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Whitmer on rising COVID-19 cases: 'We’ve got to tighten things up'

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told CNN's "Cuomo Prime Time" on Friday night that she was tightening restrictions again in parts of Michigan after a rise in COVID-19 cases to "nip this in the bud."

She told host Chris Cuomo that Michigan had, about two months ago, been among the few in the United States in line to contain the virus but since then, some residents have been lax in efforts to control the spread "and we’ve seen our numbers climb."

"I'm tying to nip this in the bud so we don’t have to contemplate going back to a shutdown or back a phase in our re-engagement plan," she said.

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Wednesday, the governor reimposed limits in the Upper Peninsula and 17 counties in northern Michigan, capping indoor gatherings at 10 people and closing indoor bars where alcohol accounts for 70% of sales — restrictions already in force in the southern part of the state.

Michigan confirmed eight coronavirus deaths Friday and 734 new cases of COVID-19.  The seven-day average of new cases grew to 726 through Friday, compared with an average of 577 a day for the previous seven-day period. The state's overall case tally reached 81,621 and the death count hit 6,199, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

State officials have recently cautioned about the rising cases in Michigan and urged residents to wear masks and practice social distancing so schools can reopen to in-person instruction in the fall.

"If want to have any shot of getting our kids safely back in school ... our actions today are going to dictate whether or not that’s possible," Whitmer told Cuomo. "So that’s why we’ve got to tighten things up now."

When asked about the state's response in handling the pandemic, the governor said her administration is "letting the science and the facts dictate the decision making."

"When we see our numbers climb and we see the rate of positive cases climb, we’re doing more testing than ever. And that’s a good thing," she said. "But we do see growth all across the state. And that’s why it’s really important that we take action so we try to avoid this increase."

Whitmer also addressed the Clare County sheriff's Facebook post this week criticizing what he called inconsistencies in her executive orders, and telling state officials to "stay in LANSING, and we will do what we will in FREE MICHIGAN!!"

"It’s not popular with some, we know this," she said, but "the vast majority of people in this state are taking this seriously. They’re doing the right thing."

Whitmer added: "I'm not going to be bullied into making decisions that I know jeopardize lives of the people that I serve. And so we’re going to stay tethered to the science. We’re going to make decisions that are going to save people’s lives and hopefully keep this economy engaged. And it's on all of us. Every one of us has a role to play. And if we drop our guard, then we’re going to jeopardize all of the sacrifice that we’ve made to get us into this strong position."