Whitmer hopes for May 1 reopening, plans may be outlined next week

Craig Mauger Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday she plans to release more information next week about her plan to reopen Michigan, including details based on the state's regions, economic sectors, and the safety of employees and customers. 

"I’ll be able to share a lot more detail about the thought process and our analysis as we go into next week," Whitmer told The Detroit News. 

The comments came shortly after the governor announced in a television interview that she hoped for "some relaxing" of Michigan's stay-at-home restrictions on May 1, when her latest stay home order expires.

Whitmer made the comment during an appearance on "Good Morning America" Friday morning. Host George Stephanopoulos had asked the first-term Democratic governor about Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's plans to begin reopening his state's economy on May 1.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks about the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan during a press conference in Lansing on Thursday, March 26, 2020.

"I do hope to have some relaxing come May 1, but it's two weeks away and the information and the data and our ability to test is changing so rapidly it's hard to tell precisely where we'll be in a week from now much less two," Whitmer responded.

The Whitmer administration's decision on how and when to reopen certain parts of the economy will be based in part on testing, tracing, sustained decreases in cases and hospital capacity. 

While Michigan has the fourth most coronavirus cases in the nation at 29,263, it ranks last among the 10 states with the most cases for the amount of testing tracked, according to a Detroit News analysis. As of Thursday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 97,093 tests — 25,000 fewer than any other state among the top 10 for confirmed cases.

Health experts said Michigan's lagging testing could complicate efforts to reopen the state's economy.

The phased-in approaches proposed by Senate Republicans and President Donald Trump have "pieces that are commensurate with the work that we're doing," Whitmer told The News. 

"I think the most important aspect is making sure that the best minds in medicine in our state are informing every decision that we make," Whitmer said. 

"Every one of us wants to return to some semblance of normalcy. The fact of the matter is that the worst thing we could do is not be mindful of the public health implications and act in a manner that creates a second wave of COVID-19.” 

In her interview with GMA earlier Friday, Whitmer also noted that Michigan has the third most COVID-19 deaths nationally. The state had registered 2,093 coronavirus mortalities through Thursday.

"We have a unique crisis that is playing out here and we need a unique solution," Whitmer said.

The governor said she wants to make decisions based on science, the facts and what's in the best interest of people's health. A second wave of the virus would be "devastating," she said.

Later in the interview she added,"It's better to be six feet apart right now than six feet under."

"That is the whole point of this," she continued. "We've got to save lives."

On Thursday, Whitmer along with six other Midwest governors, including DeWine, said they will work "in close coordination" in deciding how to reopen the region's economy after shuttering many businesses to stem the spread of COVID-19.

In determining when best to reopen their respective economies, the governors said they will consider the rate of new infections and hospitalizations, the ability to test and trace cases, health care capacity and best practices for social distancing in workplaces.

On April 9, Whitmer extended Michigan's stay-at-home order through April 30. But she also tightened restrictions, banning what she called unnecessary travel between residences and requiring large retail stores to cordon off their garden centers and paint centers.

The governor also declined to adopt expanded federal guidance on which workers are "critical" and allowed to leave their homes amid the public health crisis.

The revised stay-at-home order drew criticism from Republicans in the Michigan Legislature and GOP members of the U.S. House who said it went too far.

On Wednesday, thousands of people went to Lansing to protest the restrictions.

But Whitmer has said the state needed to tighten its policies to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed and to prevent a resurgence in the number of new cases, which have begun to flatten off in recent days.