Gov. Whitmer proposes $79B budget with record school funding, tax relief

Whitmer denounces death threats, wants 450,000 COVID-19 tests in May

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called on Republican lawmakers Monday to denounce death threats against her on social media, while revealing that her goal is to test 450,000 Michigan residents for COVID-19 during May.

Whitmer made the comments during a press conference Monday afternoon. She was asked to react to death threats levied against her on private Facebook pages that are only available to their own members.

The Democratic governor said "concerning isn't a strong enough word" and said she was "disappointed" the Michigan Capitol Commission didn't act Monday to restrict guns inside the Capitol.

"This could be avoided if Republican leadership in the Legislature would step up and denounce that kind of activity, if there was anyone on the other side of the aisle that would do that," Whitmer said. "People can have any opinion they want but to threaten someone else is beyond the pale."

Whitmer referenced a Detroit Metro Times story that examined threats made against her in private Facebook groups.

The call for banning firearms inside the Capitol came after an April 30 protest in which armed protesters entered the Capitol and displayed the firearms in the gallery above assembled lawmakers. Some legislators said they felt the demonstrators were trying to intimidate them.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, noted people protested safely and responsibly, but he condemned others who "used intimidation and the threat of physical harm to stir up fear and feed rancor. Their actions hurt their cause and steal from the rights of others by creating an environment where responsible citizens do not feel safe enough to express themselves."

Shirkey also urged protesters not to demonstrate outside of the Michigan governor's residence.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, tweeted Monday that "those making physical threats (to both parties) are out of line and should be punished."

Also Monday, Whitmer and members of administration detailed plans to expand access to COVID-19 testing in Michigan. Whitmer stated her goal is to test 450,000 Michigan residents during May. That would represent an average of 14,516 tests per day.

During April, the state averaged about 5,720 tests per day for a total of 171,602 tests, according to Department of Health and Human Services data. But testing capacity has increased in recent days. Whitmer said the state had gone from 4,000 tests a day to 14,000 tests a day in two weeks.

The state reported 14,257 tests on Thursday, its highest reported daily total yet.

The Monday press conference was the governor's first press conference since she extended the state's stay-at-home order through March 28 on Thursday. That day, she also announced the lifting of some restrictions on manufacturing and unveiled a six-phase plan for reopening the state's economy.

Michigan is currently in the third phase of the plan, which is labeled "flattening." To get to the next phase, labeled "improving," the state needs to see cases and deaths decline more sharply, health care system capacity strengthen and robust containment protocols established.

Asked when the state would move to the next phase of reopening the economy, Whitmer said it takes about 14 days to see if a spike in new COVID-19 cases will result from a move to lift restrictions.

In the two weeks, Whitmer has eased restrictions on manufacturing, real estate activities and construction.

"The cadence of a couple of weeks is about right," she said. "But we recognize that there may be instances where we move a little faster. There may be instances where we have to move a little slower.

"The thing that you can't plot on a calendar is human behavior," Whitmer said. "That's why it's so important that everyone continues to do their part. That's how we continue to turn this dial and take the next step into the next phase."

As of Monday afternoon, Michigan had 47,552 confirmed cases of the virus and 4,584 deaths linked to it. But it's been 12 days since the state added more than 1,000 new cases in daily report.

For nine straight days, the percentage of COVID-19 tests coming back positive in Michigan has been below 10%, according to tracking from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Michigan confirmed its first cases of the virus on March 10.