Whitmer warns of 100 daily coronavirus deaths by year's end without Legislature's help

Nov 5, 2020 at 3:39 pm
click to enlarge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a news conference Thursday. - State of Michigan
State of Michigan
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a news conference Thursday.

As the COVID-19 pandemic worsens, Michigan officials warned Thursday that coronavirus deaths may reach 100 a day by year’s end without the help of the Republican-controlled Legislature.

“We are very concerned with what we’re seeing across the state,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said during a news conference Thursday. “We are really at a tipping point. Our rates are rising exponentially, and we have general community spread.”

Michigan reported 4,101 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the highest daily number since the pandemic began in March.

Cases have been on the rise since the Michigan Supreme Court struck down Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers on Oct. 2, ruling them unconstitutional, as Metro Times reported in this week's cover story.

Although the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reinstated some of the restrictions, such as mandatory mask-wearing and capacity limits for businesses, Whitmer’s administration says the Legislature needs to do more. Too many people are ignoring the orders and failing to take the pandemic seriously, Khaldun said.

On Thursday she called on lawmakers to approve a statewide mask mandate to strengthen the message about the importance of masks, which Whitmer said are “the most important tool we have.”

“At this moment, mask-wearing could not be more critical,” Khaldun said. “Something this important and this critical to saving lives deserves the Legislature’s stamp of approval. It will send a resounding message that every one of us has to do our part.”

The average number of daily coronavirus cases this month is 3,749, more than three times higher than April, when the pandemic reached its first peak. The average number of daily cases was 512 in May, 215 in June, 564 in July, 673 in August, 740 in September, and 1,726 in October.

Khaldun warned that hospitalizations are surging “in every region of the state.” State health officials are closely monitoring hospital capacity to ensure there is space to accommodate the growing demand. In the past month, more than 1,900 people have been hospitalized, “which is almost four times what we saw at the end of August,” she said.

“Hospitalizations are rapidly rising,” Khaldun warned. “About 60% of the hospitalizations are outside of southeast Michigan."

The highest rate of new COVID-19 cases is in the Upper Peninsula.

The number of people testing positive for coronavirus has risen to 7.5%, more than three times the rate over the summer, and the Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo area has the highest positivity rate at 9%.

Whitmer said the Legislature must stop playing politics and take the pandemic seriously.

“Fighting this virus needs to be a team sport, one that requires leaders from both sides of the aisle to keep residents safe,” Whitmer said.

The governor also called on Congress to pass a COVID-19 relief package to help schools, people who lost their jobs, and businesses that are impacted by the virus.

“We have to get the politics out of this public health crisis,” Whitmer said. “It is killing us. It is hurting our economy.”

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