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Lansing — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer suggested Monday she could extend the state’s stay-home order within the next week. 

The order, which expires April 13, was tightened last week with further restrictions for people exposed to COVID-19 or feeling symptoms of COVID-19. The order also prevented employers from retaliating against workers who had to stay home.

"People are taking it seriously, and I think that's a good thing," Whitmer said of the stay-home order during a Monday press conference. "To see the real benefits of the work that we've done, it takes a few weeks to know what that really means."

The order was put in place March 23, bringing the state's already slowing economy to almost a complete stop. The order was met with confusion as the state worked to clarify which workers were considered essential and non-essential. 

Republican lawmakers in recent days have asked for come "common sense" changes to allow more exemptions for landscapers, nurseries or contractors working in relative isolation. The GOP-run Legislature is expected to vote Tuesday on a 23-day extension of Whitmer's declaration of emergency, but Democrats want to grant the governor's request for a 70-day extension. 

The governor pushed back last week, noting those individuals could be unknowingly carrying the virus and spreading it through physical contact with items such as tools or gas pumps. 

On Monday, Whitmer encouraged those venturing outside to use a cloth mask, but preserve N95 and surgical masks for medical professionals. 

“I encourage everyone to wear some sort of a face covering on those few trips that you need to leave the house,” Whitmer said. "During this time, it is crucial that you only leave your house when absolutely necessary.”

The state plans to begin reporting recovery numbers by the end of the week and is still working with Michigan hospitals to secure accurate and timely data on patient numbers, ventilator use and bed availability, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said. 

As of Saturday, at least 3,768 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 across the state, 1,383 on ventilators and 89% of those hospitalized are in Metro Detroit, she said.

"We are not out of the woods yet," Khaldun said. "Our hospitals continue to be overwhelmed, particularly in southeast Michigan."

As of Sunday afternoon, Michigan reported more than 15,700 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the nation's third highest state total. The Detroit Health Department reported another 588 cases of COVID-19 since Saturday and 38 additional Detroit deaths, raising the city's death toll to 167.

Some Metro Detroit hospitals are at or near capacity under the strain of increasing numbers of COVID-19 patients.

Beaumont CEO John Fox over the weekend complained the state's data has been insufficient to determine proper distribution of patients across hospital systems, even after the state ordered hospitals to submit daily data and use that to balance patient loads across the region. 

Fox made a similar argument to The Detroit News on March 30, arguing that “right now, it’s a function of luck” if another hospital will open its doors to transfers “or the medical directors have to ask and beg and cajole, and it’s not effective.” He blamed the problem on a combination of incomplete data provided by some hospitals to the state and worry among relief hospitals of quickly being overwhelmed by the transfers.

The press conference is the latest of several Whitmer and Khaldun have held since Michigan's first two confirmed coronavirus cases were announced March 10. 

Whitmer has since used the press conferences largely to announce emergency executive orders that have closed K-12 schools, banned gatherings of more than 50 people, closed restaurants and bars, and prohibited people from leaving their homes for non-essential duties. 

Whitmer's stay-at-home order is set to expire April 13, the same day as her order requring the closure of bars and restaurants

On Monday, Whitmer said the state was running "dangerously low" on personal protection equipment. N95 mask supplies at Beaumont Health, Michigan's largest hospital system, will last three days, the supply at Henry Ford Hospital system another four days and, at the Detroit Medical Center, N95 mask supplies would last another 10 days, she said. 

Still, the supply situation is better than last week, when state hospitals were living on day-to-day supplies, Whitmer said. The state expects a shipment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency soon of roughly 300 ventilators, 1.1 million surgical masks and 1 million N95 masks.

At the Sunday White House briefing, Vice President Mike Pence vowed that "Michigan and Illinois are in the forefront of our thinking. And at the president's direction, we're going to make sure the people of Illinois, the people of Michigan have the resources, equipment and support that they need."

At the same briefing, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said the VA hospitals in Detroit and Ann Arbor would open intensive care unit and acute care beds but didn't specify a number. He also said a pharmaceutical trailer would be made available at the TCF Center in Detroit, which is being used as an alternate care facility to help with  overflow patients from hospitals.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com

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