YPSILANTI – Governor Gretchen Whitmer said on Monday the state would extend COVID-19 workplace restrictions this week for another six months due to current pandemic trends.
She stressed that the extension does not mean that no one will be allowed to return to the office. Instead, she said it gives the state the tools it needs to get employees back to work.
“At this point, with our high positivity numbers, it’s really important to extend for six months so that we have the ability to work on what these protocols look like and get people back to the workplace when it’s safe. to do so, ”Whitmer said, speaking outside a mass vaccination clinic at the Eastern Michigan University convening center in Ypsilanti.
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National workplace regulations will expire this week. They require employers to allow people to work remotely if possible and outline the safety and health protocols to be followed if employees are to work together in one location.
Although the governor has said the restrictions are necessary, it is one of the few COVID-19 regulations extended by the Whitmer administration in recent weeks.
Instead, the health department and the governor are taking a different approach to tackling the latest new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic – relying on personal responsibility and accountability.
“I believe the role of government is that when we cannot act to protect ourselves, government must step in. This is where we were a year ago, this is where we were four months ago, ”said Whitmer.
“We’re in a different time. Each of us has the ability and the knowledge to do the right thing, and it’s up to all of us to do it. And that’s why we just beg people – take that. seriously.”
Whitmer and joined Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Detroit, for a visit to the vaccination site. They thanked the frontline workers and spoke with the residents to get vaccinated.
Ypsilanti resident Kevin Lawson said he was surprised but happy to see Whitmer at the EMU vaccination site. The 51-year-old father said he appreciated everything the governor had done to fight the pandemic and believed it was extremely important to get the vaccine.
“It’s a chance to fight,” Lawson said, adding that he wanted to get the vaccine to help protect his family. “I’m going to take my chances with no luck.”
Whitmer and Dingell also renewed their demands for the Biden administration to escalate vaccines to Michigan and other states where COVID-19 is raging. In a call with President Joe Biden last week, Whitmer asked him and other federal officials to send more vaccines to Michigan. Dingell and the rest of the Michigan congressional delegation sent a bipartisan letter to the president expressing a similar request.
“Like it or not Michigan is getting more attention than we want it to be. We are the number one state with the number one number of cases,” Dingell said.
“All of this worries me – I have lost too many people. I have lost my family and friends to this virus. We may be sick with the virus, but this virus does not have enough of us. . ”
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The Biden administration has said it will not ship vaccines to national hot spots. Officials have argued that the state can allocate the doses it already has to those parts of the state that need them most.
CDC director Rochelle Walensky said Monday that even if Michigan received a vaccine surge today, it would take weeks to see the impact of these new doses. Instead, she argued that the state needs to institute new restrictions.
“We know that if the vaccines go into the arms today, we won’t see an effect from those vaccines, depending on the vaccine, for somewhere between two to six weeks. So when you have an acute situation, an extraordinary number of cases like we have in Michigan, the answer isn’t necessarily to give a vaccine, ”Walensky said.
“In fact, we know the vaccine will have a delayed response. The response to that is to really shut things down, get back to our basics, get back to where we were last spring, last summer and stop. things., to flatten the curve, to decrease contact with each other, to test to the extent that we have, to contact the trace. “
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A report in the Washington Post on Friday also alleged that Michigan and other states may not officially request every available dose from the federal government.
Michigan has denied this report.
“We are assigning and ordering all vaccines available to us,” Medical Director Dr Joneigh Khaldun said Friday morning ahead of the report.
“We actually met the White House team yesterday and went through our entire ordering strategy … they agree with us that we order all the vaccines that are available to us.”
Neither Whitmer nor Dingell said how many doses of the vaccine would be sufficient. After the event, Dingell said the state needed as much as the federal government could provide.
Despite Michigan’s COVID-19 trends heading in a dangerous direction for weeks, the Department of Health and the governor have not instituted any new warrants to restrict the capacity of restaurants, other businesses, or personal gatherings.
Whitmer on Friday requested a two-week break from dining inside restaurants for two weeks, in-person classes for high schools and for all young athletes. While Republicans applauded the lack of new regulations, sports associations, school districts and businesses appeared to ignore the request.
Whitmer did not say directly whether a difference in COVID-19 trends would cause her to change her mind on the restrictions. She pointed to a recent bill, passed with the vote of all Republicans in the state Senate, that would link dining inside restaurants to rates of COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates.
“If it was the law now, everything would be closed for now. And that explains exactly why identifying one or two numbers doesn’t tell the whole story. Public health experts will tell you, you have to look at the context, ”Whitmer said.
“Here’s where we are: instead of a year ago, where it was a new virus, where we didn’t even know a mask was going to give us 97% protection, we had to take strong action to keep people safe. We now know a lot more about it. We now have PPE, now we have tests, now we have vaccines. We each have enough information to do our part, and that’s what we call on people to do, to do your part. ”
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The governor’s office came under fire late last week in light of Trish Foster, the governor’s director of operations, who posted photos on social media of a spring break trip to Florida. The move came after Whitmer expressed concern over the Michiganders traveling for spring break.
Whitmer’s press secretary said on Friday that Foster “is fully recovered from COVID and fully vaccinated,” and noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently gave updated guidance that fully vaccinated people can travel to United States.
Michigan’s seven-day COVID-19 case rate is almost the highest on record during the pandemic. The seven-day daily average of deaths is more than double what it was a month ago. Hospitals across the state are approaching or have reached capacity.
More than 2 million residents are fully immunized, with a total of over 3.2 million people having received an injection of at least one dose. This represents about a quarter of the population aged 16 and over fully vaccinated. The governor recently acknowledged that vaccine supply is likely to continue to be a problem, but suggested the state could reach 70% of vaccines anytime between mid-May and early July.
Journalist Kristen Jordan Shamus contributed to this report.
Contact Dave Boucher at [email protected] or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @ Dave_Boucher1.