GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says that while Michigan is in better shape than some Southern and Southwestern states when it comes to coronavirus, she urged people to keep their guard up to keep the spread under control.
“We’ve got to be smart. We’ve got to keep our wits about us. And we’ve got to do what we know will help prevent the spread of coronavirus,” Whitmer said.
Michigan has seen some higher numbers of new cases in the last couple of weeks, particularly among younger people. The governor noted the outbreak of more than 100 cases tied to an East Lansing bar. She noted that at least one person who visited Harper’s Pub then went back to the southeast side of the state and spread the virus there.
Whitmer said she was not making any changes Tuesday to the restrictions currently in place statewide — though as always, she didn’t rule out strengthening restrictions in the event of a “sustained spike.”
“We want to get a little bit more data. We want to have another modeling call this evening and I’ll be making some decisions in the next day or two as we go into the holiday weekend,” Whitmer said.
She asked people to celebrate the Fourth of July responsibly, saying they should continue to practice social distancing and limit the number of people gathering.
“The virus has not changed. What has changed is our knowledge and our ability to make decisions that will slow the spread of COVID-19,” she said.
She also urged everyone to wear a mask in public, stressing that it’s not a political decision. She said it can decrease the likelihood of spread by up to 70% when both people in an interaction are wearing a mask. She acknowledged that it’s a culture change, but described masks as “absolutely essential.”
“COVID-19 is still a part of our reality. Let’s do what we know to be the right thing,” Whitmer said.
She stressed that keeping the virus under control will be key in allowing schools to reopen to students in the fall.
UPTICK IN CASES AMONG YOUNGER PEOPLE
Michigan on Monday confirmed 373 more cases of the virus, bringing the total to 63,870 since the outbreak began in March. An additional 32 deaths linked to the virus were recorded for a total of 5,947, state data released Tuesday afternoon shows.
Labs in Michigan on Monday tested 15,568 samples for coronavirus and 2.54% came back positive. That positive percentage is in line with the figures the state has been seeing much of the month.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said she was concerned about the positive test rate in West Michigan, which she said is now 3.4%.
She also noted that the demographics of cases are shifting. Now, people under the age of 50 are getting the virus at higher rates.
“I implore everyone, please take this seriously,” she said.
Like the governor, Khaldun urged everyone to social distance, wear a mask and avoid large crowds.
“We still have time to avoid a surge in cases,” she said.
Khaldun said hospitalization rates remain steady.
In Wayne County, where the outbreak has been the worst, there were nine additional deaths over the previous day for a total of 2,601. Sixty-five more cases were confirmed for a total of 21,872 since March. Oakland County has had 8,898 cases and 1,048 deaths. Macomb County has had 7,168 cases and 879 deaths.
Kent County confirmed 33 more cases for a total of 4,495 since the outbreak began and recorded two additional deaths, bringing the total to 131.
Allegan County recorded an additional death for a total of 7. It has had 273 cases. In addition, Muskegon County has recorded one more death, bringing the total to 51. It has had 800 cases, six more than the day previous. Van Buren County also confirmed an additional death for a total of seven. It has had 199 cases.
In Grand Rapids, The Green Well on Cherry Street announced it one of its employees tested positive for the virus Monday night. Owners say it’s working with the county health department to trace who may have been in contact with the employee.
Anyone with symptoms, has had contact with someone who contracted the virus or who is working out of the home can get tested for COVID-19. The state has launched a new online tool to make it easier to find a place to get tested. It has filters to help people find testing options to meet their needs. In addition, anyone who calls the Michigan COVID-19 hotline at 888.535.6136 and presses 1 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m Monday through Friday will be transferred automatically to a 211 operator who can help them find a testing site.
MI SAFE SCHOOLS ROADMAP
Whitmer on Tuesday released her plan for safe schooling while the virus remains a threat, laying out how schools should respond based on how serious the outbreak is and what types of safety protocols they should have in place.
Under the MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap, while in phase 4 of the six-phase reopening spectrum — which the lower part of state is currently in — schools could hold in-person classes but would have to have safety rules in place. In phase 5, which the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula are in, schools could be open with minimal safety procedures.
>>Online: MI Safe Schools Roadmap
While the plan includes safety procedures for school athletics, notably requiring hand-washing and equipment disinfecting, Whitmer is also asking the Michigan High School Sports Association to move back fall sports. She said she expects a decision from them late next month.
The roadmap was created with help from the Return to Learn Advisory Council that Whitmer’s office put together. That council includes health care and education experts, community leaders, parents and students.
The governor also signed an executive order requiring districts to create a COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan explaining the safety protocols they’ll have in plan during in-person schooling; the roadmap has guidelines to get administrators started. Districts will get $256 million to help put measures in to place.
That money came out of the deal that the Democratic governor and Republicans in charge of the state Legislature announced Monday to manage the budget for the fiscal year. The deal lays out how the state will cope with a $2.2 billion revenue shortfall how it will spend $3 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid, much of which is going to public health and education.
On Tuesday, Whitmer said the federal government must pass additional financial support and called on Congress to work in a bipartisan manner.