By Breegan Petruska
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is pushing for a two-week suspension of in-person learning for high schools, all contact and non-contact youth sports, and indoor restaurant dining after the recent surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations throughout the state.
While this is not a mandate, the governor is calling on high schools, sports leagues, and restaurant owners to voluntarily comply with these recommendations to help slow the spread of the virus and stop the surge that we are currently experiencing.
“To be very clear, these are not orders, mandates, or requirements,” Whitmer said on April 9. “This is my ask to you, the people of Michigan, please, redouble your efforts on these fronts for the next couple of weeks.”
On Friday morning, the governor, along with Spectrum Health CEO Tina Freese Decker, discussed the milestone of five million vaccines that have been administered in the last four months.
Whitmer called on the federal government to create a vaccination surge program to help states like Michigan, that are struggling with large numbers of COVID-19 cases.
“The vaccine is the most effective way to protect you and your family from this virus. Getting vaccinated is the quickest way for our lives to return to normal,” said Whitmer. “I urge you to get your shot at a local pharmacy, a drive-thru location, a mobile clinic, or at one of our community sites like Ford Field or the one at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.”
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 515 cases per million people, four times higher than in the middle of February. The number of tests reporting positive in the state has increased to 18%. She expressed concern and the fact that we have not had that high of a percentage rate since our first surge last spring. Also on the rise, 15.2% of hospital beds are being used by COVID-19 patients, causing hospitals to reevaluate and implement surge plans and restrictions. Hospitals are canceling elective, non-time sensitive surgeries and ramping up on staff and equipment to handle the surge in cases and hospitalized patients.
Khaldun shared the growing concern in the recent numbers shown in younger age groups. Since January, we have seen a large number of outbreaks in counties across the state in K-12 schools, manufacturing, construction, long-term care, child care, retail, restaurants, and bars. Recent cases have shown that the B-1-1-7 strain is more contagious among younger people, and Michigan has recorded a high number of cases of this new strain.
“Between January and March, we saw 291 outbreaks associated with youth sports teams, both contact and non-contact sports that involved at least 1,091 people,” said Khaldun, sharing that 2,262 cases are from the new variant, and were identified in 60 counties across the state.
“Just because something is open, does not mean that it is safe or that you should do it.”
All Michigan residents 16 and up are now eligible to get vaccinated and can find a vaccination clinic and schedule an appointment here.