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Whitmer calls on legislature to release COVID-19 funds, other COVID-19 updates

February 9, 2021
<p>Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a press conference on Feb. 4, 2020. Photo courtesy of Michigan Executive Office of the Governor.</p>

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a press conference on Feb. 4, 2020. Photo courtesy of Michigan Executive Office of the Governor.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer focused on a slow-acting legislature in a Tuesday, Feb. 9, press briefing, calling it the "greatest threat to our forward progress."

“The State Legislature has not yet appropriated all the dollars of the federal government made available to Michigan, and we need them to take action,” Whitmer said. “These are dollars that came from a bipartisan group of our congressional delegation and were signed into law by President Trump that we still haven’t deployed into Michigan.”

House Republicans have sought to strip Whitmer of her pandemic powers and instead leave decisions up to local health departments on issues such as school and sports reopening. In December, Whitmer vetoed 13 bills over safety concerns. They also have concerns that the money should not be released all at once and a slow rollout is necessary to allocate it properly.

Whitmer warned that failing to allocate this money may result in Michigan moving down the vaccine allocation priority list over payment concerns and that the money should be going towards recovery efforts.

“These are dollars for vaccines, education of our children, dollars for helping businesses that are struggling," Whitmer said.

Also regarding vaccine distribution, Whitmer said she had been told by the White House that vaccine allocations are set to increase, possibly speeding up the vaccination process.

“The demand for vaccines outpace the supply we currently have,” Whitmer said. “That is going to change. We are seeing an increase in vaccines.”

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), said the state has seen a 16% increase in the number of vaccine doses coming into the state. She also said that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be authorized by the end of this month. 

Khaldun voiced concern over the B.1.1.7 virus, which has seen an increase to 45 cases statewide. One case has been confirmed in the Greater Lansing area, in Eaton County, which neighbors Ingham County to the West. 

“I’m very concerned about what we are seeing with the new B.1.1.7. variant,” Khaldun said. “We now know of 45 cases of the variant identified in Michigan across 10 counties, and there will be more.”

Khaldun also warned that not all of the identified cases have had travel histories, meaning that the variant has likely spread in the local community.

“Do not gather with individuals outside of your own household, wear a mask properly and consistently, be sure to socially distance and wash your hands, get a test if you have symptoms, been exposed to someone who has COVID-19 or if you have recently traveled to a place that is known to have a COVID-19 variant that is circulating,” Khaldun said. "Also, please do get your vaccine when one becomes available to you."

Michigan has seen progress since its peak. The case rate is declining and is down 81%. Khaldun also said that only 6% of hospital beds are currently occupied by COVID-19 patients, down 72%.

Khaldun reminded the public to remain vigilant in practicing mitigation strategies and to get vaccinated. Whitmer said that they are working towards a goal of 50,000 vaccines daily. Michigan had administered 1,292,572 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at the time of briefing.

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