/Whitmer doesn’t rule out extension of partial shutdown, discourages people from defying orders – mlive.com

Whitmer doesn’t rule out extension of partial shutdown, discourages people from defying orders – mlive.com


It’s too early to say if Michigan’s partial shutdown of select entertainment venues, in-person learning at high schools and colleges and indoor dining at restaurants will be extended beyond Dec. 8 or not, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a Tuesday, Dec. 1 news conference.

Whitmer was peppered with questions Tuesday about the three-week “pause” that started Nov. 18, and what it will take for state officials to decide against an extension.

“At this point in time, it’s really too early to say precisely where we will be in a few days, much less next week,” Whitmer said. “But I think it’s important for people to know, we’ve not predetermined anything.”

A look at November numbers in Michigan’s coronavirus surge: How things went from bad to worse

While Whitmer no longer has power to issue executive orders, state law allows Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon to “prohibit the gathering of people” and “establish procedures” during an epidemic, in the name of public health.

This three-week partial shutdown comes from Gordon – who wasn’t part of Tuesday’s news conference.

Two of the top data points state officials are considering are the percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive and the amount of bed space and capacity at hospitals.

As of Tuesday, Michigan had 4,289 people hospitalized who are confirmed or suspected of having COVID-19. That’s up from Nov. 18 – when the shutdown began – when 3,792 people were hospitalized.

Among those hospitalized on Nov. 18, 809 were in the ICU and 396 were on ventilators. As of Tuesday, there were 874 COVID-related cases in the ICU and 526 people on ventilators.

On Nov. 18, 12.55% of tests in Michigan came back positive. On Monday, 14.72% came back positive, the highest it’s been since April.

“I would anticipate early next week we’ll have a much better idea of what this pause has meant (and) if people have taken it seriously and done their part,” Whitmer said. “If everyone does their part, we’ll see these numbers drop.”

Whitmer’s team is fighting pushback on the restrictions – specifically for indoor dining at restaurants – on multiple fronts. The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association took the case to federal court. A judge declined to immediately remove the ban two weeks ago but is reconsidering the merits after a hearing on Monday.

Additionally, a handful of restaurants have reopened in defiance of the order. Michigan has suspended three liquor licenses and issued more fines, in response.

The owners of Andiamo restaurants in metro Detroit are gathering a coalition of restaurant owners to stand up against the ban and reopen Dec. 9 regardless of if the order is extended. Whitmer was asked about that on Tuesday.

“I don’t want (restaurant owners) to have to make tough, awful decisions that could jeopardize their workforce and their customers,” Whitmer said.

That’s why Whitmer said she’s pushing for the Legislature to approve a $100 million relief bill to help restaurants and other businesses get through the pandemic. She’s also repeatedly urged Congress to provide federal funds to help.

“I would discourage people from willfully breaking the law – always, no matter what the law is, on any subject I would strongly discourage that,” Whitmer said. “But I think in this moment, we need to give one another a little empathy and a little bit of grace and recognize the gravity of this situation.”

Restaurants were targeted by the latest order because they check the main boxes for increased risk – being indoors, gathering multiple households for a long period of time without masks. Even at 10% capacity, there’s risk because of how many households are coming together, Whitmer said.

As COVID fatigue sets in, Whitmer is urging people to keep following precautions. The light at the end of the tunnel – the vaccine – is nearing, and people need to keep COVID’s destruction in perspective, she said.

More than 9,300 Michiganders have died from COVID-19 since March.

“When September 11th happened, the whole world stopped. We helped one another. We saw the humanity in one another and we stepped in to do our part,” Whitmer said. “We forever changed the way we live and how we travel, because that’s how we keep one another safe. We’ve had over three 9/11s here in Michigan in the last 10 months. It’s devastated families.”

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