Nearly nine weeks after the first reported case of COVID-19 in Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held a press conference Monday to discuss the state’s response to the ongoing pandemic.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, or MDHHS, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun and Chief Operating Officer Tricia Foster joined Whitmer.
According to Khaldun, there are 47,552 total cases of the disease in Michigan and 4,584 deaths, and the rate of new cases is continuing to slow down — the rate of new infections has dropped 25% in the past seven days. Whitmer said this data is a cause for “cautious optimism.”
“It is true that the aggressive actions we have taken as a state … are working because the people of Michigan are doing their part,” Whitmer said. “As we test more and more Michiganders, the number of positive cases has been declining. We are at the lowest percentage since the beginning of this crisis, and that’s because people are doing their part.”
As the number of positive cases decreases, Whitmer announced she is working with the Michigan Economic Recovery Council, or MERC, in looking for ways to phase in regions of the state that the pandemic did not drastically affect. She stressed that regions would reintegrate based on how well they are able to combat the disease.
“There is a chance that some regions will reengage at different paces than others,” Whitmer said. “We have to measure, continue to build out our public health system and then we’ll have a better understanding of if we can maybe make some decisions based on regional experiences with COVID-19.”
Whitmer also discussed the increase in the state’s testing capacity, revealing that in two weeks, Michigan had gone from administering 4,000 tests a day to 14,000 with help from businesses and the federal government. She stated her goal is to test 450,000 residents this month.
Foster said the expansion of statewide testing is “encouraging news,” and the testing capacity is only going to increase.
“I am pleased to say that the federal government indicated that they were going to be matching our need to go from 15,000 tests per day to 30,000 tests per day,” Foster said.
Regarding unemployment, the governor said the state has provided over 1.1 million unemployed workers with more than $4 billion in benefits and spoke about her commitment to ensuring every eligible worker who applies for unemployment benefits will receive them.
She also said those who have had difficulties filing for unemployment will not be harmed for getting accepted later, regardless of how much time has passed since their initial claim.
“You will not be penalized for it taking you a little while to get through,” Whitmer said. “I want everyone to know: If you are eligible, you’re going to get your benefits.”
Additionally, Whitmer recognized that while COVID-19 generally lasts a 14-day period, progression to the next phase in her six-step “MI Safe Start” plan is dependent on how well Michiganders can maintain social distance.
“The thing that you can’t plot on a calendar is human behavior,” Whitmer said. “That’s why it’s so important that everyone continues to do their part. That’s how we continue to turn this dial and take the next step into the next phase.”