Whitmer seeks COVID-19 aid from World Health Organization, private partners

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants to reach out directly to the World Health Organization for supplies to assess, treat and protect against the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan. 

Whitmer told MSNBC Wednesday morning that the state is processing more than 100 tests a day, “but that is a pittance compared to what the need is.”

To meet that need, Whitmer has looked beyond the offerings of the federal government, whose aid she has called slow with a need to “ramp up” when it came to the availability of test kits, processing equipment, respirators and protective gear. Even the uptick in private labs testing for the virus has been insufficient to meet the need, she said. 

After reading reports that the U.S. didn’t initially work with the WHO, Whitmer said she decided to reach out. 

“I'm exploring can Michigan pursue that,” Whitmer said. “We're working with our private industry in Michigan to start to manufacture medical gowns and equipment because we're not getting them from the feds, and we think that we can meet some of that need but we are have to explore all of these avenues, because we haven't been able to get the help out of the feds that we need.”

Whitmer told reporters Tuesday that the state also was looking to partner with a Michigan company to mass produce hand sanitizer. 

Those initiatives will be important without immediate aid from the federal government or organizations like WHO, Whitmer said. 

“The people of Michigan need to see results here,” she said. “They need to know that they are protected.”

Whitmer’s appearance on MSNBC Wednesday was at least her fifth time on network television since Monday, appearances where Whitmer has criticized the slow growth in aid from the federal government and drew the Twitter ire of President Donald Trump on Tuesday. 

Michigan has 65 confirmed coronavirus cases through Tuesday afternoon. Of the 57 confirmed cases for which the state has isolation information, 25 people are hospitalized with the illness while 32 are isolating at home.

Dozens more cases are expected to be announced Wednesday afternoon. 

In the week since Michigan confirmed its first coronavirus cases, Whitmer has issued several executive orders to address the pandemic. Starting March 10, she has declared a state of emergency, closed all K-12 schools, limited assemblies to 50 people and closed all bars, restaurants, fitness centers and movie theaters.

On Tuesday, Whitmer issued an executive order allowing hospitals and care facilities to bypass certain state regulations and licensing requirements to increase bed capacity and the number of care providers available.