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Whitmer: Michiganders need to keep "doing their part" to avoid a potential spike in COVID-19 cases

joneigh khaldun at a press conference
File photo from May 13, 2020.

The New York Times reported Michiganders are no longer staying at home in the same numbers, despite still being under a stay-at-home order. Governor Gretchen Whitmer called the data concerning.

In her Wednesday briefing Whitmer said movement itself isn’t the problem, so long as people still wear their masks outside and follow social distancing and handwashing.

Whitmer says if cases spike, it could happen in two weeks. She says the state is in a better place to handle new cases with more testing and protective equipment.

“But if this is community spread across the state, like we saw eight weeks ago. It would make it more likely that we have to continue a stay at home posture, and that’s the last thing any of us wants," she said. "So everyone needs to keep doing their part.”

Whitmer says the state needs to be testing 15-20,000 people per day, before it reaches the next phase of eased restrictions. On average, about 12,000 people were tested per day in the last week.

Michigan also recently began reporting the number of cases of COVID-19 in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, but the data are incomplete.

At the same briefing, the state’s top doctor, Joneigh Khaldun, said the death count at these facilities is self-reported and the state believes it is inaccurate.

“But again, there’s a difference between the cases and the actual deaths. So we need to make sure that we’re actually looking at death certificates," she said. "We know they are actually matched with a particular nursing facility and that’s an additional step that we know we need to take.”

Across the country, data show COVID-19 deaths associated with long-term care facilities count for about a third of the country’s total deaths. In Michigan, the state reports more than 3,000 cases in these facilities, but does not report deaths.

Khaldun also said there’s not a benchmark for the number of COVID-19 cases or deaths that will allow the state to continue to reopen. She says it’s more about the context of what a number means.

“There’s no special formula that will tell us how and when to reopen," she said. "I can say for example, we may see a certain level of cases in a particular region, but you have to dive in. Is that associated with a particular facility, or is it that it’s just broad community spread?”

Whitmer said the state is currently in phase three of her MI safe start plan, but unlike other states Michigan hasn’t provided metrics that the state will need to reach to ease more restrictions.

Michigan Radio listeners, readers, and reporters are rising to the challenge every day. If you can, please support essential journalism during this crisis.

Abigail Censky is the Politics & Government reporter at WKAR. She started in December 2018.
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