Gov. Whitmer: Not 'actively considering' restrictions amid rising COVID-19 cases

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says her administration is not "actively considering" instituting new restrictions to stem jumps in COVID-19 infections in Michigan.

Whitmer made the comment during an interview at the Michigan Chronicle's Pancakes & Politics event Thursday morning, a day after the Michigan Health & Hospital Association said hospitalizations among adults who haven't received their COVID-19 vaccines are increasing at an "alarming rate."

WWJ's Vickie Thomas, who helped moderate the Pancakes & Politics event, asked the governor if it was possible that new restrictions would be implemented to combat the rising numbers.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a press conference regarding COVID-19 and the continued efforts to slow the spread of the virus, Tuesday, February 9, 2021. At right is Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.

"It's not something that we're actively considering right now," Whitmer responded. "But I also learned, in this moment, if so many people drop their guard that the numbers dramatically continue to increase, perhaps that's a tool we might need to use. But I am hoping that it's not."

Last week, Michigan reported 17,374 new cases of the virus, a 10-week high. As of Monday, the state reported 1,404 adults hospitalized with confirmed cases of the virus, a 50% increase from a week earlier.

Nationally, Michigan now ranks behind only New York City and New Jersey for new COVID-19 cases per population over the last seven days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Michigan has experienced increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations, infections and the percentage of tests that are positive over the last four weeks. The changing metrics have spurred concerns among public health experts. On Thursday, Whitmer said people are tired of the pandemic and starting to drop their guards. That's one reason the case rates are increasing, the governor said.

Michigan reported its first COVID-19 cases on March 10, 2020.

"The difference between where we were a year ago and now is we know a mask is the best thing that you can do, social distancing," Whitmer said. "We have access to vaccines now."

She added, "We've got to watch these numbers. We'll continue to do that. And I'll continue to listen to Dr. (Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive) and our public health experts."

As of Wednesday, 2.4 million Michigan residents had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 1.3 million residents, about 17% of the adult population, had received their complete vaccination.

Whitmer's administration has been easing restrictions on gatherings and businesses since January after a late 2020 surge in cases subsided. Orders from the Department of Health and Human Services allowed restaurants to reopen indoor dining on Feb. 1, the governor pushed for schools to offer in-person learning by March 1 and the department eased restrictions on public gatherings on March 5.