By Annah Johnson
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is holding firm in her goal to offer in-person learning by March 1 considering the promising decline in COVID-19 metrics but warns that this goal is dependent on the passing of the Michigan COVID Recovery plan.
“Our success at this point is fragile,” Whitmer said on Feb. 9, reminding citizens that we are not completely rid of the virus just yet.
The legislature has yet to appropriate the federal funds allotted to Michigan, and Whitmer explains that action is necessary to get struggling businesses, kids returning to school and ramping up vaccine administration back on track.
“Delaying efforts to fully appropriate these resources and leaving dollars on the table that are so crucial to our economic recovery threatens the progress we have made to date,” Whitmer said.
Demand for vaccines currently outnumbers the number of available doses. Whitmer’s administration continues to push for 50,000 shots administered per day but explains that we are still not at that level of consistency. The lack of resources and cooperation of the legislature are the main issues at this time.
A major focus of Whitmer’s recovery efforts is for all school districts to offer an in-person learning option by March 1. This goal is backed by health professionals in the state, as many studies have found a lower risk of virus transmission in schools when physical distancing, mask-wearing, and sanitation measures are in place.
“We know that in-person learning provides a key benefit for many parents who rely on children being in school so they can go to work and fully participate in our economy,” Whitmer said.
Whitmer expressed the need to pass the Michigan COVID Recovery plan in the legislature to build on the progress already made to ensure swift vaccine administration and the safe reopening of the state.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Chief Medical Executive and Chief Deputy Director for Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported that Michigan’s total number of COVID-19 cases is 569,417 and a total of 14,905 related deaths. The number of tests reporting positive in the state is 4.5%. Case rates are down 80% in an active decline since the surge in mid-November, reporting 144 cases per million as of Feb. 8. Only 6% of hospital beds are being used by COVID-19 patients, also showing an active decline of 72% since Dec. 1.
Khaldun expressed concern once again for the growing number of cases. They are currently aware of 45 cases of the B-1-1-7 strain in Michigan. Her recommended method of combating this strain from spreading is to continue following the safety protocols of physical distancing, mask-wearing, refraining from gathering with people outside of two households, hand-washing and making a plan to get vaccinated as soon as a dose becomes available to you.
“We are making progress, as the Governor mentioned, in our goal of vaccinating 70% of Michiganders ages 16 and up as quickly as possible,” Khaldun said, explaining that almost 1.3 million doses have been administered to date, with 11% of the population over the age of 16 having received at least one dose.