Whitmer: Containing COVID-19 spread depends on everyone’s actions
She hopes additional measures in place for the next three weeks will drive down test positivity rates
LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hopes the three-week restrictions on Michigan’s economy will slow the spread of COVID-19 around the state.
But Whitmer said success will depend on the collective individual actions of every Michigander.
As of Thursday, about 13% of coronavirus diagnostic tests in the state were coming back positive. Whitmer is hoping to decrease that number significantly over the next three weeks to around 3%, which is where Michigan’s coronavirus testing positivity rate hovered most of last summer.
“Now, typically you see meaningful movement in the right direction. That is possible, and and that shows that we are capable of getting our arms around this,” Whitmer said during a press conference Thursday afternoon.
Health officials consider COVID-19 localized and contained when the testing positivity rate remains at or below 3%.
“Right now there is no question that there is out of control community spread all across the state of Michigan,” Whitmer said. “That is inherently dangerous if we can’t get this moving in the right direction. I think that it’s very possible.”
Here’s a look at the new coronavirus measures in place from Wednesday through Dec. 8:
- All in-person high school and college classes will be suspended. Younger students can continue meeting in person if their local school districts choose.
- Movie theaters, bowling centers, ice rinks, bingo halls, casinos will be closed entirely.
- Restaurants will not be able to offer dine-in service, but they can continue drive-through and carryout service.
- Group fitness classes and non-professional organized sports must pause.
- Everyone who can work from home should do so.
The order announced Sunday night is not a complete economic shutdown like Whitmer’s orders in March and April. Outdoor gatherings of 25 or fewer people are allowed while retail stores and salons can remain open subject to Michigan’s face mask order.
Work that can’t be performed at home, including manufacturing and construction, is allowed to continue.
She said similar measures imposed in Michigan beginning Wednesday and lasting through Dec. 8 have been effective in reducing COVID-19 increases around Europe and in Israel. But everyone has to make conscious decisions to wear face coverings, avoid gatherings, practice social distancing and wash their hands often to see the same success, Whitmer said.
“You know, that’s the thing that we can’t quantify and predict completely accurately, because we are tired -- all of us are. We’re frustrated,” she said. “We don’t want to be doing this anymore, and yet until those vaccines are readily available and probably the second quarter of next year we just have to continue to take this seriously -- and that means wearing masks.”
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, who is Michigan’s chief medical executive, said that basic coronavirus measures like wearing masks and gathering limits likely will remain in place for several months yet. She noted significant progress in developing a COVID-19 vaccine, but the general public likely won’t get access until the spring.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is finalizing plans with hospitals, health departments and other partners around the state to distribute the vaccine when it becomes available, which could happen in December.
Critical workers in hospitals and first responders will be offered the vaccine first, followed by people who are part of vulnerable populations. Khaldun said more systems are in place to track any adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine than most other vaccines.
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