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Whitmer calls for legislative action on COVID-19 funds

3D rendering of coronavirus
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Governor Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday that many of the state’s COVID-19 data trends are moving in the right direction, and that more restrictions on nursing home visits could be lifted soon.

She said that’s based on data that show more people are getting vaccinated and the rate of new cases continues to drop over time. But she said the decision will rest on whether those positive trends continue.

“It’s important to remember what the cost has been and why it’s important that we stay vigilant,” she said during an online news conference.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said there is a problem now with fewer people getting tested for COVID-19.

“Testing is still a critical part of our COVID-19 response,” she said. “We want everyone who needs or wants a test to be able to get one. Testing is the only way we will be able to track the spread of the virus and to slow its spread."

Another issue is keeping the promise that vaccines will go first to the people who need them the most. A system problem with the state led to under-reportingof race and ethnicity. That makes it harder to ensure the vaccines are being distributed equitably.

Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist chairs a task force examining racial disparities in the COVID crisis. He said the state system is being updated to make it easier to collect that information.

“Black and brown communities in our state have been disproportionately affected by the virus,” he said. “And improving the race and ethnicity data being collected for vaccinations is critical to ensuring the vaccine’s equitable distribution.”

But the feud between the Democratic governor and the Legislature’s Republican leaders over the state’s COVID response has not lifted. Whitmer called on GOP leaders to end the impasse over spending federal COVID-19 relief funds.

“It threatens to undermine our economy, our ability to keep people safe, our efforts around keeping our numbers low and our vaccinations high,” she said.

Republicans have said the Legislature should have more control over how that money will be spent.

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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