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State health officials await effects of holiday gatherings on COVID-19 case rates

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

State health officials are watching to see how Thanksgiving holiday gatherings may affect COVID-19 case rates.

The state recommended people avoid gatherings with people from other households. But Michigan’s Chief Medical Executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, said Tuesday it’s not clear yet how many people ignored that advice.

“That is one thing I am very concerned about, is that people may have gathered or traveled over the Thanksgiving break. Any increase in cases from the Thanksgiving holiday, we would not expect to see for two to three weeks in our data,” said Khaldun.

Khaldun said that will determine health orders that may be released before Christmas.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer said that health care workers will be first in line to receive vaccines against COVID-19 that are on the horizon. But she also said it will be months into next year before everyone can be vaccinated. That’s assuming one or both of the leading vaccines under development will become available as expected.

The governor said it remains critical that people continue to follow mask and distancing recommendations.

“We’ve been fighting this for a long time, but we have to be resilient enough to see this through. We’ve got to continue working together to eradicate this virus. I’m not going to sugarcoat this. The next couple of months are going to be hard,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer said that’s why she’s asking people to avoid traveling over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Alongside the plea for sacrifice, Whitmer struck an optimistic note looking ahead to 2021.

“And the good news is there is hope on the horizon. There is truly significant progress being made in the realm of vaccine development,” she said.

The governor also reiterated her call on the Legislature’s GOP leaders to agree to a $100 million state COVID response bill in the absence of more federal assistance.

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Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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