Gov. Whitmer says Thanksgiving is basically canceled as COVID-19 cases explode in Michigan

click to enlarge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. - State of Michigan
State of Michigan
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held a grim press conference on Thursday as a second wave of coronavirus cases surges across the state, dwarfing the previous peak in the spring.

"I'm not going to sugarcoat this," she said. "We are in the worst part of this pandemic to date. This is the moment that medical experts have been warning us about and dreading since the beginning of this pandemic."

As of Thursday, the state had recorded a total of 236,225 cases and 7,811 total deaths due to COVID-19, with an overall case rate of 416 cases per million and positivity rate of 10.8%.

The coronavirus is rapidly spreading across the United States, with more than 100,000 cases and more than 1,000 deaths recorded each day — making the U.S. the top coronavirus hotspot in the world.

"Our numbers are increasing rapidly," said Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun, the state's chief medical official. "I'm sure that right now, as I'm speaking, the numbers are even higher than what I just announced."

Whitmer said that the virus is now spreading in every part of the state, with rural communities getting hit the hardest.

"I just want [this] to sink in for a second," Whitmer said. "Try to imagine ten 737 airplanes crashing to the ground every single day. That's what we're facing: a 9/11 every three days."

She added, "Unless we get our act together right now, we could be hitting our daily peak of deaths in Michigan come Christmas."

Speaking of the holidays, Whitmer strongly advised Michiganders cancel large Thanksgiving gatherings this year due to the rapid community spread of the virus, and Khaldun advised people not travel to see their families or friends this year.

"Thanksgiving is going to look different this year. It just has to," Whitmer said. "Medical experts across the country strongly recommend that we do not host Thanksgiving with people from outside of our own households. I know this will be hard, but we cannot afford for people to head to a family member's, friend's, or loved one's house for Thanksgiving, contract the virus, and bring it back to their communities and their homes."

Whitmer said her family's Thanksgiving gatherings usually include four or five households, but she said they aren't planning on doing that this year.

"The more people we have in our homes, talking, eating, drinking, hugging, and yelling at the Lions, the higher the risk of catching or spreading this virus, and the higher the risk there is that the people we love will die," she said.

Whitmer suggested families instead organize a video call to celebrate, or share photos with each other later.

"The best way to show your loved ones that you care about them this year is to do everything in your power to protect them during this pandemic," she said.

"The winter holidays simply cannot be the same this year," Khaldun said. "This is not the time to travel for the holidays. It will be hard, but my family has canceled all holiday gatherings."

Khaldun said if people must travel, they should do everything they can do to prevent transmission of the virus before they visit. That means no social gatherings or leaving your home unless you absolutely have to for 14 days before traveling, wearing a mask in public, and keeping six feet of distance from others.

"And when you do travel — again, if you travel, and I recommend you do not — you should not have physical contact with people who you don't already live with," she said. "I know you may want to hug your extended family, but you could have the virus and you could spread it to them."

Khaldun also warned of a "false sense of security" that can come from a negative test result before attending a gathering.

"A test only tells you about your virus level on the day that you had your sample taken," she said. "No test is perfect, and it can take up to 14 days after being exposed to the virus to come down with symptoms or for a test to be positive. So please do not have a false sense of security about one negative test before you travel."

Whitmer said she believed the recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling, which struck down her emergency powers at the beginning of October, was "confusing," but said it's up to Michiganders to change their behavior to curb the spread of the virus.

Whitmer reinforced that people should wear a mask in public, practice social distancing, wash their hands frequently, and get a flu shot.

"None of us needs a judge or executive order to make smart decisions for ourselves and our families," she said. "There are real concrete steps that we can all take to get this virus under control and to protect our families and frontline workers and our small businesses."

Using a separate law created after the Spanish Flu of 1918, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reinstated many of the orders struck down by the Supreme Court's ruling, such as mandatory mask-wearing in public.

"These orders have the force of law," she said. "These are epidemic powers and were not impacted by the court's decision."

Khaldun also advised people download the new MI COVID Alert contact tracing smartphone app, and reminded that while tests were reserved for only high-risk people in the spring, now anyone who wants a test can get one. You can find out where you can get a free test here.

"If you are smart now, you may be able to have a nice holiday with your loved ones alive at this time next year," Khaldun said.

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Lee DeVito

Leyland “Lee” DeVito is the editor in chief of Detroit Metro Times since 2016. His writing has also been published in CREEM, VICE, In These Times, and New City. He once asked porn star Stormy Daniels to spank him with an issue of Metro Times. She obliged.

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