Whitmer Defends Decisions on Pace of Reopening and Nursing Homes

On Wednesday, the state reported the largest number of new COVID-19 cases since Jan. 9. But it also reported zero new deaths.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is defending the speed at which the state has reopened gathering places such as restaurants, schools and youth sports. 

“We knew that by taking restaurants back online for indoor dining, that we would see enhanced likelihood of spread, despite all the best efforts of many of our restaurateurs. That is, of course, the case.” — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Michigan is seeing its biggest surge in months, reporting 3,164 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday. That’s the largest number of new cases in a single day since Jan. 9. But the state also reported zero new deaths — the first time that has happened since August. 

Listen: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses surge in cases, ramped-up vaccination efforts and nursing home deaths.


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says her administration knew there was a chance cases could rise when it decided to relax restrictions on indoor dining, youth sports and other activities. 

“We knew that by taking restaurants back online for indoor dining, that we would see enhanced likelihood of spread, despite all the best efforts of many of our restaurateurs. That is, of course, the case. We know that reengaging sports would create the possibility of additional spread; we have seen some of that happen as well.”

But Whitmer says the state is in “a much stronger position” to fight the virus, noting the deployment of three highly effective vaccines and widespread mask wearing.

“And that’s why I think it’s a balance,” the governor says. “There’s no such thing as the perfect balance, but reengaging with this additional knowledge and these additional tools, I think was what informed our decisions. And certainly it’s incumbent on all of us to do our part. If we do, we can keep this from spreading too greatly and stay reengaged.”

State of Michigan
State of Michigan

Whitmer was speaking just before she spoke at the official opening of the new regional mass vaccination site at Ford Field being operated by FEMA along with Grand Rapids-based retailer Meijer, Henry Ford Health System, the Detroit Lions, the City of Detroit and Wayne County. She says it’s a significant development in Michigan’s efforts to inoculate the vast majority of its 10 million residents.

“We’ve made incredible strides on the vaccination front,” says Whitmer. “We are moving swiftly with this new FEMA site at Ford Field. We’re going to be able to do 6,000 shots a day for eight weeks … on top of what we’re already being allocated. So we’ve got a real opportunity. But time is of the essence. And that’s why we’re trying to vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible before too many variants take hold here in Michigan. And we already do have two of them.”

The governor has also been defending her early actions related to nursing home patients against Republican accusations that her policies exacerbated nursing home deaths in Michigan. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel this week declined to launch an investigation into the matter, citing a lack of evidence to warrant a criminal probe.

Critics have not provided any evidence that state policies directly led to additional deaths of nursing home patients, and a study from the University of Michigan also did not find any evidence of spread inside nursing homes that can be directly attributed to the Whitmer administration’s policies.

“If you went back in a time machine and knew everything you knew about the virus today, would you do some things differently? Yes, of course,” says Whitmer of her decisions early in the pandemic related to nursing homes. “But considering the little information we had about this novel virus, the work that we did saved lives. And I think that it’s been a hard time for all, but we’ve really mitigated a lot of loss that could have happened.”

When asked whether her administration will look into whether there have been appropriate inspections of nursing home “hubs,” Whitmer says “absolutely.”

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