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Whitmer joins Biden event to outline Michigan's COVID-19 response

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer outlined Thursday Michigan's response to COVID-19’s disparate impact among African Americans in the state as well as precautions taken to avoid a second wave in an online event with former Vice President Joe Biden. 

The Democratic governor and national campaign chair for Biden’s Democratic presidential run said the state’s task force analyzing racial disparities would help to address the issue and develop ways to target the root inequalities leading to higher infection and death rates among blacks. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden held a virtual roundtable with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday, May 14, 2020, to discuss state responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Here in Michigan, 14% of our population is African American and yet over 40% of our COVID-19 deaths are African Americans,” Whitmer said Thursday. “The virus is just simply holding uup a mirror to our country to the disparate outcomes for people of color in America in general.

Biden noted the coronavirus pandemic throughout the nation is causing people to “take the blinders off” on issues such as racial disparity and minimum wage for those now considered “essential.”

“These are the people who are hourly workers who in fact can’t stay home,” Biden said. “They’re the ones risking their lives.”

Whitmer was joined on the live-streamed, nearly 40-minute call by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont who shared the experience from their states. 

President Donald Trump’s campaign arm, Trump Victory, criticized Whitmer’s appearance on the roundtable, calling it another example of her pursuit of the vice presidency. 

“Michigan needs strong leadership now more than ever, so it's time for part-time-governor Whitmer to stop playing politics and get back to work" for Michiganians, said Chris Gustafson, a Trump Victory spokesman.

During the event, Whitmer underscored the need for more federal help, both financially, as states grapple with budget shortfalls, and with continued supplies to contain the virus. 

“We’re anticipating about a $3 billion shortfall in the current fiscal year, it will be bigger than that the next fiscal year,” Whitmer said. “The biggest parts of our budgets are public health, public safety and public education, all of which are absolutely critical in a global pandemic.”

The governor related an example she first related at a Wednesday press conference, where she underscored the need for testing swabs and Michigan’s recent receipt of a federal shipment that only partially met that need. 

"We got 100% foam swabs," she said. "I’m not complaining, but those test kits that use a different kind of swab we can’t use.”

eleblanc@detroitnews.com