LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she will move Thursday to extend Michigan’s stay-at-home order.
“It’s going to be extended,” Whitmer told News 8 Wednesday. “We will make an announcement tomorrow on all the different pieces of the Stay Home, Stay Safe order.”
A press conference has been scheduled for 3 p.m.
The stay-at-home order took effect March 24 and is currently set to expire on Monday, April 13, at 11:59 p.m. Michiganders were told to stay home, unless their jobs are deemed essential or if they need to venture out for a life-sustaining reason, to help flatten the virus’ curve.
“I know it’s taken a toll and I know it’s hard, but we also know that we are still on the upward swing” of the virus spread, Whitmer said. “It’s really important that we continue to double down on mitigation and protecting folks by staying home.”
“We know that it’s worked in other states that have been confronting this longer,” she added, citing New York. “To the extent that we impact making fewer people have to go to the hospital or fewer lives lost, and shortening the amount of time that we’ll confront this as an economy, is better for everyone.”
NUMBERS OF CASES, DEATHS KEEP RISING
The daily increase in confirmed cases is the lowest it has been since March 31. The daily increase in deaths has remained about steady for the last three days.
Southeast Michigan is still seeing the worst of the outbreak. Wayne County, including the city of Detroit, has 9,646 confirmed cases and 464 deaths; Oakland County has 4,007 confirmed cases and 234 deaths; and Macomb County has 2,626 cases and 141 deaths. Genesee County has 713 cases and 39 deaths. Washtenaw County has 610 cases and 13 deaths.
The Michigan Department of Corrections has 287 confirmed cases, including two deaths.
Ottawa County saw its first death, its website shows. That death is not yet in the state sum and will be reflected in Thursday’s update. The patient was a woman in her 70s with underlying health conditions. The county says it has 56 confirmed cases, 23% of which have required hospitalization.
Kalamazoo County now has a total of six deaths and 67 confirmed cases. The Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department said the most recent deceased was an older adult with underlying medical conditions.
Kent County says nine people in the county have died of COVID-19; one of those is not yet included in the state total. Out of about 740 tests, 216 have come back positive and 366 negative. The rest are still pending.
Administrative Health Office Adam London said the numbers in Kent County are encouraging and appear to show that social distancing is paying off, but warned people not to let their guard down yet.
“We are seeing right here right now that our curve has flattened somewhat,” London said. “…But it’s also important to remember that the reason that it’s flattened is because people have stayed home and they’ve followed most of the public health precautions that we have been communicating now for several weeks. It’s flattened, but it’s flattened because of a lot of hard work. It’s very important right now that we don’t relax our efforts and go away from that, or we could rapidly see the sort of increase that’s been seen in other places.”
London said the testing situation in the county is improving, with Spectrum Health’s lab expanding and more private labs coming online.
Labs across Michigan are now processing more than 4,000 tests each day. Of the 4,444 samples run Monday (the most recent day for which data is available), about 40% were positive.
New state data shows about 3,800 COVID-19 patients were in Michigan hospitals as of Wednesday and 1,600 of them were in critical care.
Of those, 1,400 were on ventilators, more than 1,200 of them in the Detroit area. In southwest and West Michigan, 33 people were on ventilators. The state has a total of about 3,000 ventilators available and, as of Wednesday, there were enough in the hardest-hit areas.
WHERE ARE WE ON THE CURVE?
Whitmer said it’s hard to know where exactly Michigan is on its coronavirus curve because “we’ve never had enough tests.”
“And in order to really have confidence in the numbers and the modeling, you have to know how prevalent COVID-19 is,” she explained. “And I think that’s an issue that makes it much more difficult to, with any confidence and accuracy, say, ‘Our peak is going to be on this particular day.’”
However, she said researchers at the University of Michigan are indicating that the peak will be closer to the end of the month, also noting that it will different for different regions.
“But what we do know is that social distancing works,” she stressed. “We do know that the more people that abide by this order, the fewer are going to get sick, the more nurses and doctors are going to be able to do their jobs and have the PPE they need to adhere to the standards, but also to take care of people that need their help. And that’s why even though it’s a sacrifice, it’s on everyone one of us to do our part.”
The state has also started providing data on how many patients have recovered, defining that as someone who started experiencing symptoms 30 days earlier and was still alive. As of Friday, the state said, 56 people were considered recovered. Those numbers will be updated once a week on Saturday.
WHAT THE STATE IS DOING TO FIGHT COVID-19
Whitmer is well aware of how the stay-at-home order is affecting people’s livelihoods: She said that the Unemployment Insurance Agency is seeing a 4,000% increase in the number of claims, describing the situation as far worse than the 2008 recession. She said the state has quadrupled the number of people working the phones and she issued orders to make filing a claim easier, but acknowledged it’s still going to take time to get to everyone.
On Wednesday, she signed an executive order that allows for more electronic signatures and remote notarizations so people can conduct more transactions long-distance rather than traveling.
Another new executive order waives International Fuel Tax Association credentialing requirements. It’s meant to ensure the continued flow of emergency medical supplies and personnel into the state during the pandemic.
She told News 8 that, unable to rely on the national stockpile, the state government has made great strides in getting PPE and other medical equipment for hospitals, including from Michigan businesses that have retooled to start producing things like hand sanitizer and face shields.
“A week ago, we were living about day-to-day — in some hospitals, we were,” she said. “Today, most hospitals have three to six days’ worth of PPE. Now, that’s great, that’s much better than where we were, but that’s not enough. And so we’ve got to continue our efforts on all of these fronts.”
COVID-19 presents with a fever, cough and shortness of breath. For most who contract it, symptoms are mild. Though anyone can get it and anyone can develop a serious case, the people most at risk to develop severe complications are older people and those with preexisting health problems. If you think you have coronavirus, call your health care provider. Unless you are in need of emergency help, do not go to the emergency room. Get advice from a doctor over the phone or a televisit and they will direct you on how to get tested.
—News 8 political reporter Rick Albin contributed to this report.