By Annah Johnson
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer expressed concern about the new strains of the coronavirus that are beginning to show up in the United States as she began this week’s COVID-19 update.
“The state is entering a new phase in our vaccinations,” Whitmer said. “By Jan. 11, all counties may begin vaccinating Michiganders who are 65 and up. This will include some essential workers who will also be vaccinated. Workers like our school and child care staff, frontline local and state and federal first responders, and staff in our jails and prisons and shelters.”
A plea from the governor continues to be for Michiganders to respect our healthcare workers by following safety protocols to prevent overwhelming our healthcare system.
“The quicker we act to distribute the vaccine, the quicker we can reduce the strain on our healthcare system and put an end to this pandemic once and for all,” Whitmer said.
Lacking federal government support, Whitmer explained that there are not enough vaccines being delivered to Michigan for fast distribution as originally hoped. Whitmer’s team has made Michigan’s vaccination goal to get 90% of the vaccines distributed within 7 days of receiving them. She explained that there are limitations to how swiftly the state can distribute and administer the vaccines, but advised citizens to be patient and make a plan to get vaccinated when it becomes available.
“Every shot in the arm is a step closer to ending this pandemic,” Whitmer said.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy Director for Health for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services came to the podium and offered current reports on the three metrics the state has been following to track the pandemic.
As of yesterday Jan. 5, Michigan had 504,410 total cases and 12,867 total COVID-19 deaths. Cases are currently averaging 237 per million across the state. The active case rate has doubled since October. Currently, 12.6% of available hospital beds are being held by COVID-19 patients, which is down from 19.6% on Dec. 4. The percentage of positive tests is 9.6%, which has risen from 8.2% on Dec. 27. Over the holidays the number of administered tests went down significantly, which remains a concern for tracking the potential spread during the holidays.
“Everyone still needs to play their part,” Khaldun said, highlighting that now is not time to back down on safety precautions and physical distancing.
The state is only three weeks into its vaccination efforts. The original goal was to get 70% of Michiganders over the age of 16 vaccinated as quickly as possible. While Whitmer’s team is pushing to achieve that goal, Michigan has just over 152,000 vaccines administered as of Jan. 5, with over 8,300 of those being administered in long term care facilities. Whitmer’s team has hopes for improvement in the ramping up of the distribution of these vaccines to Michigan after President-elect Joe Biden is inaugurated.
“The more people that are vaccinated the less spread we will have, the fewer deaths and the quicker we can get back to a sense of normalcy,” Khaldun said.
Concerns about the new variant strains of the coronavirus have not been identified in the state, but Khaldun explained that it is on its way, if it’s not already here. Any potential surge from holiday cases is projected to show up in the coming days.
Officials are attempting to simplify eligibility for frontline workers and make the vaccine more quickly available to those most vulnerable to the illness. Khaldun encourages those over the age of 65 to get vaccinated as soon as possible now that we are in the second phase of distribution. She echoed Whitmer and urged citizens to be patient for the vaccine to become available to them, and make an appointment immediately when it does become available.
Whitmer returned to the podium to comment on the continued false accusations made by President Donald Trump that the presidential election was stolen from him. She remarked that the people have spoken, and adding divisiveness to our governmental process only makes us vulnerable. Whitmer called upon Congress and citizens alike to move past partisanship and find unity to move forward.