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Whitmer blames pandemic fatigue, variants and earlier success for COVID-19 spread now

People with less immunity are following protocols less despite more contagious variants, the governor says
Governor Whitmer, Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II, and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun provided an update...
Governor Whitmer, Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II, and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun provided an update regarding COVID-19 on Wednesday.(WILX)
Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 4:06 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Michigan’s early success in battling the coronavirus is partially to blame for the current surge in COVID-19 cases around the state, according to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

She blamed the current rise in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations on people’s fatigue with restrictions, the success in preventing illnesses earlier in the pandemic and rapidly spreading variants circulating now.

Whitmer said people are sick of dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and often ignoring prevention protocols like wearing face coverings, social distancing and washing hands frequently.

“At this point, we are now 14 months in and people are tired. Every single one of us is tired. I’m tired of this, Dr. (Joneigh Khaldun) is tired of this and we are seeing people abandoning the protocols. We are seeing more mobility. That’s what’s happening,” Whitmer said.

She pointed out that Michigan was “very successful” in preventing COVID-19 illnesses compared to other states early in the coronavirus pandemic. She attributed that to aggressive restrictions, which slowed the spread.

“We were the envy of most other states for a long period of time,” Whitmer said. “We didn’t know a lot about this virus a year ago, so we took action and we were quite successful compared to the rest of the country.”

However, that means fewer people in Michigan were exposed to the coronavirus and developed antibodies against it. With more contagious variants spreading around the state now, illnesses are increasing rapidly in a population that is less immune to them.

“We’ve got reservoirs of people that we kept safe for a long period of time who don’t have antibodies and variants that are easier to catch, and that’s a part of why we are seeing the increase that we have in Michigan,” Whitmer said.

She again declined to increase restrictions that prevent the spread of COVID-19 during a press conference on Wednesday. Whitmer repeated her earlier message that the prevention measures in place now are adequate to slow the illness from spreading, but people need to follow them more closely.

Whitmer said she and key officials in her administration confer with national health experts regularly, who have been telling her the current COVID-19 spread is not a “policy problem.”

“Michigan still has some of the strongest protocols in place: capacity restrictions, we’ve got the mask mandate. Other states have dropped all of these things. We still have them in Michigan,” Whitmer said. “And yet, we have high positivity. So it’s not a question about whether or not the policy is right policy. It’s really more of a testament to the fact that we have combining issues.”

She said the COVID-19 vaccine and the expanded use of three therapeutic treatments for the illness will be key to reducing the number of cases and hospitalizations in the state.

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