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Whitmer rejects rumors of shutdown: 'We are not there'

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday that Michigan is not to the point where a shutdown is needed, but indicated a decision may depend on residents' compliance with federal health recommendations and state testing results. 

"...We are not there," Whitmer said during a press conference at the State Emergency Operations Center. 

The governor also pushed back on social media rumors about the possibility of a shutdown, inflamed by her decision to activate the National Guard. Whitmer emphasized the guard's work is a "humanitarian mission" of delivering food and goods to help those affected. 

"I am not calling for martial law," Whitmer said. "That is a rumor and that is false and it is dangerous for people to foment fear.”

Earlier in the day, she sounded a bit more open to a stay-at-home order for Michigan than she did just a day ago, telling CNN that she was talking with other states with such orders "to see if that's something we need to do here in Michigan."

The governor was asked why she hadn't instituted a stay-home order like the governors of New York and California to help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

Whitmer replied that she's been in communication with those states to learn what went into their decision-making. 

"We've been on the front edge of being aggressive, and we're going to continue to be. And we're always mindful of how important it is to be swift about it, as well, so we're looking at all of these developments," Whitmer told CNN's Jake Tapper on Friday afternoon.

"The information is changing literally by the minute. And I would anticipate additional orders coming out of my office and in the minutes, hours and days ahead."

Whitmer's spokeswoman, Tiffany Brown, said the governor's thinking on a shutdown had not changed since she told The Detroit News Thursday that she was not considering ordering residents to shelter in place in the near future.

"I am not. I want to be very clear about that. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about that lately,” Whitmer said in a Thursday interview.

“People should look to see what we are doing from state government, from the executive office and from me personally and, at this juncture, no there is nothing of the sort.”

Whitmer struck a similar tone Friday morning on WWJ radio

"I think it's incredibly dangerous for people to speculate and to foment fear," Whitmer said.

"That's not something we are contemplating at this time in Michigan, recognizing that things are moving swiftly and I'm trying to make sure we're in an aggressive stance but that is not something we're pursuing right now." 

In a Friday appearance on MSNBC, Whitmer was asked again about why she hadn't issued a shutdown order like other governors. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on MSNBC speaking about coronavirus measures.

“We are moving quickly. This is an evolving crisis that we are confronting. We knew it was inevitable that we would be confronting it, but of course we’ve got a lot of stressors that states are dealing with,” she said.

“It’s important that we are learning from one another, we’re sharing medical information that we have available to us, we’re listening to experts,” the governor added.

“At this juncture, we’re taking some aggressive steps to mitigate community spread and we are continually evaluating what is next.”

The first-term governor did not say Michigan is on a path to a stay-home order. 

“I think that it’s really important that every decision we make is thought out. That we’re moving swiftly but always focused on what is in the best interest and the health of people in our state," Whitmer said. 

The governor also said closing K-12 schools and shutting down bars and restaurants was the right thing to do.

The governor reiterated that there aren’t enough COVID-19 tests and the federal government hasn’t been prepared the way it should have been. Tests, she said, need to be prioritized because there are not enough.

She implored young people to take the threat of coronavirus seriously, especially those without symptoms who may be out unknowingly exposing others to the virus.

mburke@detroitnews.com