MICHIGAN - Yesterday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer hosted a press conference to provide an update to the State’s response efforts to COVID-19. She was joined by Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.
The biggest point that was discussed was the wearing of masks. Whitmer claimed that Michigan is now at a turning point in the fight against COVID-19. She said that daily case counts have now exceeded 20 cases per million in the Detroit, Kalamazoo, Saginaw, Jackson, and Upper Peninsula regions. They also exceed 40 cases per million in the Grand Rapids region. She said that wearing masks can help to get these numbers under control. Whitmer also claimed that wearing a mask can reduce the spread of COVID-19 by 70%. She said that by wearing a mask, we can put Michigan in a safe position for students to return in the fall and for our economy to stay engaged.
Whitmer mentioned that wearing a mask could help our economy as well. She talked about a study conducted by Goldman Sachs that found that a national mask mandate could save the U.S. from a 5% hit to our GDP. However, she said that if we do not mask up, cases could rise, and we would be forced to close more businesses like auto manufacturing plants.
Last Friday, Whitmer signed an executive order that requires people to wear masks in indoor public places and face coverings in outdoor crowded areas. It also allows for businesses to refuse entry or service to patrons who refuse to wear some kind of face covering with limited exceptions.
Whitmer mentioned that all of this is to protect our lives and to help people begin to return to normal.
“We got to be in the business of saving lives. That’s what we’re trying to do here,” she said. “So for the sake of our neighbors, and for our loved ones, and for our communities, for our heroes on the frontline, for kids that want to return to school in the fall, for our businesses that want to stay open or have the chance to open, it is incumbent on all Michiganders to do their part and to step up and mask up so that we can fight this virus.”
To help business impacted by COVID-19, Whitmer signed into law a Bipartisan Supplemental Budget that directs $100 million from the federal CARES Act to be given out as grants through the Michigan Small Business Restart Program. Each grant awarded will be up to $20,000 and given to small businesses and non-profits who have lost income because of the virus. The program went live at 9:00 am yesterday morning. Applications can be submitted at michiganbusiness.org/restart. 30% of these grants will be awarded to minority, women, and veteran owned businesses. There is also a Michigan Agricultural Safety Program that went live yesterday morning to help farmers and food processors. This program will give $15 million out as grants and applications can be found at michiganbusiness.org/agsaftey. These grants will aid with access to PPE, testing equipment, worker training, and housing solutions to ensure social distancing. The application window for the programs close on August 5th.
There has also been an increase in testing in order to help fight COVID-19. According to Dr. Khaldun, the number of tests have increased to 21,000 per day over the past week. However, the number of those tests coming back as positive has also increased to 3.4%. Dr. Khaldun also said that anyone who wants to get a test can get one and that they are promoting testing in areas that do not have a large number of tests in order to reach as many people as they can. They have also partnered with 211 to help people find a testing center close by. People can also find a testing center by visiting Michigan.gov/coronavirustest. Dr. Khaldun also urged people to pick up their phone if they are contacted by Public Health Staff and to give the information of their close contacts if they test positive. This way those who may have contracted the virus can quarantine and get tested.
Dr. Khaldun also mentioned that the age distribution has also changed. Now, the age group with the most cases is people age 20 to 29. There are also possible long-term health impacts from COVID-19 such as, lung damage, brain damage, psychiatric challenges, and perhaps others that are still unknown.
To help encourage mask wearing, an ad was made featuring coaches from the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. Coaches Suzy Merchant, Kim Arico, and Tom Izzo spoke at the press conference saying that everyone needs to come together and wear a mask. Izzo even talked about how he plans to be a leader in this campaign,
“I thought about leading by example. I kinda hate the phrase,” he said. “Leading by example, means you do the right thing. I think as leaders, we have to bring people with us. We just can’t expect that they’re gunna see what we’re doing. We’ve gotta bring em with us. With that being said, I decided to step out like both Kim and Suzy did and try to be difference makers.”