DETROIT – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer stayed tight lipped Monday about whether the majority of the state will move into the next phase of reopening by the holiday weekend and her plan for schools in the fall, citing the recent rise in cases.
“If we want to have a shot at moving into phase five in these other regions, we have to keep our numbers low and right now we are seeing some growth,” she said.
For weeks much of the state has waited for the go-ahead from state officials and Whitmer to move into phase five of the state’s six phase reopening plan.
Phase five includes the reopening of businesses such as gyms and theaters. Last week a federal judge ruled gyms should be allowed to reopen during phase four but that ruling was appealed by Whitmer and overruled.
But in recent days the state has seen an increase in cases rising to more than 230 Monday, bringing the total number of cases above 63,000.
Whitmer is also expected to reveal her plan for K-12 schools on Tuesday. A concern for many parents and educators, many who said earlier this month they didn’t think their districts would be ready for in person classes come the fall.
“We will see a lot more about how we keep our kids safe as we reengage,” Whitmer said. “It’s not just our kids, its their families, the educators and their families as well.”
But as cases rise here in Michigan, there have also been large outbreaks in states like Florida and Texas, which were among the first to ease stay at home orders. When asked if the governor felt vindicated by the rise in cases in the early open states, she didn’t answer explicitly.
“We’ve made a tremendous sacrifice to push this curve down. We’ve saved thousands of lives and put Michigan in a place where we’re much stronger than a lot of other states in the nation,” she said adding the biggest concern is a slide backwards in Michigan.
She also said she knew governors from recently hard hit states have been reaching out to other states for help and guidance but said she was not aware of any of them contacting Michigan.
She also addressed missteps in the early days of the pandemic, including allowing a rally of former vice president Joe Biden, attended by nearly 2,000 people, to continue in early March despite learning of the potential disaster looming from the coronavirus, which had already been found in neighboring states.
“If we had all of the knowledge we have today, there are various points where we would have made different decisions. At that point in time there was no coronavirus positive tests in Michigan,” she said saying there also likely wouldn’t have been broad public support to cancel the rally at that point in time.
“I can issue all the executive orders in the world but they don’t mean anything if people of our state don’t believe it’s important to follow it.”
Currently Whitmer has issued 133 executive orders during the pandemic. Despite vocal opposition to her stay at home order, public opinion has largely remained around 60% in favor of the order.
As cases spike across the country, at home there have been calls for stricter punishments for bars and restaurants not following social distancing have been mounting. In east Lansing more than 85 cases have been linked to a local restaurant, Harper’s Bar, which the governor called the worst kind of environment for the spread of the virus.
“This is absolutely a lesson for us all. Everyone of us has to be smart. It can’t just be some generations. It can’t just be some parts of the state. It can’t just be some people of a certain political persuasion. Every one of us needs to do our part.”