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Whitmer provides update on impact of COVID-19 in Michigan; 336 positive cases now identified

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun provided an update on the state’s response to COVID-19 (courtesy photo).

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held a press conference with Michigan’s Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun Sunday evening in which she announced the number of confirmed cases (now 336)  of COVID-19 in Michigan. 

“This disease is a challenge unlike any we’ve seen in our lifetimes,” Whitmer said. “Fighting it will create significant but temporary changes to our daily lives. By taking aggressive action now, the state is working to slow the spread of the virus so we reduce the risk to our healthcare system and the possibility of it being overwhelmed.”

Khaldun stated that there will be “more and more” positive cases throughout Michigan. Adding that there is evidence of community spread. 

“We do not need to panic,” Khaldun reassured. “Most people who get this disease will have a mild illness.” 

Whitmer reiterated the steps people should take to minimize the possibility of contracting the virus by washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds; touch your face less often; cover mouth with arm when coughing or sneezing. 

“This is about saving lives,” Whitmer emphasized, “We all know Michiganders are tough. That we have grit. We are going to get through this but it’s going to require every one of us to do our part.”

Whitmer highlighted the importance of “flattening the curve.”

“By practicing social distancing – where we create at least 6 feet of psychical space between one another – we can slow down the number of infections and, hopefully, give our healthcare system more time to respond so our hospitals don’t get overwhelmed.” 

After consulting with Khaldun and other medical professionals, Whitmer implemented a number of executive orders, all of which will help to “flatten the curve, to combat the virus, and prioritize public health.” 

“Earlier this week I announced the closure of school buildings and large gatherings,” Whitmer said. “I know this isn’t going to be easy for parents, or for principals, or for students, or for teachers and custodians and cafeteria workers. They are already stepping up to ensure that kids can keep learning and get fed during this crisis.” 

Since then, Whitmer has announced temporary restrictions on entry into healthcare, residential care, and juvenile justice care facilities. Additionally, seasonal weight restrictions have been lifted on trucks that are transporting food and supplies to stores. 

Whitmer praised the “tremendous work” of the healthcare professionals across Michigan while urging the public to assist in the ways they can to provide relief for this overwhelmed field. 

The governor urged President Donald Trump to declare a federal disaster. This “badly needed relief” would implement unemployment assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which would benefit individuals who are self-employed and independent contractors. 

“It’s time to get it done for the good of Michigan and the good of our country,” Whitmer expressed, “there will be a need for further relief from Congress for individuals who will suffer because (of) what we are going through.” 

Whitmer encouraged Michiganders by reminding them that “This is not going to be easy but we are going to get through it.” 

Editor’s Note: Updated March 17 to reflect the latest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

Updated March 17 to reflect the latest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19.