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Whitmer: Michigan will 'dial back' reopening if COVID-19 cases increase

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday morning that she's "prepared to take heat" again if she imposes new restrictions in reaction to rising COVID-19 cases in Michigan.

"We're going to continue to monitor the numbers," Whitmer said during an interview with CNN's "New Day." "If they keep moving up, we're going to dial back if we have to. And it's the last thing any of us wants.

"I took a lot of heat. When we brought that curve down, we saved thousands of lives," she added at another point in the interview. "I'm prepared to take heat if that's what it's going to take to keep people safe."

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appears on CNN's "New Day" on Tuesday, July 7, 2020.

The Democratic governor did not specify benchmarks for what number of daily coronavirus cases or what percentage increase in infections would prompt new restrictions.

On the same day, the Michigan health department revealed 454 new coronavirus cases and 30 new deaths in its daily report. The COVID-19 cases confirmed Tuesday were the largest daily total for new cases in four days and the third largest daily total since the beginning of June.

Whitmer put in place some of the toughest restrictions nationally to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the spring, spurring lawsuits and protests at the Michigan Capitol. She lifted the stay-at-home order June 1 as cases dropped after peaking in April.

Michigan had the nation's third highest unemployment rate at 21.2% in May, trailing Nevada's 25.3% and Hawaii's 22.6%. The country's jobless rate was 13.3%. 

However, other states, including Florida and Texas, are now experiencing spikes in coronavirus cases, and Michigan has seen slight increases as well. Last week brought a six-week high for new confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan.

Still, hospitalizations and deaths linked to the virus remain low, and the total of new cases last week, 2,524, was less than half of the weekly totals during April.

On Wednesday, before the Fourth of July weekend, Whitmer ordered the closure of all indoor bars as well as most strip and night clubs in much of lower Michigan.

During Tuesday's CNN interview, Whitmer specifically mentioned hair salons, saying the state may have "to disengage on that front" if "we see some outbreaks."

Whitmer allowed hair salons and barber shops throughoutMichigan to reopen on June 15.

"I am not going to be bullied into moving before it's safe," the governor said. "If we have to move back, we're gonna."

The governor also called for a national campaign to encourage people to wear masks to prevent the spread of the virus.

Asked if former Vice President Joe Biden — the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee — should pick a woman of color to be his running mate, Whitmer, who has been floated as a potential running mate, noted the diversity of her cabinet.

Representation matters, said Whitmer, who is a national co-chair of Biden's campaign against President Donald Trump, and "that is an important part of the conversation" about where the country is headed.

cmauger@detroitnews.com