GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will have more to say “very soon” on reopening gyms and what will happen with high school sports.
“We take this very seriously and the decisions that I will make in the coming days and announce are made in a way that will be protecting athletes and families and coaches and parents and patrons; our small business owners, as well,” she said at a Wednesday afternoon press conference on the state’s response to coronavirus.
She is expected to issue an order later this week about possibly allowing some businesses that have been closed for nearly six months, like gyms and movie theaters, to reopen, David Eggert of the Associated Press reported.
High school sports officials are waiting on Whitmer to decide whether soccer, volleyball and swimming competition may move forward. Eggert said that is not expected to happen this week.
At the press conference, Whitmer argued that her slow, measured approach to reopening has put Michigan in a better position than many other sates. But she also recognized the fears of business owners who worry they won’t survive the shutdown.
Asked why gyms have remained closed even though the Detroit casinos were allowed to reopen with a 15% capacity limitation, Whitmer cited a precedent of success at and shared information from tribal casinos. Tribal casinos reopened earlier because they operate with sovereignty and are outside the governor’s control.
She added there is “ample” evidence that places like gyms and theaters can be the source of outbreaks if not approached carefully.
Whitmer also thanked General Motors for donating 2 million masks to public schools as part of her MI Mask Aid program. Some 750,000 masks made specifically for elementary-aged children will be available around Sept. 14. The rest of the masks, all adult-sized for high school students and staff members, will be out by the end of the month.
“Until there’s a vaccine, it’s going to be absolutely essential that we all continue to mask up. It is singularly the best tool we have to fight COVID-19,” Whitmer said.
Also at the briefing was a Huntington Bank executive, who discussed a $5 billion, five-year commitment to encourage small businesses and economic equity in Michigan.
THE STATE OF THE OUTBREAK
That’s an increase of 524 cases and 14 deaths over the previous day.
On Tuesday, labs tested 27,565 samples for the virus and 831 came back positive. The number of positive tests is not the same as the number of new cases because people may be tested more than once. The percentage of positive tests was 3.01%.
Khaldun said the rate of new cases per million people per day — a key metric the state is tracking — has been declining over the past week. The statewide percentage of positive tests daily has also declined in recent weeks and the number of deaths each day remains low. Hospitals remain well within capacity.
Wayne County, which has been hit hardest by the virus, confirmed 100 more cases for a total of 29,610 since the virus was virus detected in Michigan in March. The number of deaths in that county remained unchanged at 2,751. Oakland County has had 14,613 cases (61 more than the day previous) and 1,122 deaths (no change). Macomb County has had 12,473 cases (50 more) and 940 deaths (10 more).
Kent County confirmed 31 additional cases for a total of 7,825 since the virus began.
While the state has started breaking down outbreaks by type of place, it isn’t releasing the names of those sites — except for skilled nursing facilities. Khaldun said the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is working with local health departments to gather the names of schools where outbreaks have been centered and will start posting it within the next two weeks.
State officials also talked about MDHHS’s launch of 12 new neighborhood testing sites around the state, with many of them in Detroit and Flint, but also one in Albion.
Starting Friday, the site at Albion College’s Washington Gardner Auditorium at 401 E. Michigan Avenue will be open Mondays and Wednesdays from noon to 7 p.m. and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
More testing sites are expected to open in coming weeks in other West Michigan cities including Benton Harbor, Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Niles, as well as in other parts of the state.
Public health officials want anyone with coronavirus symptoms or who has been exposed to someone with the virus to get tested. Dr. Khaldun said that last week, Michigan ranked fifth in the nation in the number of daily tests, with an average of more than 30,000.
Also Wednesday, Whitmer met with Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, who was in Livonia. She said at the briefing she expressed to Birx the need for more federal support to expand testing, encourage people to wear masks and support businesses and schools.