Home Featured News Coronavirus cases continue to decline as economic crisis escalates

Coronavirus cases continue to decline as economic crisis escalates

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during a press briefing Friday (courtesy photo).

The state released promising data Friday afternoon which reflects a decline in cases of the COVID-19 outbreak. For Thursday, an additional 607 cases were confirmed, bringing the cumulative number to 56,621 infected and 5,406 deaths from COVID-19 in Michigan. 

During a press briefing Friday afternoon, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Deputy, said that the cumulative percent of positive cases remains at 13%. In the last seven days, however, just over 4% of tests administered have been positive. 

On Tuesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-104 which widened the criteria for people seeking a coronavirus test and announced additional testing locations. 

Despite a continued positive trajectory for Michigan, Whitmer stressed that reengaging the economy too soon could have devastating consequences and urged everyone to maintain social distancing protocols. Whitmer said she is “optimistic” about easing restrictions, though did not provide any parameters as to what she is watching that would inform her decision to reopen. 

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun during a press briefing Friday (courtesy photo). Brianna Wetherbee | The Collegiate Live

“The goal of the MI Safe Start plan is to engage our economy thoughtfully and deliberately so that we avoid a second wave of infections,” the governor said Friday. “…The worst thing we can do is open up in a way that causes a second wave of infections and death, puts our healthcare workers at further risk, and wipes out all of the progress that we’ve made – not to mention, lengthens the amount of time we are in economic distress.” 

Whitmer has introduced protocols for businesses to follow when reopening and has appointed a number of people to the Michigan Workforce Development Board. The Work Share program unveiled a new website with specifications for employers and employees on the benefits for both. 

“Rather than the standard unemployment insurance, Work Share could be viewed as  employment insurance, a safety net…” Whitmer said. 

Through this program, employers can bring back laid off employees with reduced hours, if necessary, while also allowing them to collect partial unemployment benefits. Jeff Donofrio, Director of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, acknowledged the strain of the coronavirus on businesses and discussed how the Work Share program will aid as they carefully reopen. 

“We also know that as businesses begin to restart their operations, many will, because of COVID-19, do so with reduced capacity and reduce customer demand,” Donofrio said.  “Businesses may be worried about how to retain their workforce or bring back employees from layoff if wages and hours may be reduced as a result of COVID-19.” 

When asked by reporters about the uncertainty of the crippled Michigan budget, Whitmer said she is “acutely aware” that local government and schools have their fiscal year begin July 1, the same day the state budget is supposed to be finalized. Although the governor has acknowledged that as an unlikely probability. 

“July first is the right goal but because of COVID-19 it is an unrealistic one at this moment,” Whitmer said.

During a press briefing Thursday, Whitmer said that Michigan will be relying on federal funding to help compensate for the $3.2 billion loss in state revenue. 

“The bottom line really is that we need additional flexibility and resources from the federal government,” she said. 

Michigan Republicans are critiquing Whitmer, stating that hoping for federal funding is no way to handle the budget deficit. 

“The presence of COVID-19 in Michigan and the governor’s stay-at-home order have had a dramatic negative impact on revenues for our current budget and fiscal year 2021,” Jim Stamas, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman, stated. “Waiting on a Hail Mary from Congress is not a plan.” 

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