Whitmer urges resolve, asks for 'all hands on deck' at COVID-19 town hall
More than three weeks after Michigan confirmed its first cases of coronavirus, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged residents to persevere and be patient even under the pressure of shuttered workplaces, abbreviated schools years and a surge of virus cases and deaths.
During a televised town hall Thursday, the governor answered questions from Detroit news anchors for more than an hour about the spread of the disease and measures taken to mitigate the pandemic.
"The worse thing we could do for our economy is not take aggressive steps and watch this play out over a longer course," she said.
Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun echoed those warnings, noting the state still lacks the testing data to understand the full scope or duration of the virus in Michigan.
As of Thursday afternoon, Michigan reported 10,791 cases and 417 deaths and that number is expected to increase throughout the month before it starts to dip.
"Even when we hit that apex, even when we start coming down, there still will be a lot more cases and there still will be many more deaths," Khaldun said.
The town hall, a first-time collaboration among Detroit television stations, aired from 7-8 p.m. across the state and included questions collected from residents for Whitmer, who joined the town hall from Lansing.
WXYZ-TV’s Carolyn Clifford, WJBK-TV's Huel Perkins and WDIV-TV's Devin Scillian hosted the town hall from their studios. The collaboration was unusual in the highly competitive Detroit media market.
“Reporters and anchors who usually compete against each other, tonight, on the same team, in the same army, fighting against the same enemy, this damn virus,” Perkins said. "I don't know how long it's going to take to win this battle, but we will win.”
Whitmer encouraged residents to maintain compliance with the state's stay-at-home order and noted that even those without symptoms could be carrying the virus and infect others who could have worse outcomes.
When the problems in Michigan would end is a "question that no one can answer with great confidence" as was the potential peak of deaths in Michigan.
"Every one of these people have a story and have loved ones that can’t even come together to mourn because its too dangerous,” Whitmer said.
While Whitmer noted that she extended the state of emergency Wednesday, she said she hasn't made a decision whether to extend the state's stay-at-home order past April 13. The state will not implement a curfew as was done recently in the city of Flint.
The state wants to avoid a premature end to the emergency measures that could lead to a second wave of the virus, as has been the experience in other countries.
"That would be the worst thing just when we feel like we’re out of the woods," she said.
The state still is in need of personal protection gear, testing supplies and health care workers to staff southeast Michigan hospitals and field hospitals such as the nearly 1,000 beds being placed at the TCF Center, Whitmer said.
"This is one of the sure needs that we will have for the state," she said, inviting health care workers from out state and out of state to join Metro Detroit health workers.
"We’ve made it easier for people to join the front lines because we need all hands on deck," Whitmer said.
When asked about the trial use of hydroxychloroquine at some Detroit hospitals, Whitmer clarified earlier state warnings against hoarding that could deprive lupus and rheumatoid arthritis patients who rely on the drug.
"As we know, this is a novel virus and we have to have the mindset that we’re going to be willing to explore what possibilities there are," such as drugs, therapies and antibody testing, Whitmer said.
"I think that there is some great potential here," Whitmer said.
The governor also took a hard line on people "playing fast and loose" with her stay-at-home order, noting there was more and more evidence as to the ease with which the virus could spread.
The state also is reviewing its sale of lottery tickets, which are passed from hand-to-hand and where lines usually form, to determine whether that practice complies with the ban on non-essential activities.
"I have become aware of the serious concern about people congregating around the lottery, and that’s something that we’re taking a look at," said Whitmer, noting businesses also should ensure customers are maintaining 6-foot distances.