Whitmer: 'We're not in position' to move into next virus recovery phase

The Detroit News

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday that COVID-19 cases emerging in some areas could delay moving the state into its next recovery phase.

"Right now, the numbers in most parts of the state have continued to look strong. But there are a few blips that we are keeping our eye very close on," Whitmer told WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick in an interview broadcast Tuesday.

"My hope was to move the rest of the state into Phase 5 by 4th of July. My hope was to do it this week. We're not going to do it this week. … We're not in a position to do that yet. We've got to get more data. Because we are concerned.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration unveiled this graphic on Thursday, May 7, 2020, explaining phases for lifting COVID-19 restrictions in Michigan.

On June 1, Whitmer's order moved the state into Phase 4 of her six-part plan to reopen the state incrementally as cases decrease, testing increases and hospital capacity expands.

Phase 4 opened up various businesses and activities that had been prohibited during the onset of the virus. She is asking the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to suspend a district court order that allows gyms in the state to reopen on Thursday until an appeal can be resolved.

Her office has said Northern Lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, which had relatively few COVID-19 cases and deaths compared with the rest of the state,  was heading to the fifth phase, which allows reopening movie theaters and gyms, subject to safety protocols and procedures designed to minimize the virus spread.

In the WWJ interview, the governor noted the spikes in cases in Ingham County reported earlier Tuesday.

The Ingham County Health Department said at least 22 people who visited an East Lansing bar have tested positive for the coronavirus. Of the 22 positive cases, at least 14 were at Harper's Restaurant and Brew Pub near Michigan State University's campus between June 12-20, the department said. 

Whitmer noted Tuesday that "we’ve made such sacrifice to push these numbers down … we’ve saved thousands of lives. We’ve put Michigan in a leadership position where people are looking at us and wanting to be where we are. And yet people are dropping their guard."

The governor told Skubick "the vast majority of people I still think are doing the right thing. But my concern is that if people drop their guard, we will see outbreaks of COVID-19. ... And we know that COVID-19 is still here and that’s why every one of us has to be smart and continue to take to this seriously."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Michigan Economic Recovery Council detailed these potential regions for making decisions on reopening the state's economy on Monday, April 27, 2020.

On Tuesday, Michigan officials reported 11 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus, and the state's death toll stands at 6,109.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also reported 221 new COVID cases and 19 new probable cases Tuesday. The state's cumulative total is 68,197 COVID cases when counting about 6,567 presumptive cases.

Deaths tied to COVID-19 have been declining for eight weeks in Michigan. Last week, the state confirmed 76 COVID deaths total, the fewest since March 15-21, the first week there were deaths linked to the virus in Michigan. 

Michigan has also seen the number of new COVID cases trending down, but the daily average for the last seven days is up to 192 a day, compared with 138 a day for the previous seven-day period, according to state data.

A national nonprofit monitoring the pandemic's spread said last week that Michigan is one of three states "on track to contain" the novel coronavirus.

But revised modeling by researchers at the University of Washington this month predicts that Michigan will see the fourth most COVID-19 deaths nationally this fall during a potential second wave of infections.

Michigan ranks ninth in the nation among the states with the most cases of COVID-19 and fifth for the most COVID deaths, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University. 

As of June 19, 49,290 people have recovered from the virus, according to state data.