In this Feb. 24, 2021, file photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich. Gov. Whitmer signed at least $2.5 billion in COVID-19 relief spending Tuesday, March 9, 2021, while vetoing $650 million after Michigan Republicans did not negotiate with her and tied other aid to legislation that would have curbed her administration’s authority to order pandemic restrictions.
Michigan Office of the Governor via AP
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urged high schools to temporarily halt in-person learning and residents to restrict their activities as a surge in Covid-19 cases overwhelms the state’s public health system.
The governor also asked schools to voluntarily suspend youth sports games and practices and residents to avoid in-person dining for the next two weeks.
“To be very clear, these are not orders, mandates or requirements,” Whitmer said at a news conference Friday. “A year in, we all know what works and this has to be a team effort. We have to do this together. Lives depend on it.”
Covid-19 infections have surged across the state in recent weeks, approaching the state’s pandemic high set in the fall at an average of 7,226 new cases per day over the last week — a 23% jump over the previous week, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The state health department is currently tracking 991 Covid outbreaks across Michigan, the state’s Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said at the news briefing.
“Because we are seeing so many cases a day, our public health system is overwhelmed. We are not able to get information on many cases, nor are we able to identify their close contacts. We don’t know where all the cases or outbreaks are, and what we do know is likely an undercount,” Khaldun said.
Whitmer and Khaldun urged all Michiganders to wear masks, social distance, wash their hands, stay home and get vaccinated.
The coronavirus surge in Michigan comes as the highly infectious B.1.1.7 variant first identified in the U.K. has become the most common Covid strain in the U.S.
Between January and March, the state saw 291 outbreaks stemming from youth sports teams alone that involved at least 1,091 people, Khaldun said.
“The numbers show young people are not impervious to this virus, as we’ve seen a lot of cases among teens and young adult Michiganders,” Whitmer said.
State health officials have seen 58 outbreaks in restaurant and retail settings alone just in the past week, according to Khaldun.
“Just because something is open, doesn’t mean it is safe or that you should do it,” Khaldun said. “Indoor dining is one of the riskiest things you can do in this pandemic.”
Whitmer also urged the federal government to create a vaccination surge program to deploy Covid-19 vaccine doses to hot spots.
“Today it’s Michigan and the Midwest, tomorrow it could be another section of our country,” Whitmer said.