University of Michigan Study: Michigan’s ‘Pause to Save Lives’ Worked

Health regulations promoted by Governor Gretchen Whitmer and MDHHS prevented over 100,000 COVID-19 infections and thousands of deaths.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)  “Pause to Save Lives” did exactly that – save lives — according to a University of Michigan study.

Moving high schools and colleges to online-only instruction, along with shutting down entertainment venues and indoor dining likely prevented over 100,000 COVID-19 infections and 2,800 deaths.

U of M Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Marisa Eisenberg, says the states with more stringent regulations did a better job of handling the pandemic.

“What we found was that states that had a higher average government response index, which is this sort of measure of government action in response to COVID, did better in terms of having lower total numbers of cases over the holiday season,” says Eisenberg.

According to the study, Indiana had the most-lax regulations and had the highest number of infections.

“We (Michigan) weren’t the most stringent when it came to responding to the pandemic,” Eisenberg says, “but we had one of the strongest government responses. And we also had the lowest case count of all the Midwestern states that we looked at.”

University of Michigan School of Public Health
University of Michigan School of Public Health

A dramatic reduction in the number of cases from the November peak has led to calls to reopen restaurants and winter high school sports. The group ‘Let Them Play Michigan’ held a rally at the state capitol in Lansing over the weekend asking legislators and the governor to restart athletics. 

With the emergence of the new more-infectious B.1.1.7 strain of the coronavirus, health officials are wary. 

“If we want to keep it contained, we really are sort of in a race between cases that we stop now,” Eisenberg says, “because the vaccines are coming, we really kind of want to hold the line.”

“We want to keep case counts low and slow transmission as much as we can so that we can get as many people vaccinated, and get closer to population immunity.”

Despite this, restaurants and bars in Michigan can reopen to 25% capacity today.

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  • Russ McNamara
    Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He's been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.