Whitmer 'not calling for martial law' as Michigan's COVID-19 cases reach 549

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer struck back Friday at people spreading rumors on social media that she would declare martial law to help stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Whitmer said her efforts to enlist the help of the Michigan Army National Guard are in the pursuit of delivering food and goods to those affected by the coronavirus shutdowns, a "humanitarian mission."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer provides updates on the state's coronavirus plans at a press conference Friday at the State Emergency Operations Center.

"I am not calling for martial law," the governor said at a press conference at the State Emergency Operations Center. "That is a rumor and that is false, and it is dangerous for people to foment fear.”

Across the state, hospital, state and commercial labs are processing about 1,000 coronavirus tests a day, including roughly 300 a day at the state lab in Lansing, said Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.

"Even though we’re able to test now, there’s no question that there are challenges with people being able to find a medical provider to actually perform the sample, and there is a limited number of labs who are able to run those samples," Khaldun said.

It is still too early to predict the number of people who will be infected in Michigan or if the increased numbers in Southeast Michigan are evidence of a hotspot or a product of disproportionate testing there, she said. 

"At this point, however, our testing data will not be able to give us the full picture of the spread of COVID-19 here in Michigan," Khaldun said. 

The address comes the same day the number of confirmed positive COVID-19 cases in Michigan jumped over 60% or by more than 200 cases Friday for a new statewide total of 549, according to the state.

Three people, all Wayne County residents, died in Michigan earlier this week after testing positive from the virus, a Southgate man and two Detroit women. Friday evening, the Oakland County Health Division reported a fourth death, a 50-year-old man. 

The newest results reflect totals as of 10 a.m. Friday. The latest results appeared to drop 10 cases from the prior day from the cumulative total.

Constant adjustments are being made to the cumulative tally because of mistakes, such as a case being entered into the system twice, according to the state. When the mistake is discovered, it is removed from the system, affecting the overall tally, said Bob Wheaton, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 

Of the new cases spread across 11 counties, 92%, or 207 cases, are located within Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties in Metro Detroit. In outstate, there are five new cases in Kent County, two in Livingston County, two in Midland County, three in St. Clair County and two in Washtenaw County. 

Of the cumulative 549 positive cases across 20 counties, 88% of the cases are located within the Metro Detroit counties of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb.

Of the total confirmed positive cases, 51% are men and 49% are women. More than three-quarters of those infected are older than the age of 40. 

Michigan's number of confirmed cases more than tripled Thursday in part due to the inclusion of private lab data for the first time. Friday's results included those from the state lab, hospital labs and commercial labs. 

Henry Ford Health System started Friday releasing the results of its COVID-19 testing in what the Detroit-based health provider called a transparency move.

The growing tally in Michigan comes as health care facilities across the state prepare for more and more of those with underlying conditions who test positive to swell hospital numbers. 

Through executive orders, Whitmer has cleared regulatory hurdles for hospitals to begin adding beds and adding staff to address that increase.

On Friday, she issued an executive order requiring health care facilities and dental offices to halt all non-essential procedures to free up space and resources for treatment of COVID-19 patients.