Whitmer's State of the State address going virtual Jan. 26

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

The 2022 State of the State address will go virtual for the second straight year amid record high COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Michigan. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the format and statewide broadcast for the Jan. 26 address in a Monday statement with House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell. 

The address, Whitmer's third since taking office, follows a less-than-30-minute virtual address last year in which the Democratic governor urged the GOP-led Legislature to find common ground with her after months of debate over the governor's handling of COVID-19. During that virtual address, Whitmer spoke from her Capitol office.

“The State of the State address is a tradition rooted in history. It is an opportunity for Michiganders to hear about the work of state government and see Republicans and Democrats come together to focus on the issues that will put Michigan families, communities and small businesses first," Whitmer and Wentworth said in a statement.

"This year, we’ve agreed that the State of the State address should once again be held remotely to ensure everyone can safely partake in this time-honored event.” 

Usually, Michigan governors give the annual State of the State address before lawmakers during a joint session of the House and Senate. Michigan archivists believed 2021 marked the first time the State of the State was not delivered in person before the Legislature. 

On Friday, Michigan added 40,692 cases over two days, averaging 20,346 cases each day over the two days. It was followed Monday by the addition of 44,524 confirmed cases of COVID-19 over three days for an average of 14,841 daily cases.

But the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also reported Monday a new pandemic record was set when 4,580 adults were hospitalized with confirmed infections. The state's prior peak was 4,518 adult hospitalizations on Dec. 13. 

The rising numbers are believed to be linked to a surge in the highly contagious omicron variant, the first cases of which were found in Michigan last month. There were 486 such variant cases on Monday, according to the state health department, up from 289 cases on Friday. But experts say that a greater number of people are likely infected because only a small percentage of samples of the virus are sequenced. 

The Legislature found some common ground with the governor late last year when they allocated some of the remaining federal COVID relief funds and signed into law a new business incentive program. 

About $7 billion in COVID-19 federal relief dollars have yet to be allocated by the Legislature and will likely be negotiated in the coming months. 

Michigan also has federal infrastructure dollars headed its way, although it's not immediately clear how much money the state will receive. 

The White House has estimated that Michigan get at least $8 billion in federal funding over five years for highway and bridge projects. That total includes $7.3 billion from federal highway programs and $563 million for bridge replacement and repairs, according to estimates based on transportation funding formulas. 

Michigan could also see an additional $1 billion over five years to improve public transit options, the White House has estimated.

Staff Writer Sarah Rahal contributed.