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Governor Whitmer says no new "sweeping mandates" coming as omicron spreads

A 3D-generated image of the coronavirus variant of concern known as omicron. The little bumps are spike proteins (see definition below).
Uma Shankar Sharma/Getty Images
A 3D-generated image of the coronavirus variant of concern known as omicron. The little bumps are spike proteins (see definition below).

The rising threat of the omicron variant in the U.S. has so far not changed Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s mind on the need for new statewide mandates.

The governor held a press conference in Grand Rapids to encourage people - once again - to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and get boosted.

Whitmer acknowledged hospitals in the state are already overwhelmed with mostly unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, but she said now is not the time for new mandates or business closures.

“Sweeping mandates are less likely to influence and encourage that population to get vaccinated,” Whitmer said. “And that’s why it’s an education effort. It is sharing what the experience is, what the real threat is.”

The governor held her press conference outside the Hispanic Center of West Michigan, alongside local doctors and community leaders to drive the message home.

“What I see every day is heartbreaking,” said Dr. Shelley Schmidt, a pulmonologist who works in intensive care units for Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids. “And since the beginning of this pandemic, I have never taken care of a patient dying from the vaccine. I have taken care of dozens and dozens who are dead from this virus, nearly all unvaccinated.”

Dr. Daliya Khuon, an infectious disease doctor for Spectrum’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, also stressed the importance of vaccines for kids age five and up.

“With this latest surge in delta, we are seeing not just more cases, but more hospitalized cases,” Khuon said. “And time and time again, I’ve heard from parents who say, ‘I just didn’t think it could get this bad with my kids.’”

The doctors, along with Michigan’s top health official, said there are other ways people can help reduce the risk of a COVID-19 infection over the holidays, including:

  • Wear masks at all times indoors, and get a higher quality mask, if possible.
  • Get tested before gatherings.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.

But the number one thing people can do to protect themselves, as health leaders have been saying for months, is to get vaccinated, and get a booster shot if it’s been more than six months since your first round of vaccination.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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