Whitmer ups vaccine goal, sees 'push and pull' on COVID restrictions

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is increasing Michigan's daily goal for COVID-19 vaccinations as the numbers of hospitalizations tied to the virus and new infections continue to climb in the state.

On Wednesday morning, the Democratic governor acknowledged a "push and pull" when asked on CNN whether she would implement new restrictions to stem the spread of COVID-19 but said the state's goal is increasing from 50,000 shots administered per day to 100,000 shots administered per day.

The announcement came a day after President Joe Biden's administration boosted Michigan's vaccine allocation for next week and Michigan became the top state in the country for new COVID-19 cases per population over the last week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Michigan is making great strides as our rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines continues ramping up," Whitmer said in a press release. "The safe, effective vaccines are one of the best ways to protect you and your family from coronavirus, and they are essential to getting our country back to normal so we can hug our families, get back to work, send our kids to school, and get together again."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

For 38 days, the state has met or exceeded its original goal of administering 50,000 vaccinations per day, Whitmer's office said. As of Monday, 2.7 million Michigan residents, 33% of the adult population, had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 1.6 million residents, 20% of the adult population, had received their full vaccination.

Meanwhile, Michigan's new case rates and the percentage of tests bringing positive results have been steadily climbing for five weeks after declining in January and early February. Michigan now ranks behind only New York City for new cases per population over the last seven days, according to the tracking by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Last week, the state reported 27,758 new cases, a 14-week high, and an 11.3% positivity rate, a 15-week high.

During the appearance on CNN Wednesday, the governor attributed the increasing numbers to variants that spread more quickly from person to person and "more activity" in Michigan.

"We haven’t abandoned our protocols. It’s just that we’ve got a higher proportion of variants,” Whitmer said. "Part of that is people getting tired. There’s fatigue. There’s variants. And there’s more travel. And that’s some of what the story is here for sure."

In the last two months, Whitmer's administration has eased restrictions on restaurants, public gatherings and stadiums and encouraged all schools to offer in-person instruction. On CNN, the governor said officials know a lot more about the virus than they did previously and now have vaccines to help combat the pandemic.

"We have to keep watching these numbers," Whitmer said. "We have to keep doing our part, masking up, washing our hands, social distancing."

Asked if it's possible her administration will reimplement restrictions that had been lifted amid the rising number of hospitalizations, Whitmer said a restaurant owner asked her Tuesday to lift the current 10 p.m. curfew on eateries for the University of Michigan basketball game on Tuesday night.

"There’s a lot of push and pull," Whitmer said. "And what we need to do is double down on our masking and get more people vaccinated."

On Monday, the state reported 2,144 adults were hospitalized with the coronavirus, a 53% jump from a week earlier when there were 1,404 hospitalizations.