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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday she was “sounding the alarm bell” as Michigan reached a new peak in daily COVID-19 cases, topping where the state was in April, near the start of the pandemic when the state had a stay-at-home order.
Whitmer, asked about the possibility of strict restrictions like a stay-at-home order being implemented again, said she didn’t want to “create a lot of anxiety” but said that it depends on everyone doing their part to slow the spread of the virus.
“I’m just going to be frank: our numbers are not good. They’re moving in the wrong direction,” Whitmer said. “We are at a dangerous moment where there’s the possibility of it just becoming community spread that becomes out of control. We’re seeing that in a lot of our neighboring states. That’s what we’re trying to avoid.”
Daily case rates and hospitalizations have both been surging in the state in recent weeks, and the state will likely exceed 150,000 total confirmed cases of the virus this week.
Health officials have previously warned that a convergence of flu season with a second wave of COVID-19 infections could overwhelm hospital systems.
Michigan had 141,392 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state as of Tuesday, and 7,053 people have died from the virus.
Of the confirmed cases, 5,122 are in Genesee County, and 301 people in the county have died from the virus.
Whitmer said her administration is “watching these numbers very closely,” but said the coming weeks will be critical in informing the state’s next steps to respond.
“At this point, I don’t think that I can tell you precisely what the next week or the next two weeks look like. It depends on individuals right now rising to the challenge,” Whitmer said. “At this juncture, it’s just crucial that we all do our part. Because if you want your kids to have the prospect of in person learning, if you want to stay back at work, if you want to keep your business open or make sure that businesses stay open, every one of us has to do our part.”
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said that includes things like wearing a mask, social distancing and washing your hands.
But Khaldun also said people should avoid indoor activities like dining in a restaurant or visiting a movie theater, even though those businesses have been allowed to reopen.
“Just because something is permitted, it does not mean that it is a good idea to do it,” Khaldun said. “If you have a choice between dining in a restaurant or getting takeout, strongly consider getting takeout. If you have a choice between going to the movies or renting one at home, strongly consider renting one at home.”
Khaldun recommended that anyone who does dine in a restaurant keep their masks on when they’re not putting food in their mouth and limit talking to reduce the number of respiratory droplets, which can spread COVID-19.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday also released guidance on holiday travel, encouraging Michigan residents to consider replacing in-person holiday celebrations with virtual festivities.
If an in-person celebration is held, the health department says it should be done outside if possible, should not be a potluck gathering, and should have one person serve all shareable food.
The gathering would also have to adhere to the state’s gathering limits and mask requirements.
The Michigan Supreme Court on Oct. 2 invalidated several executive orders Whitmer had signed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, ruling that the underlying 1945 emergency powers law from which they drew authority was unconstitutional.
But several of those restrictions – like the mask mandate, capacity limits on businesses and limits on gathering sizes – have been reinstated through emergency orders issued by the state’s health and labor departments.
Some of Whitmer’s other orders – like those to extend unemployment benefits and allow local governments to meet virtually – were codified by the Legislature last week.
“At the end of the day, you don’t need an executive order or a court to know what it is we need to do in this moment,” Whitmer said. “The good news is that we know what it’s going to take. We’ve done this. We crushed the curve in the spring.”