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White House says Michigan can’t vaccinate itself out of troubling COVID-19 trends

A healthcare worker process a COVID-19 test at Beaumont.
Beaumont Health

The federal government won't be sending additional vaccines to Michigan. That's despite Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s efforts to secure more shots as cases and hospitalizations continue to increase.

Michigan even surpassed its winter peak of COVID-19 hospitalizations on Monday.  

“I think if we tried to vaccinate our way out of what is happening in Michigan, we would be disappointed that it took so long for the vaccine to work to actually have the impact,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a briefing on the pandemic on Monday. 

Vaccines can take up six weeks before they’re effective at blocking infection rates, making them an ineffective response to curbing the current surge. “The answer to that is to really close things down, to go back to our basics, to go back to where we were last spring, last summer, and to shut things down, flatten the curve, to decrease contact with one another,” she said. 

Last week, Governor Whitmer urgedMichigan residents to avoid indoor dining and called on high schools to suspend in-person classes and athletics for two weeks, but stopped short of requiring the restrictions. As the state continued to see more COVID infections than any other, Whitmer also asked the federal government for additional doses of vaccine. 

Andy Slavitt, the White House senior advisor for COVID-19 Response said shifting vaccines to hard-hit regions would become a game of “whack-a-mole,” noting that responding to a surge in one state with vaccines could prevent other states from fending off similar outbreaks, especially as variants become more and more apparent in other parts of the country. “Moving around vaccines,” he said, “isn’t the strategy that public health leaders and scientists have laid out. There are other things that we can do.” 

Slavitt said that the CDC has deployed a team to Michigan to assist in contact tracing, and to support testing and treatment.

The federal government is sending aid to Michigan through more testing and treatment efforts. The White House has deployed 140 FEMA vaccinators to the state, as well as support for contact tracing and testing of young athletes.

In Monday's case update, Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services reported 3,918 adults hospitalized with coronavirus. This is slightly more than the number hospitalized on December 1, which was the highest during the so-called “winter surge.”

Michigan’s Monday case update reported 12 additional deaths and over 9,600 cases since Saturday. (Michigan does not report cases on Sundays.) This brings the state to a total of 747,697 confirmed cases and 16,512 confirmed deaths. 

The state reported a positivity rate of 14.74% Sunday, reporting that 5,294 out of 35,910 diagnostic test results returned were positive.

Nisa Khan joins Michigan Radio as the station’s first full-time data reporter. In that capacity, she will be reporting on data-driven news stories as well as working with other news staff to acquire and analyze data in support of their journalism.
Beenish Ahmed is Michigan Public's Criminal Justice reporter. Since 2016, she has been a reporter for WNYC Public Radio in New York and also a freelance journalist. Her stories have appeared on NPR, as well as in The New Yorker, Harper’s, The Atlantic, VICE and The Daily Beast.
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