Thursday, March 4, 2021

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer provides updates on COVID-19 restrictions, vaccine and unemployment

January 14, 2021
<p>Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a press conference for a COVID-19 update on Nov. 19, 2020. Courtesy of Michigan Executive Office of the Governor</p>

Governor Gretchen Whitmer urged the federal government to allow states to directly purchase COVID-19 vaccines during a press conference Wednesday afternoon. 

COVID-19 vaccines

The Governor asked Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Alex Azar if the state could make a one-time purchase of 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

“This direct purchase will fill a two-week lag in supply and ensure that we can continue to ramp up our vaccination efforts across Michigan," Whitmer wrote in a letter to Secretary Azar on Jan. 11. "It is also consistent with Operation Warp Speed’s commitment to deliver a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine to Americans as quickly as possible."

Gov. Whitmer set a goal to administer 50,000 shots per day and to have 70% of Michigan residents ages 16 and older vaccinated within the coming months. 

Michigan was the first state to suggest that vaccines be given to those aged 65 and older. Soon after, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that they will also begin vaccinating Americans aged 65 and older. 

“We have community partners, local health departments, local hospital systems, (and) pharmacies; all are ready to ramp up administering vaccinations,” Whitmer said. 

Meijer was chosen as the official health partner for the state of Michigan to help expedite vaccinations. The company, whose stores are only in Michigan, has over 100 pharmacies across the state. 

Lifting restrictions 

Beginning Jan. 16 the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will allow fitness exercise at gyms, pools, roller and ice skating rinks and non-contact sports. Other recreational activities allowed include theaters, stadiums, arenas, casinos and arcades. Masks and social distancing will still be enforced. This new order will end on Jan. 31. 

The Governor also announced that indoor dining could resume on Feb. 1 if cases continue to decrease. It is unclear what capacity restaurants can service, and there will be a curfew that will begin on Feb. 1 in addition to increased safety measures.

Unemployment 

The Unemployment Insurance Agency began providing the $300 in weekly benefits on Jan. 11. Over 300,000 Michiganders claim unemployment benefits. 

“This is good news for workers across the state who have lost their job as a result of this pandemic," Whitmer said. "It will help people put food on the table for themselves and their families. It will help them pay rent and utility bills, and buy warm clothes to get through our Michigan winter.”  

Gov. Whitmer said she called on the federal government to pass a $2,000 stimulus relief bill. Many Americans still haven’t received the $600 stimulus check. The Internal Revenue Service has until Jan. 15 to issue payments before eligible Americans have to file a claim on their tax return. 

Beginning on Jan. 15 the Employee Assistance Grant program will accept applications for individuals impacted by the pandemic. This program provides a one-time grant of $1,650 for those who work in hospitality, entertainment, recreation and fitness. Applicants can expect payments in March. 

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