Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered all U.S. and Michigan flags be flown at half-staff throughout the state indefinitely beginning Friday to honor those who have lost their lives to COVID-19.

“The coronavirus pandemic has had devastating impacts on families across our state,” Whitmer said. “I’m directing flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of those we have lost to this awful virus. The flags lowered will serve to remind us all that every life lost is a story and legacy of a loved one gone too soon.”

Michigan had 22,783 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state Friday, and 1,281 people have died from the virus.

Of the confirmed cases, 828 are in Genesee County, and 57 people in the county have died from the virus.

During a press conference Thursday, Whitmer humanized the data.

“These are not just numbers on a screen, these are husbands and wives and daughters and sons and grandparents who’ve lost a battle with a disease that is incredibly aggressive and contagious and deadly,” Whitmer said. “My heart aches for every one of them.”

Over 40% of deaths caused by COVID-19 in Michigan have been among African Americans, despite the group making up only 14% of the state’s population.

Whitmer created a task force Thursday that will recommend ways to address these racial disparities.

Whitmer also extended Michigan’s stay-at-home order through April 30 on Thursday to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

Andrew Roth is a reporter and photographer covering politics and policy in Michigan, as well technology, culture and their convergence. Andrew is a journalism student at Michigan State University and first...