Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a Wednesday press conference.
Photo courtesy of the state of Michigan
Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun discussed COVID-19 updates during a press conference today. Whitmer also announced the new report released by the Michigan Poverty Task Force (launched in 2019) that showcases new initiatives, more developed state policies, and a major financial investment.
The Michigan Poverty Task Force is made up of directors who will inform the governor of different programs and initiatives designed to remove Michigan residents from poverty. Every action must always go through the state government. The task force is also responsible for researching, identifying, recommending, and implementing ideas to help reduce poverty in Michigan. Meetings for the Michigan Poverty Task Force began in January 2020.
Kim Trent, deputy director of Prosperity for Michigan Labor and Economic Opportunity Department or LEO, said during the conference that creating conditions that give every Michigander access to economic opportunity and prosperity is one of the most “sacred duties” of government.
She added that while many state government efforts are already in place helping millions of Michiganders, the Task Force is recommending 35 recommendations organized in five main areas:
- Criminal justice
- Health, safety, housing
For more information on the Task Force click here.
Whitmer said that vaccine rollout in Michigan is “picking up steam.”
“We are making headway of our goal to equitably vaccinate 70% of Michiganders ages 16 and up,” she said during the press conference.
To date, just over 1.65 million Michiganders have been vaccinated.
“That number is growing by the minute,” Whitmer said, adding that the state is ninth nationwide for total vaccines administered. “And we are ramping up our efforts to get second shots in arms while prioritizing our frontline workers, educators, veterans, and elderly population.”
Whitmer said that the state’s goal is to administer 50,000 shots a day, which she said “we’ve hit that goal on several occasions.”
“Once we get enough vaccines we will hit it every day,” she said.
Whitmer also encouraged bipartisanship to pass her MI COVID Recovery plan and her FY2022 budget recommendation to allow Michigan to “ramp-up vaccination efforts” and come out on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic better than ever.
The MI COVID Recovery plan — which would release $5 billion in bipartisan federal aid funds — is centered around distributing vaccines, getting students back on the right educational footing, supporting small businesses, and jumpstarting the economy. The plan includes a call on the Michigan Legislature to permanently extend unemployment benefits from 20 weeks to 26 weeks.
Other important initiatives include funding for local roads, which Whitmer is asking the Michigan legislature to work with her to provide local communities more options to fix local roads and bridges, which has received bipartisan support.
Khaldun said that she continues to be “very encouraged” by the COVID-19 data in the state as case rates continue to decline at 113 cases per million, down 85% from the mid-November peak. Also, 3.9% of tests in the state are coming back positive, and that continues to decline for the past five weeks. Khaldun added that 5.2% of hospital beds are used to treat hospital patients — down 79% from the late fall peak. MDHHS is still tracking outbreaks, which Khaldun said that local health departments are investigating are down 7% from the previous week.
“These are very encouraging trends that have us moving in the right direction,” she said. “We will continue to keep a close eye on the B.1.17 variant that has been identified. We currently have 157 cases of this variant identified across 12 counties in the state. We continue to move forward with a public health response,” Khaldun said of frequent testing, isolating, and quarantining those infected to slow the spread. “Everyone has a role to play in slowing the spread of this new variant as there are possibly new cases that we don’t know about.”
To view the PowerPoint presentation that the governor used during today’s press conference, click here.
To watch the press conference click here.