Whitmer updates on COVID-19 response, not issuing stay-at-home order for now

Friday, March 20, 2020 - 5:37pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a press conference on Friday.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a press conference on Friday. Buy this photo
Courtesy of Michigan Executive Office

Ten days after the first case of coronavirus was reported in the state, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer delivered an update from the State Emergency Operations Center Friday afternoon on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whitmer noted that while other states have issued mandatory stay-at-home orders to residents, Michigan is not currently considering such an order. 

“There was a lot of talk yesterday on social media, people who were stirring things up and creating anxiety and fear and anger based on nothing that was actually concrete or something that’s being talked about in the moment,” Whitmer said. “If and when we are in a position when we think that is an important next move, I will absolutely communicate that personally to the public. We are not there. I think it’s irresponsible for anyone to imply, read into or broadcast anything other than that. Every decision we make has ramifications.”

Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker announced a stay-at-home order on Friday afternoon, following a slate of other officials from California to New York in doing so.

Whitmer also referenced other executive orders made over the past week, including temporary bans on evictions and on non-essential medical and dental procedures, as well as actions to prevent price-gouging.

“Since I last stood here two days ago, my administration has taken more actions to support our families, workers and businesses during this time,” Whitmer said. “In the past two days, I have executed a number of executive orders, expanding child care to our health care workers, our first responders and other essential workers to help us navigate this crisis and to keep them on the front line, knowing that their kids will be taken care of.”

According to Whitmer, Michigan was also the second state to approve the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Declaration, providing small businesses with low-interest rate loans to bolster the economy.

Whitmer also said her administration is making efforts to secure more masks and ventilators for afflicted patients in the state. In parts of the country that have been particularly hard-hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, one of the most pressing issues has been a lack of ventilators, which are necessary to treat patients who have been hospitalized due to the virus. 

Efforts are being made by state manufacturers and government agencies to increase the number of ventilators available in the state, Whitmer said.

“All of the incredible work that (the SEOC is) doing to bring additional ventilators into Michigan or back online, I think is going to bear fruit,” Whitmer said. “Is it going to be what we need? We are so far behind because frankly, the federal government didn’t take this as seriously as they should have on the front end.”

Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, followed Whitmer in making a statement, addressing the progress made by state authorities in testing and treating patients. 

“We continue to expand our lab testing capacity,” Khaldun said. “Our state lab has tripled its ability in the last week to test and we can now do up to 300 samples in one day. Several hospital labs are now able to test: Henry Ford, Michigan Medicine, Beaumont Health System and Sparrow Hospital. We also know that there are several private institutes such as LabCorp and Quests that are doing these lab tests. Collectively we believe we are doing about 1,000 tests a day.”

COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Individuals are encouraged to maintain a distance of at least six feet between one another so as to avoid transferring the virus, which is thought to spread through the respiratory droplets of those infected.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people wash their hands often and avoid touching their faces. Anyone who believes they have been exposed to COVID-19 should call their primary care physician or reach out to the local health department, which in Washtenaw County can be reached at 734-544-6700.

Daily News Editor Ben Rosenfeld can be reached at bbrosenf@umich.edu.