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Whitmer closes K-12 schools following 12 confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide

March 13, 2020
<p>Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during her second State of the State address at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on Jan. 29, 2020.</p>

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during her second State of the State address at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on Jan. 29, 2020.

Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered a three-week closure of K-12 schools beginning Monday, March 16. This order follows an additional 10 presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan, with cases totaling at 12.

Whitmer has addressed the public three times this week, following two initial cases of COVID-19 in Oakland and Wayne counties.

Whitmer was joined by Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Michael Rice and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.

The cases include adults from Ingham, Wayne, Kent, Oakland, St. Clair, Montcalm and Washtenaw Counties. Khaldun said local health departments are working to identify these individuals' close contacts, when their symptoms started and the assessment of symptoms in those additional contacts. The volume of cases is expected to increase in Michigan.

Washing hands frequently, covering coughs, avoiding face-to-face contact if you have a preexisting condition and staying home if you are sick are among recommendations Whitmer stated tonight and throughout the week.

"Please do your part," Whitmer said. "Make smart choices during this time, even if you feel healthy and are asymptomatic, you can unknowingly be carrying and spreading the virus. Assume that you are and take these orders seriously to keep yourself, and your loved ones, and your coworkers and people at risk of serious illness."

The first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 hits Ingham County

A senior adult female from Ingham County, who was recently aboard a cruise ship, is currently hospitalized, isolated and in stable condition, according to a press release from the Ingham County Health Department.

The Ingham County Health Department will contact those who have been in close contact with the individual, according to the statement.

“At this time, I advise the public to be diligent, yet level-headed, in prevention efforts,” Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail said. “I urge you to get your information and situation updates from reputable sources such as the health department or your physician.”

Testing kit availability as addressed by Chief Medical Executive Khaldun

Khaldun addressed concerns about testing kit availability and hospital capacity as case numbers grow. She said, with current numbers, Michigan has enough testing kits.

"I am concerned that the federal government may not be able to keep up with the demand for testing across the country," Khaldun said. "What's important and why we're doing such proactive community mitigation strategies is so that we can prevent those who are most vulnerable and most likely to get very sick, like the elderly, from needing to come into the hospital. Most people who get the disease will have a mild illness and not need to stay in the hospital."

Most results for COVID-19 tests are turned around within 24 hours, Khaldun said.

The State will work with local school districts to tackle concerns about school closures

Rice said the Department of Education and the governor are partnered with state and local school staff to work together in handling concerns regarding the closure of K-12 schools.

"There are many children in Michigan that rely on our schools for meals. We will be working with our local school districts to provide guidance to help children access food during this time," Rice said.

Whitmer said the closure lines up with most school's scheduled spring break, which decreases the need for an extension of the academic year. Though, closure timelines depend on the evolving nature of the pandemic.

"Michiganders are some of the most resilient people in the nation, and around the world for that matter," Whitmer said. "We have faced and overcome many hardships throughout our state's history. If we take appropriate and responsible actions we can mitigate the spread of this virus and save lives."

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