Whitmer: State could hit COVID-19 'apex' in late April, early May

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan will hit its “apex” of COVID-19 cases in late April or early May, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday. 

“We’re a good month out from the apex” right now, Whitmer said during a question and answer period with pool reporters.

As of Thursday afternoon, Michigan reported 10,791 cases and 417 deaths

"I think it's incumbent on every one of us to remember that each of those people was a Michigander with a story, with a family and friends who can't mourn them as we traditionally would because we can't congregate," Whitmer said.

The state is a "hot spot" for COVID-19 cases and is still on the upswing, she said. No one is immune from the virus, she said. 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a press conference to update the public on the spread of COVID-19 on Monday, March 30, 2020.

"Each of us responds differently to this disease and that's why we all must act as if we're carrying it and stay home," Whitmer said.

Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said the exact date for the state's peak is not yet known. 

"But as of right now we know we are still on the upslope," she said.

The governor also urged legislators not to hold session this coming Tuesday, noting that her most recent executive order extending Michigan's state of disaster and state of emergency declarations do not need immediate action. 

But by Thursday afternoon, she had adjusted her tone. Whitmer now notes the need for legislators to return to session to support a resolution extending her declaration of emergency by 70 days, said spokeswoman Tiffany Brown. 

Whitmer's concern instead stemmed from GOP proposals to approve a shorter extension and then return every few weeks to extend the emergency if needed, Brown said.

"They should come in, extend 70 days and return to their communities like the rest of us are doing to keep the public safe," she said.

The session day would be the first since March 17 and the first since State Rep. Isaac Robinson, D-Detroit, died of suspected coronavirus.

Both chambers were open to an extension of the emergency declaration, but Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, said 70 days was "too long."

Some hospitals are running low on certain medical supplies, such as masks, gowns, sedation medications or ventilators, Khaldun said. The state will likely need more field hospitals than the 1,000 beds currently being set up at the TCF Center in Detroit, she said. 

“We know that many of our hospitals on the front lines taking care of patients are at capacity right now," Khaldun said. "Intensive care units are full.”

The state also put a call out to nurses and doctors available and willing to lend a hand at field hospitals such as the TCF Center. Another one is supposed to be done at the University of Michigan.

A study from the University of Washington over the weekend estimated Michigan's deaths would peak on April 8, but the date has been pushed out to April 9 for peak cases and April 12 for deaths as the study is updated with recent case information from Michigan. 

“The next several weeks are going to be very difficult, some of the most difficult we’ve ever faced,” Khaldun said. "I encourage everyone to take this seriously and to heed the governor’s executive order to stay home.”

In terms of the shut-down directive, U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, said he hopes the governor would look at the  state by regions. 

“There are definitely some regions that as we go through the next week, two at most, we’ll see the dangers that are there in certain areas as compared with others that don’t really have a problem,” he said, noting parts of the state that have no COVID-19 cases or just one or two. 

“To shut the entire state down in the same way I’m not sure is the way to do it, but the governor is going to have to make that decision, and hopefully the Legislature and she can work together so the best is done for the state — and our businesses.” 

He’d like Whitmer to look at giving more latitude to small businesses that really don’t have much contact with other people, such as like lawn care or roofing.

“I think you can put some of these people back to work, especially lawn care. They didn’t have much of a winter -- at least down here -- to do much snow plowing so they are looking forward to getting back to lawn care,” Walberg said. 

Also, Ohio’s auto dealerships are open but Michigan’s are closed except for the back of the house, he said.

“Could we not have the opportunity for some people to work in the dealer’s show room as well?” Walberg said. “So, I hope she’s willing to look at maybe closing off some regions more fully. Others not so much. And opening up some job opportunities.” 

Detroit News Staff Writer Melissa Nann Burke contributed