While we can reengage in more things, we’ve got to be smart about it. Phase four, which is where we hope to move next, in short order, depending on how well we all continue to be vigilant, is when we see cases and hospitalizations and deaths-
Gretchen Whitmer: (12:03)
… are clearly declining. The fifth stage is called Containing, and that’s when we have continued case and death rate improvements and outbreaks are quickly contained. So if we see a spike somewhere, we’re able to trace and test and keep it from a community spread. And the sixth phase, which is the ultimate goal is Post Pandemic, and that is when community spread is not expected to return. That’s going to be awhile. We just have to be very clear about that. Post Pandemic is when we have a vaccine, or we have some sort of a cure or therapeutic that can can cure a COVID-19. That’s going to take a little while. But the good news is that we are starting to move forward and you can see kind of what this will look like.
Gretchen Whitmer: (12:52)
So today I’m signing … I’ve signed an executive order to extend the Safer at Home order until May 28th. We’ll be reopening manufacturing work, and as a part of the my safe start plan to reengage the economy. These are the two big things in this order. Starting on Monday the 11th, workers in manufacturing can begin phasing into work. So, this is a really important moment that I think is critical that we acknowledge something. Manufacturing is an important part of our economy, there’s no question. And as we’ve done the risk assessment, we feel comfortable that with these safety protocols we can safely re-engage. And I think for the purpose of perspective, it’s important to know that manufacturing is about 19% of our economy, and we’ve already got four to 5% that has already engaged as essential. And so this is a sizeable part of our economy, but it is an incremental step. The big three auto suppliers, in agreement with the UAW, will begin phasing in work on the 18th, and they’ll be starting at 25% capacity and phasing up from there. This is truly good news for our state. It’s a major step forward on our My Safe start plan to reengage our economy safely and responsibly.
Gretchen Whitmer: (14:20)
My team and I have been looking at the inherent risk in different sectors of our economy. This is work that was done with Merck and the University of Michigan to help inform how we mitigate risk as we reengage. My team and I determined that manufacturing has a lower risk score than some other industries, and therefore that’s why we start the phase in on the 11th and the big three on the 18th. We made this decision based on data and recommendations from the expertise that I have cited earlier. Our industrial sector, as I said, accounts for about 19% of our total economy and that spearheaded by the automotive sector. As I pointed out, about 5% of this was already at work because of they were an essential part of the energy, for instance. Energy part of our economy.
Gretchen Whitmer: (15:15)
So businesses must do their part to protect workers as we reengage. We’ve got to make sure that people are safe in the workplace and when they go home. It’s on the individual when they go home, but it’s on the employer and the employee when they are at work. Leaders in industry have been working with Merck and my team to develop an array of workplace safety protocols and practices that have been supported by our public health experts. Manufacturing facilities, by example, must conduct a daily entry screening protocol for workers and everyone else who enters the facility. That includes a questionnaire that is covering symptoms and exposure to others with possible COVID-19, together with, if practicable and possible, a temperature screening. These are some of the examples of these protocols. They’re not completely … This is not a complete list of all the protocols, but I wanted you to have an opportunity to see what some of the work is that we’re doing.
Gretchen Whitmer: (16:21)
They also will be creating dedicated entry points at every facility. They will be suspending entry of non-essential in person visits, including tours. And they’ve got to train workers on, among other things, how COVID-19 is transmitted from person to person. What the signs and symptoms are of COVID-19. Steps that workers must take to notify the business or operation of signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or suspected or confirmed diagnoses, and the use of personal protection equipment. These facilities must require masks to be worn when workers are not able to consistently maintain six feet of separation from others, and consider face shields for those who cannot consistently maintain six feet of separation.
Gretchen Whitmer: (17:13)
It’s crucial for our businesses to do everything they can to say clean. Facilities that open under this executive order should disinfect high touch surfaces, paying special attention to parts, products, and shared equipment, and shut areas of the manufacturing facility for cleaning as necessary if a worker goes home because he or she is sick. Every one of us has to play our part to get this right, so employees and customers alike can have the confidence that they will be safe. So we prevent spread and don’t have to dial back, or worse yet, go back to a say home order. I know that none of us wants that, so we have all got to keep doing our part. It’s crucial that as we begin to reengage sectors of our economy, our workers know that a business cannot retaliate against them if they stay home. I signed an executive order stating that businesses can’t punish a worker who’s got to stay home because they are sick, or because someone in their household is sick or has COVID-19 symptoms. We need to ensure that employees who are sick, or has someone at home who’s sick, that they got to stay home. That’s what business wants as well. They don’t want to get their workplaces infected either, and so we’re all in this together.
Gretchen Whitmer: (18:39)
If you’re one of the people who’s going back to work, we need you to be scrupulous about best practices both inside the workplace and outside, so neither you, nor your family, nor your coworkers can get sick, and the order that I signed today requires manufacturing facilities to send potentially exposed individuals home upon identification of a positive case in the facility.
Gretchen Whitmer: (19:08)
I know Michiganders are eager to get back to work, and our businesses are eager to start up again. I am too. It’s crucial that we stay smart. If you think you’re experiencing symptoms, go home. Find your nearest test site at michigan.gov/coronavirus test, and get tested. One worker carrying this virus can in fact 20 more, who can infect thousands more. We must stay smart. Nothing is more important than protecting you and your families. Because COVID-19 is still present in Michigan, even though we’re seeing fewer new cases each day, we still have to be vigilant across our state. We have lowered our curve.
Gretchen Whitmer: (19:57)
So let’s talk about what could cause us to move backward. We’re a couple of slides in, Emily. That’s okay. There you go. What could cause us to move backward? Well, every decision that my team and I have made since March 10th has been centered by the need to protect public health. Each has been informed by the best minds in epidemiology, public health, and business. Each has weighed heavily on me personally, because I know that they come with a cost. It’s not been easy, but it is crucial that we see this through. Letting our guard down now squanders all the hard work that we’ve put into this date. Abandoning the science and safety measures would expose us to a second wave that could possibly dwarf the one that we’ve been through, and squander our hard work.
Gretchen Whitmer: (20:49)
So as we proceed, all the decisions that we’ve made are to lower the possibility of that second wave. We will remain nimble. We must. We will monitor data so that we can pull back if we see a spike in cases that could overwhelm our hospitals, we will pull back if it’s necessary. Although we hope it’s not. I’ll continue to closely monitor data and receive on the ground feedback from our local public health departments, and regional healthcare councils. If necessary, we’ll dial down, and we’ll take a step back to the previous phase, based on the following factors. A sustained rise in positivity rate, a sustained increase in hospital admissions for COVID-19 like illness, a reduction in hospital capacity threatening search capabilities, significant outbreak in the region that threatens the health of the region.
Gretchen Whitmer: (21:50)
Remember, this depends on every one of us. We all have a role to play in whether and when we take this next step forward or backward, we’re all safer when people stay at home. But when we do go out, we’re safer when everyone practices good hygiene. The three W’s. Wear a mask, wait six feet apart from one another, and wash your hands.
Gretchen Whitmer: (22:24)
We have some good news, and I think it’s always important to make sure that we share some of the good things that are happening even in these tough times. Pfizer announced that the first participants have been dosed in the US in a clinical trial for BNT 162 vaccine program to prevent COVID19 infection. The company also announced that the initial manufacturing for the COVID 19 vaccine will be conducted right here in Michigan at their Kalamazoo plant. This is really good news for our families, our neighbors, for those serving on the front lines during this crisis.
Gretchen Whitmer: (23:04)
More than 2,700 businesses around the state were awarded a total of $10 million in Michigan small business relief program grants. These grants have reached businesses in all 83 counties, and resulted in the retention of over 11,000 jobs. DHHS announced that close to 90,000 low income college students in Michigan who are enrolled in career or technical education programs are eligible to receive food assistance benefits, effective this week. There are good things happening even in this crisis, and if you have a good story to tell, I hope you’ll share it with me and with my office. We would love to hear it and to highlight it. Magnify the good that is happening in this tough time.
Gretchen Whitmer: (23:55)
So Michigan, I’m asking you to mask up. I have spoken a lot about how important it is to wear a homemade face covering when you leave-
Gretchen Whitmer: (24:03)
… the house. Wearing a mask is how we say thank you to the people on the frontline, the people that are stacking the grocery shelves. When you wear a mask, you’re thanking them and you’re protecting them and yourself. It’s how we protect our neighbors and our families and our loved ones. It’s how we protect our older Michiganders.
Gretchen Whitmer: (24:23)
When you wear a mask, just make sure you put it on correctly. Please make sure that it is up over your nose and underneath your chin and as close to your face as possible. And encourage your friends and relatives to do the same. These are some pictures of how not to wear a mask and I know you’ve seen people wearing it wrong, so help them by helping them understand how to keep themselves and others safe.
Gretchen Whitmer: (24:50)
Like I said before, we can’t just flip a switch and turn everything back to normal, although we wish we could. We have to think of this as a dial. We’re going to turn it slowly and carefully. We’re going to measure and make sure that we are safe to turn it again. And when we turn this dial to reengage sectors of our workforce, we must continue to ensure that we’ve got protections for our employees in those sectors.
Gretchen Whitmer: (25:17)
That means businesses need to do their part by enforcing the best practices that we’ve talked about today. It means Michiganders need to do their part knowing that you’re always safer at home. I know it’s hard and I know these two months have seemed like an eternity, but as more of our neighbors and family members and friends head back to work, those of us who aren’t have to continue doing our part to protect them too. To those of you who can’t get back to work yet, please keep doing your part and thank you to the millions of Michiganders who’ve done the right thing by saying home during this crisis. And with that I will turn it over to Dr. Khaldoon.
Dr. Khaldoon: (26:06)
Thank you, governor. Today, we announced 45,646 cases and a total of 4,343 deaths. As the governor mentioned, we are continuing to see good news with our case numbers every day. The seven-day average number of cases is down 15% from the past week. We’re also seeing a decline in cases in Southeastern Michigan and in region six on the Western part of the state, areas that we have certainly been concerned about in recent weeks.
Dr. Khaldoon: (26:41)
And we’ve seen another positive sign. The percent of those who are overall testing positive is declining significantly. Overall, since this outbreak started, about one in five of every person who was tested has tested positive for the virus. But in recent weeks, that has actually dropped to one in 10. Nevertheless, we are still seeing outbreaks across the state that are of concern.
Dr. Khaldoon: (27:06)
As the governor mentioned, testing will continue to be a critical part of our effort to identify cases and outbreaks so we can contain them as quickly as possible. We’ve been ramping up testing significantly and receiving great support from many of our private labs and other healthcare partners. This includes our announcement today with Kroger Health to expand testing in the grand blank area. To date, we’ve done more than 250,000 tests across the state and the average number of people tested per week continues to increase.
Dr. Khaldoon: (27:41)
But there is still more work to do, and every region of the state at this time still needs more testing done. We’re working diligently to work towards the state’s goal of 15,000 tests per day, and targeting those for testing who are at highest risk. We’re also working very closely with our local health departments and our emergency management partners to identify those key settings where we can increase our testing and have a significant impact. These include nursing homes, adult foster care and residential facilities, homeless shelters, incarcerated settings, and in racial and ethnic minority populations where we know we are seeing a disproportionate number of higher cases and deaths.
Dr. Khaldoon: (28:27)
Michigan has also recently learned that FEMA will be committing enough swabs and transport media for 15,000 tests per day during the month of May. When those supplies arrive, they will enable us to broadly test at-risk populations and support other testing efforts in the community.
Dr. Khaldoon: (28:46)
Case investigation and contact tracing are also critical parts of our efforts to contain this virus that may occur across the state. Once a person has tested positive for COVID-19, contact tracing is actually the process where we identify those individuals who have been in contact with that person and quarantining them as necessary. That’s really the best and really the only way to contain this virus quickly.
Dr. Khaldoon: (29:10)
Today, we have over 130 state employees who are conducting case investigations and contact tracing with our local health departments in areas that have been particularly hardest hit. This builds on a volunteer workforce of about 2000 people that we have trained to participate in contact tracing across the state. We are building, again, on the great work of our local health departments and providing these volunteers and technical assistants to make sure we’re slowing the spread of disease as much as possible.
Dr. Khaldoon: (29:43)
These public health approaches, monitoring data, aggressively working to expand testing, and quickly implementing isolation and quarantine protocols are critical to our public health strategy in addressing this pandemic and moving forward as we go through the phases of the My Safe Start Plan. As we move forward with slowly reopening the economy, I want to remind everyone, as the governor said, that we have to be cautious. While the rate of spread of disease is slowing, we still have spread in many parts of the state.
Dr. Khaldoon: (30:20)
Social distancing, not going out unless you absolutely must, wearing a mask in public places, not gathering in large groups, and washing hands frequently are still incredibly important. And it still applies even as the weather gets warmer. People can go outside but please don’t congregate in groups, and if you think you’re going to be in close contact with someone, wear a cloth face mask. We are all in this together and I’m proud of Michiganders for doing their part to stop the spread of this virus. And with that, I will turn it back over to the governor.
Gretchen Whitmer: (31:02)
Okay, I’m happy to open it up for some questions.
Speaker 1: (31:07)
Governor, first question would be, can you be more specific about the manufacturing and the kinds of manufacturing that will be opening? You mentioned auto suppliers, you mentioned the auto industry the week after. What specifically should people who were waiting to go back to work know about which businesses in manufacturing will be opening?
Gretchen Whitmer: (31:26)
I think that the way that we have… This is about manufacturing in Michigan. This is all sorts of types of manufacturing. These are the protocols that must be in place in all of these workplaces. Let’s see if I can pull up the right slide here. When we think of the variety of suppliers, of course for the automotive industry, but tool and die, there are a lot of different examples of manufacturing. They’re all a part of this order and we’re asking that they familiarize themselves with these protocols and best practices and get ready to make sure that they are in place before they start to phase in.
Gretchen Whitmer: (32:14)
As I said, it’s about 19% of our total economy. About 5% of it is already up and running because it’s been in the essential sector of energy. But this is, I think, a moment that we can mitigate the risk of engaging this particular part of our economy. And I’m grateful for the leadership of the big three and the UAW, who came together to promulgate, I think, some really wise protocols to keep people safe in the workplace.
Speaker 2: (32:47)
Governor, can you explain why not open parts of the state up quicker than others? You mentioned the regions they have on there, but it seems like this is a statewide thing. Why aren’t you using the regions to reopen other places of the state, like the UP, where there’s less than a hundred cases?
Gretchen Whitmer: (33:05)
This phase is flattening. As we reengage, for instance, furniture manufacturing for the purpose of retrofitting workspaces in COVID-19 practices. We could have said we’re going to just re-engage a sector because, frankly, they’re all in West Michigan, the vast majority. But we decided it was better to have this kind of an approach right now. And as we look to the next phases, there certainly could be regional differences and that’s why we wanted to share the thought process. It is not written in stone but this is the ideal cadence and ideal next steps.
Gretchen Whitmer: (33:49)
People are going to come up with all sorts of different examples that aren’t articulated on this one pager, and that’s going to be frustrating for some people. But the fact of the matter is each industry fits into one of these categories and we are working to provide clarity. But at this juncture, we’re still only at the third phase, and we’re just entering it and we’re in the third of six. And so, we are going to take this step, we’re going to keep measuring, we’re going to keep building out our public health system supports through the testing and tracing and PPE, for example.
Gretchen Whitmer: (34:23)
And as we contemplate the next step, it could be a couple of weeks, which is the usual process for how long COVID takes the show, but it could go faster. It just depends on what we’re seeing in the data and the numbers. Could be slower too if people drop their guard.
Speaker 3: (34:47)
Governor, you talked about the number of positives going down, but the number of people being tested is going up. And that might seem like an improvement, but how is that an apples to apples comparison to what we’ve seen previously?
Gretchen Whitmer: (35:04)
You want to take that Dr. [inaudible 00:35:05]?
Dr. Khaldoon: (35:09)
We have, during this entire outbreak, looked at what we call the percent positivity. And so, early on, we had very… Because of our lab testing capacity, quite frankly, we were testing people who were specifically hospitalized or in the ICU. And so, we had very tight strict testing criteria. As we’ve expanded, of course we’re testing more people who may not even have symptoms.
Dr. Khaldoon: (35:32)
And so, by definition they’re probably less likely to actually have the disease. So, you can’t just look at the percent positivity by itself. You have to also make sure that’s going down while your testing is going up. And you want them to move together. So, that’s what we’re looking at and we’ve been looking at that particular metric in addition to other public health metrics throughout the entire response.
Speaker 4: (35:55)
Governor, there are a lot of businesses looking to open. There’s a barber in Owasso, who is cutting hair, has lots-
Speaker 5: (36:03)
…a barber in Owosso, who is cutting hair, has lots of clients. When are we going to see those kinds of businesses opening?
Gretchen Whitmer: (36:09)
So let me start with this. I understand the frustration and the fear that a lot of our small business owners have. I’ve seen the news coverage of course and I know that this has been a hard time for people trying to make ends meet when everything’s essentially shut down. And especially, for small business owners who’ve built up something over the course of decades and they’re worried.
Gretchen Whitmer: (36:35)
Each of the actions that we’ve taken though has been because of the incredible threat that COVID-19 has presented to our state. The number of lives lost, the incredible spread, in Shiawassee County, which is where this barber shop is, we have 196 confirmed cases of COVID-19 right now. We’ve had 13 deaths in that County alone. And, the protections and the work that we’ve done is to protect the barber, as well as all of his clients.
Gretchen Whitmer: (37:06)
And so, that’s why it’s really important that we continue to be smart, to do this in incremental stages, to listen to the data, to ramp up our testing and continue moving forward. We’ve done incredible work for eight weeks. It’s been hard but we got to see it through and not waste the sacrifice that we’ve made already.
Speaker 6: (37:32)
Governor, you referred to the extension of your Safer at Home, is that any distinct difference between Safer at Home and Stay Safe, Stay Home? Is there any difference at all?
Gretchen Whitmer: (37:44)
Well, part of what I hope people see today is, that there are… So they can understand what the metrics are that we need to pay attention to, so that they can see that there’s a plan for the next phase. That we are always safer at home. And so, to transition our language a little bit to acknowledge some more people are going to get back into the workplace but we’re still safer at home. And so, there is a distinction, intentionally, but it’s important to reinforce for people that we are still dealing with COVID-19, it is still a very real threat and that’s why everyone needs to continue doing their part.
Speaker 7: (38:23)
Is it a good bet that the state parks will not reopen by Memorial Day weekend?
Gretchen Whitmer: (38:26)
For camping? I mean, our state parks have been open for recreation. But in terms of camping, I believe that is what the DNR Director has determined, makes the most sense and in consultation, of course, with our chief medical executive.
Speaker 8: (38:50)
Governor, what about auto suppliers that you’ve talked about the opening date of, was it May 18th?
Gretchen Whitmer: (38:58)
Speaker 8: (38:58)
Or, I’m sorry.
Gretchen Whitmer: (38:58)
Suppliers? So a lot of work has to go in before the auto companies can gear up on the 18th and so we wanted to get that started next week. Some may start on the 11th, some may start a little later in the week. And, that it’s going to be a phased in re-engagement. But yeah, that’s the timing.
Speaker 9: (39:19)
Two quickly here Governor. The first one is, there was a lawsuit filed by churches, concerned about First Amendment aggregation. I’d like your comment on that.
Speaker 9: (39:28)
There is also a question about prisons. Particularly, out state, with the numbers of inmates in there and the numbers of inmates with COVID and whether you’re going to parcel out where those cases are for the families to know?
Gretchen Whitmer: (39:45)
Okay. So with regard to lawsuits, I can’t really comment on pending litigation. I’ll just observe that every single order that I have issued has, I think, been well within our legal authority and driven by the best science and epidemiology. We have acknowledged the different treatment for places of worship in the orders. And so, I’m not going to opine too much on the merits of the suit but I’m confident in our position.
Gretchen Whitmer: (40:20)
Second, with regard to our prisons. We actually have done quite a bit of testing in our prisons. I think we’re way ahead of every other state, frankly. We have better data, better information, which means we’re better able to protect people and take the actions necessary to isolate when we know someone’s got COVID-19.
Gretchen Whitmer: (40:45)
We can give you a more thorough follow up on that if you would like that and certainly share it with everyone. But, I do know that in the month of April we have paroled hundreds of people. I think more than any we’ve seen in a long time. So if those graphs are available to be made public, we’ll share them with you and we’ll give you at least an oral summary too.
Speaker 10: (41:14)
Governor, what’s your recommendation for people who want to visit mom on Mother’s Day? And, if your kids are still in camp age, would you be bothering even looking at summer camps for them?
Gretchen Whitmer: (41:25)
So if you love mom, send her a heartfelt card, make the Zoom call, get all the grandkids and relatives on. And, when we can start to safely re engage, go big to acknowledge Mother’s Day, that you can celebrate together. It is important that we remain vigilant and as a mom, thinking about the prospect of camps this summer, I would be hesitant, at this juncture, to enroll my child. But, I don’t want to say that it’s completely out of the question. I just think it’s too early for us to know.
Gretchen Whitmer: (42:05)
A lot of our ability to take that next step, depends on what people do. All of the science in the world can inform decisions but decisions are made by human beings and if people of Michigan, who have done their part continue to do so, we can keep taking those next steps with confidence. And, that’s really what it’s all about here. And, that’s why I’m inspired by what we’ve seen, people have done it. We have to just keep following these best practices so that we can keep re engaging additional sectors of our economy and try to get life back to normal, as much as we can.
Speaker 11: (42:45)
Governor, where do things stand with the Unemployment Trust Fund and how long can we expect it to continue to be able to pay benefits?
Gretchen Whitmer: (42:55)
So I actually have been checking in with Director Donna Frio. We feel that it is still financially good shape but obviously the longer this goes and the more claims that come in, the more concerning it gets. At this juncture, I don’t know that there’s an update to give you in terms of what those numbers are but we can certainly follow up with you and get that to you.
Speaker 11: (43:20)
So we don’t have a basically a date of how long it will last? How long we can expect it?
Gretchen Whitmer: (43:24)
I don’t have one on me at the moment but we might be able to get you one.
Speaker 12: (43:28)
Thank you governor.
Gretchen Whitmer: (43:29)
All right, thank you everybody.
Mike Woolfolk: (43:37)
All right. Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Dr. Jeanette Khaldoon, wrapping up this latest coronavirus briefing. Of course, the big news here as you take a look at the highlights, the governor is extending the Safer at Home Order until May 28th. That adds another two weeks to the current order, which was set to expire next Friday, the 15th.
Mike Woolfolk: (43:58)
Also, she is allowing manufacturing to phase in reopening. That will start on Monday, the big three auto makers, GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler, they can resume a week from Monday on May 18th. Which of course, is the target date that the auto companies had been deciding on. All facilities, in the manufacturing realm, must adopt protective measures for workers. That would include daily temperature checks and health questionnaires.
Mike Woolfolk: (44:27)
We of course, will have more on all of this for you coming up on Mid-Michigan NOW at 5:00. A live report from our political reporter, Mikenzie Frost, who is checking into all of these latest developments. So be sure to join us here for that in a roughly an hour and 15 minutes. For now, we’re going to take you back to regular programming, I’m Mike Woolfolk.