Lansing, MI – August 17, 2020 – During the Press Conference on Friday, August 14th, Governor Whitmer restated the importance of wearing a mask and staying vigilant during this time, as well as sharing stats on where Michigan stands in terms of number of new cases each week. She also goes on to thank the front line workers. Listen to the August 14th conference or read the transcript below.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer:
Good morning. Today is Friday, August 14th. Thank you for paying attention and tuning in. We appreciate it. I’m joined today by our Lieutenant Governor, Garlin Gilchrist, our Chief Medical Executive, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Robert Gordon, the Director of DHHS, and Jim Hackett, the CEO of Ford. I want to congratulate Jim on his upcoming retirement. I appreciate his leadership and his years of dedication to ensuring that Michigan remains the automotive capital of the world. We’re excited to be here with Ford, and you’ll see why, shortly.
Michiganders have now been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic for over five months. We took one of the most aggressive approaches in the nation against this virus. Because we’ve taken this so seriously, we’re doing much better than other states, states like Florida and Texas who are continuing to struggle, and closed later, and reopened earlier than we did, who are now seeing historic surges in cases.
MLive reported yesterday that despite being one of the hardest hit states early on, our state currently ranks 40th in the seven-day average of new coronavirus cases per capita and in the 40th percent, testing positive on coronavirus diagnostic tests. These are wonderful pieces of information compared to what’s happening across the country. Our average infection rate for the last month was half that of Ohio, and Indiana, and Wisconsin. This slide shows Michigan’s daily cases per million compared to other Midwest states.
MLive also reported that states across the country that did not take this virus seriously are now seeing record numbers in terms of daily coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Georgia was the first state in the country to reopen its economy and is now averaging five times the number of new cases of coronavirus in a day, five times more than the state of Michigan. While states like Georgia, and Florida, and Texas reported hundreds of new deaths last week, Michigan had 43. Our percent positivity rate is also far below our Midwestern neighbors. We have continued to ramp up testing over the past few months.
There’s a wonderful Twitter thread by Dr. Ashish Jha that talks about testing and positivity rates. I think it’s worth your time to look if you happen to be on Twitter. This virus demands to be taken seriously. Youth will not protect you from this virus. Your political affiliation will not protect you from this virus. This virus will not go away just because we’re tired of dealing with it. The only way we can put a stop to this pandemic, an end to this pandemic, is to take it seriously, do our part to protect one another, and do what we know works.
My mask says, “I wear this for you,” and it is true. When we wear masks, and we wear it properly so it covers our nose and mouth, when we practice social distancing, and when we go out to get tested when it’s necessary, when we do these things, we put our whole state in a stronger position to send our kids back to school safely. Wearing a homemade mask is simple, and it shows your commitment to protecting yourself, your family, and your fellow Michiganders from this virus.
To make it easier for those who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and who need help securing masks today, we’re announcing the MI Mask Aid project. This project is a partnership, a partnership involving the state of Michigan, FEMA, and the Ford Motor Company. It’s a result of the hard work of the Michigan COVID-19 Task Force on Racial Disparities, chaired by Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist.
We will provide four million free masks to people who need them most. It’s a really incredible donation that Ford is working with us to make sure that we’re able to do this. One million of the face coverings from FEMA, 1.5 million from Ford will go to low-income schools, the city of Detroit, federally qualified health centers, some COVID-19 testing sites, and to many organizations helping to reach vulnerable populations, including minority residents who have been affected by the public health crisis as a result of historic racism. Anyone interested in receiving a free mask can find a distribution location by calling the COVID-19 hotline at 888-535-6136 or looking up their local community action agency online.
I want to thank Jim Hackett and Ford for their partnership in this project. This partnership is going to save lives. Wearing a mask has been proven to reduce the chance of spreading COVID-19 by about 70%. According to one estimate, if 95% of Americans wore masks between now and December 1st, it would save 66,000 American lives. According to one estimate, if 95% of Americans do this, we can make our economy stronger and save one another’s lives. That’s 66,000 people who are parents, or grandparent or children, siblings, friends. It could be saved by the simple act of wearing a mask when you go to the grocery store, or pharmacy, or when you’re out and about. As a parent, I know the number one thing on everyone’s mind is whether and how their kids are going to return to school this fall. Parents across Michigan are anxiously awaiting their school districts to decide how they’re going to safely educate our kids, whether it’s by remote learning or implementing the strict safety measures I outlined in the MI Safe Schools Reopening in June. After a rise in COVID cases in July and early August, our case numbers have begun to plateau. We’re not out of the woods. This crisis is far from over, but we appear to have stopped the incline. We’re now plateaued, and we want to see that become a decline.
To get through this and to ensure the safety of our kids, educators, and support staff this fall, everyone’s got to continue to do their part. We also need the Trump administration and Congress to step up and provide additional support to states like Michigan so we can send more resources to our classrooms to keep our kids, and our educators, and all of their families safe.
I want to end by thanking the thousands of Michiganders on the front lines of this crisis. While people everywhere have made tremendous sacrifices to protect their families from this virus, those on the front lines have put their own health at risk to take care of the rest of us every day for the past five months, grueling stressful work. If you’ve ever listened to This American Life on NPR, they’ve highlighted some stories of people on the front line in Detroit, and you might want to check it out. I was proud, but also, it was an eyeopener. I hope maybe you might listen.
Nurses and doctors working 18-hour shifts and giving up time with their families to keep them safe, who stood by the side of a bed where someone lost their battle with COVID-19, and their family couldn’t be there. Grocery store workers, especially in the beginning of this pandemic, worked around the clock to keep our shelves stocked, to ensure people could buy groceries safely. Childcare workers who’ve been instrumental in helping our frontline workers save lives every day… These are truly the real heroes of this crisis. Truck drivers and mail carriers, the people who mask up every day for hours on end to ensure our safety… They deserve our gratitude and respect, and the best way we can show it is by masking up. With that, I want to say thank you to all of those who I’ve just described who have stayed on the front lines.
I want to say thank you to all of those who I’ve just described who’ve stayed on the front lines. I want to encourage everyone in our state to keep doing our part, to stay smart and to mask up.