Lansing, MI – September 27, 2020 – Governor Whitmer held a press conference on Wednesday, September 2nd. Along with Governor Whitmer, Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, Dr. Joneigh Kahldun, Sandy Pierce, and Hector Hernandez spoke. Listen to the entire press conference below or keep ready for a full transcript.
Good afternoon. Today is Wednesday, September 2nd, and I am joined today by the Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, our chief medical executive, Dr. Janae Khaldun, Sandy Pierce, the senior executive vice president of Huntington Bank, and Hector Hernandez, the executive director of Southwest Economic Solutions. Today, we have two exciting announcements that will help us slow the spread of COVID-19 and provide some much needed support to small business owners.
First, to ensure that we remove as many barriers as possible to ensure that COVID-19 testing is accessible for all Michiganders, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is partnering with community organizations to launch 12 neighborhood testing sites by the end of the week, and more than 20 across the state in coming weeks. This is a crucial part of our work that is being done by the Michigan COVID-19 task force on racial disparities, which is chaired by the Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist, and will make it easier for Michiganders to access testing right near home, in their own backyards.
Testing will be free and hosted by trusted community partners, including churches and community colleges and nonprofit organizations. Three sites have started testing in Detroit with additional sites coming online this week in Albion, in Detroit, in Ecorse, Flint, Grayling, and Roseville. Additional sites are slated for Benton Harbor, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Muskegon, Niles, Saginaw, and Wayne in the coming weeks. Testing is absolutely front and center because part of our robust testing plan is absolutely essential to safely and responsibly opening and sustaining an open economy and schools. Expanding testing saves lives and protects the brave men and women who have stayed on the front lines throughout this crisis and help our economy in the long run. So this is one of the most crucial fights that we have in continuing to fight this virus. This is an incredibly important tool, and we’re going to continue to do everything we can to help Michiganders access it.
Sandy Pierce is also here today to talk about an exciting investment Huntington Bank is making in our state. Right now, Michigan businesses and businesses across the country are hurting as a result of COVID-19 and the lack of support from the federal government and lack of access to capital. Our small business owners need help. And that’s why today the commitment that is being announced by Huntington Bank to provide crucial support for Michigan businesses, consumers, and communities is a big deal. And I’ll let Sandy do more of the deep dive into what it is precisely, but it’s really great news for our small businesses and business owners who’ve been facing unprecedented challenges as we’ve navigated COVID-19 over these last six months. And the small business lending program will help women and minority and veteran owned businesses as well.
So these are Michiganders who’ve been spending their lives building business here in Michigan. They’ve been struggling and they need help now more than ever. And so Huntington Bank’s commitment to doing this here in Michigan and elsewhere is really something that’s phenomenal support for people in Michigan. So we’re grateful for that.
And I also want to thank the team at General Motors, who yesterday announced that they’re going to be donating two million face masks to Michigan public schools as a part of the State of Michigan’s My Mask Aid Partnership. GM’s contribution includes 750,000 child sized masks for elementary students. And they will be for delivery about September 14th and 15th, and 1.25 million adult size masks for high school students, faculty and staff, which will be ready for delivery by September 28th. Until there’s a vaccine, it’s going to be absolutely essential that we all continue to mask up. It is singularly the best tool we have to fight COVID-19 and we want to make sure that everyone in our state has access to a mask. So we’re grateful for GMs partnership and dedication to protecting our students and educators during this time. And I look forward to working with everyone to help make sure that we’ve got masks for those, especially who need them and are most vulnerable in our state.
All of these initiatives are important to helping us continue fighting COVID-19 and the pandemic and to protect our small business owners. But if we’re going to get through this, we need to have additional support from the federal government. This morning, I met with White House coronavirus task force coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, to discuss Michigan’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And I want to start by acknowledging that Dr. Birx was very impressed with what we have all done together as a state here in Michigan. We are in a stronger position because people have taken this seriously and done their part. And that’s something for which we should all be proud.
But we also have to recognize it’s tenuous and we’ve got to not drop our guard. The virus is still a very real threat to our families, to our frontline workers, to our economy, our businesses. And we really do need more leadership at the federal level to help us expand testing, to ensure that everyone wears their mask while they’re in public, to support our frontline workers, our small businesses, to help support our kids in trying to get their education, and so of course we can protect lives.
I reiterated to Dr. Birx the need for federal support during our meeting, specifically the need for clear and consistent guidance from the federal government, including a national mask mandate that could save thousands of American lives, full federal funding from the Michigan National Guard to support our testing operations in vulnerable settings, like nursing homes and prisons. And I also expressed my concerns about the CDC’s abrupt change last week to discourage asymptomatic testing, even among individuals who may have been exposed. We know that that is bad counsel. We know the more testing we do is better. Dr. Birx acknowledged that as well. So this updated guidance, while voluntary, it really runs counter to what the best practice is and the best science is. So I’m hopeful that Dr. Birx will be able to take that message back to the president in order to help us protect families.
I’ve recently and consistently called on the Trump Administration and Senator McConnell to get this fourth supplemental completed. We don’t have time to waste. We’re now approaching 200,000 American deaths from the virus, untold sacrifice has been made all across this country, deaths that could have been prevented had we had more of a national strategy. And the fight is still far from over. We’re six months into it and yet we know that we are still-
Into it and yet we know that we are still very much in it for now and for the time to come. So we’ve got to find leaders who are going to find some common ground and get this done. So I will continue to keep doing my part and I’m hopeful that those in Washington, D.C. will be able to do theirs, and with that, I will turn it over to the lieutenant governor Garlin Gilchrist.
Thank you Governor and good afternoon everyone. I also want to thank for her service Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, our chief medical existence and welcome Sandy Pierce and Hector Hernandez. We are very excited about the partnership and frankly the leadership that you’re showing for the people and the businesses and the communities across the state of Michigan through your efforts. Thank you very much. You know when COVID-19 was first detected in Michigan, there were a lot of unknowns but we knew that testing would be key to helping us get answers. That is why we went to work immediately in Michigan to find ways to quickly expand testing across our state and made it a priority. We quickly realized that testing will be needed on a massive scale so we began to take steps to innovate, to open up drive-through testing sites, where frontline medical professionals could safely administer tests in larger quantities. Drive-through testing sites, they revolutionized the way that we administer tests and they’ve been a critical tool to understanding how the virus has spread throughout our communities. But it became clear that we needed to implement additional guidance as well around testing protocols at those drive-through sites. If you had symptoms but didn’t have a doctor, we made sure you’d get a test. If you didn’t have symptoms but were in contact with someone who did, we made sure you’d get a test. If you needed a test but didn’t have insurance or the financial means to get a test, we made sure that you could get a test.
Michigan was on the cutting edge of testing guidelines which allowed basically anyone who needed a test to get one and that is thanks to the specific leadership of Dr. Khaldun. But even then, we knew that it wasn’t enough just to do drive-through testing. In the city of Detroit for example, about 30% of people don’t have their own car and so up until just recently, before I took office, I was one of those people who didn’t have a car for my family to get around. This is problematic because if you’re relying upon public transportation, you can’t take a bus through a drive-through. So we worked to make walk-up testing, mobile testing readily accessible to people. We realized that it might be unfeasible for some people to even get to one of those walk-up testing sites. So we didn’t want COVID-19 positive patients spreading the virus by taking public transportation and not being able to take it to your testing so in partnership with Ford and Wayne State University and with the support of the Michigan Coronavirus Taskforce on Racial Disparities members, we began this pilot program to expand testing capabilities to some of the hardest hit neighborhoods. I specifically want to thank taskforce member and Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence for securing federal funding as part of the CARES Act to make this much-needed program and to help it scale.
Through this program, Michigan residents could get crucial testing done right in their communities and really help them to be able to [inaudible 00:15:35] door to treatment. This announcement is another example of how Michigan continues to lead the way in terms of testing our people, not the other way around. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is partnering with these neighborhood organizations and partners to launch 12 testing sites this week and 20 across the state in the coming weeks. When we look at testing in Michigan versus other states, it’s literally a night and day differences. We have worked diligently excuse me, to expand access to testing and remove the barriers that limit people from getting the resources they need during this pandemic. In Michigan, nearly every insurance company has agreed to cover testing. In Michigan, residents without insurance can get tested at no charge. In Michigan, people can get tested whether they have symptoms or not, and our testing sites are open from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. to give people maximum flexibility within their work schedules, it doesn’t matter what shift you’re working, late shift or the morning shift. We’ve made tremendous progress here in our state and I want to thank all of the medical professionals and all of the volunteers and the professionals across the board who’ve helped to make this testing infrastructure a reality.
Until everyone however gets a test who needs a test, we still have work to do. The reality is that the effects of COVID-19 will be felt long after there is a vaccine and it will be felt in even greater magnitude in those communities that were impacted the most and often disproportionately so. The Coronavirus Taskforce on Racial Disparities’ mission was to identify immediate solutions to protect the health and safety of communities of color hardest hit by COVID-19 and then connect that to the longer term work, knowing that that will strengthen our state’s overall public health response to this pandemic. But we also, as a group, took it upon ourselves to look at the underlying or systemic issues that have created the conditions for unnecessary suffering during this pandemic.
When it comes to the economy, we found that the road to recovery is going to be more difficult for non-white, women, veteran and otherwise disadvantaged business owners. Just to give you an example, in Michigan, under the first [inaudible 00:17:57] of the Paycheck Protection Program, the PPP program, 786 Michigan restaurants got a grant of at least $150,000.00. Guess how many of those were black-owned restaurants? Only one. A report from the University of Michigan found that nearly half of black Detroiters and a third of Latino Detroiters say they have lost their jobs or got their hours cut due to this pandemic and about 40% of minority-owned businesses may not have the financial means to open again once we are on the other side of this pandemic. The coronavirus itself does not discriminate, but it is a parasite that feeds on the inequities that are historic and that are current in our society. It is our generation’s responsibility to address this head-on and our administration is working to do just that. The story of black people in America is one that acts like a pendulum that swings between pain and progress, but just like a pendulum, it requires some force, someone, or something, pulling the pendulum to one side or the other. I want to thank Huntington Bank for their efforts in investment and being that force that pushes that pendulum for our smallest businesses toward program. Their $5 billion investment will help ensure that otherwise disadvantaged entrepreneurs who operate our favorite small businesses, the ones that create an identity for our communities, get the help they need to beat this virus too. We will continue to find innovative ways to overcome the challenges that we face as a state.
I want to thank the members of the Michigan Coronavirus Taskforce on Racial Disparities for their leadership throughout this process, and that many members of our state government departments and agencies and our community partners who have stepped up as well. With that, I want to turn this over to Dr. Joneigh Khaldun for her update. Thank you all. Please continue to mask up and stand tall for the great state of Michigan.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun
Good afternoon. Thank you Governor and Lieutenant Governor. So today, we are announcing 103,710 total cases of COVID-19 and 6,509 deaths here in the state of Michigan. Michigan’s overall case rate is at 59 cases per million people per day and has declined in the past week.
The Detroit region still has the highest case rate at 66 cases per million people, but the number of cases in this region is declining. The Traverse City and Upper Peninsula regions both have over 40 cases per million people per day and we are continuing to watch both of these areas very, very closely. The Traverse City region has had an increase over the past three weeks and both regions actually continue to have cases higher than they were a few months ago. The Grand Rapids region is at 59 cases per million people per day. It has had a recent increase in the case rate as well as the percent of tests that are coming back positive. The Saginaw and Kalamazoo regions are at 56 and 50 cases per million population respectively. The Saginaw region has been trending down while Kalamazoo’s case rate has been increasing. The Jackson and Lansing regions are both under 40 cases per million people and declining which is good and as a state, we also continue to track our positivity rates. Right now as a state we are at 3.1% of our tests that are coming back positive and that number has decreased over the past week.
As you all know we’re also tracking our outbreaks. Last week our local health departments identified 93 new outbreaks that they were investigating. I also know there has been a lot of interest in understanding outbreaks at schools which is very understandable so we’re currently working with our local health departments to gather names of specific schools that have outbreaks associated with them. We’re working with them to make sure we’re receiving accurate data and also from the local health departments because they are actually obtaining this data through their case investigations. We expect to be able to post that information on our website in the next two weeks. I continue to be incredibly proud of the dedication and the expertise of our local health officers and their staff who are really on the frontlines of fighting this disease and we’re going to continue to work with them to update our data reporting. We’re also making great progress as the lieutenant governor mentioned with testing across this state. We’re testing over 2% of our population a week and last week, we ranked fifth in the country when it comes to the number of daily tests that we’re running. That’s over 30,000 tests a day.
Michigan remains committed to making sure anyone who needs a test can get a test. This includes people who don’t have symptoms but may have been exposed and that’s incredibly important. I’m excited to announce a partnership between the Racial Disparities Taskforce chaired by the lieutenant governor and I want to thank him for his leadership there as well but also the many community organizations that are adding several additional COVID-19 testing sites across the state. If you need a test, please do not delay. You can go to our website, www.michigan.gov/coronavirustest to find the site nearest you. We also know that unfortunately COVID-19 has highlighted another important public health crisis, the opioid epidemic. This past Monday was International Overdose Awareness Day. An estimated five Michiganders lose their lives to an opioid overdose every single day. From April through July, EMS responses for opioid overdoses in the state were 22% higher than they were during the same timeframe last year. I’ve treated far too many people in the emergency department with opioid use disorder and I’ve seen far too many people die.
… disorder and I’ve seen far too many people die. What we also know is that many people who overdose are not even making it to an emergency department because they declined to come to the ER after EMS has treated them. This has also increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that EMS professionals maybe the only healthcare provider that these people interact with. I’m incredibly proud of our announcement earlier this week that EMS first responders will also now be able to leave behind the Naloxone the life saving opioid reversal medication for patients who overdose, but choose not to come to an emergency department. Making sure they and their family members and friends have Naloxone will save lives.
We have to be continued to be mindful of the impacts COVID-19 is having not only on physical health, but also mental health and those who may be struggling with substance use disorders. If you or someone you know is having trouble with a substance use disorder, please do seek help. You can visit our website at www.michigan.gov/staywell to learn more.
This year has certainly been challenging and I encourage all of us to continue to take care of ourselves and each other, as we fight this crisis. Let’s also, again, keep on wearing our mask, washing our hands, maintaining our social distance and please this season, get your flu shot. Keep doing the basics and I’m sure we will get through this together.
Thank you, Governor Whitmer, Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist and Dr. J. Good afternoon. I’m Sandy Pierce and I’m Huntington Bank’s Chair of Michigan. Huntington’s purpose is to make people’s lives better, help businesses thrive and strengthen the communities that we’re privileged to serve. Governor, we appreciate your administration’s leadership and service through the pandemic, your efforts to support social justice and your response to the catastrophic flooding in mid Michigan.
Huntington has a long history of serving our communities and in light of the current challenges facing our state, we’re seeking to join others in advancing social equity and economic inclusion for all people in the communities that we serve. We do this because our purpose leads us to do more. Today I’m really excited to announce Huntington Bank’s $5 billion commitment to help boost economic opportunity for people and businesses throughout our great state. This five year commitment, part of our new 2020 community plan, will focus on small business support, social equity, economic inclusion, and affordable housing.
Michigan’s my home. As someone born and raised in the city of Detroit, I see the effect the pandemic is having on Michigan’s consumers and small businesses in all areas of the state. The governor is leading through a moment of unprecedented challenge. The people of Michigan are strong and we’re resilient, but many need and are seeking greater stability and certainly economic opportunity.
Huntington’s 2020 community plan will enable us to do more in three focus areas. Let me start with the first. Access to capital. We’re investing in small business, with special emphasis on those run by minorities, women and veteran owners. We want to help bring business owners the relief, the recovery and the growth they are seeking as the cornerstones of the American economy. Our second focus, affordable housing and home ownership. Huntington is expanding lending programs and educational services to support increased home ownership by minority and low to moderate income borrowers across all of Michigan. We will help to enable opportunities for first time home buyers, improve housing security and create generational wealth through home ownership. Our third area of focus, community lending and investment. Huntington is committed to removing the barriers to banking that still exists for some consumers and businesses and we’re investing to support our communities efforts related to affordable housing, food security, workforce development and social equity.
Huntington’s 2020 community plan was developed in cooperation with the governor’s administration, as well as all of our community partners throughout the state who share our commitment for looking out for people. I am so pleased that our friend and partner Hector Hernandez from Southwest Economic Solutions is with us today. Thank you Hector for joining. We look forward to continuing our conversations with the governor and our community partners and find more ways that we can continue to work together to address the real needs of underserved consumers, underserved businesses and the communities that we all live and work in across our great state. Thank you and stay safe.
Good afternoon. My name is Hector Hernandez. I’m the executive director for Southwest Economic Solutions. We’re part of the Southwest Solutions family. I’m also a founding member of the Huntington Bank national community advisory council. Southwest Solutions celebrates our 50th year in operation in 2020. Our mission is to enhance the quality of life, success and self sufficiency of the individuals and families in Detroit. We offer over 40 services and they include mental health counseling, children and youth services and affordable and supportive housing among others. I lead Southwest Economic Solutions and we help individuals achieve greater economic success by integrating programs that help promote and preserve home ownership, financial literacy, adult learning, workforce development and entrepreneurship.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Governor Whitmer, Lieutenant governor Gilcrest, Dr. J, for their stalwart leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Your strategies and executive orders have worked. You save countless size and we are grateful. I’d like to applaud Sandy Pierce and the entire Huntington Bank team for their exemplary commitment, to engagement with their communities, listening to their needs and then creating products tailored to address those needs. It’s refreshing to partner with a bank that custom creates solutions based on data and input from their community partners and not simply rolling out prescriptive solutions of their own creation.
Systemic barriers to economic inclusion are deep rooted and overcoming them will necessitate creative partnerships, sustained investment, with locally based nonprofit organizations. Southwest Solutions has created an integrated model that meets individuals where they are through a coaching model, partnered with them to achieve initial and subsequent goals. In 50 years of work, Southwest Solutions has created an impactful collective impact model and partnerships like this one with our organization will enable us to scale our work. Equitable opportunities in our communities are achieved through investments that create homeowners via accessible mortgage products, credit building tools and incentives that enable first time home buyer to realize their dream of home ownership.
We met with the Huntington team yesterday, as a matter of fact, regarding an initiative we’ve started in the Chadsey Condon community, which is a neighborhood just West of Corktown and down the street from the train station along Michigan Avenue. We’ve created a model that helps families that are currently renting their homes become first time homeowners. Newbury Homes is the name of the development and it had 60 single family infill units, tax credit units that expired and so those families were continuing to rent, but when we acquire those properties under the tax credit model, we’ve been able to work with those individuals, help them successfully convert from renters to homeowners. So far we’ve converted 28 of the 60 occupants to homeowners and in, I think every instance except for maybe one, they’re paying less on their mortgage now than they were in rent previously.
This model is a sustainable model. We believe it can be replicated with the nearly 1000 units of expiring single family tax credits throughout the city in the coming years, preserve them for LMI homeowners as well. For those homeowners struggling to keep their homes as a result of the pandemic, Huntington Bank is listening to its community partners and working to support our counseling work to mitigate foreclosure and keep people in their homes. Alleviating and disrupting poverty in our communities necessitates comprehensive and integrated investments in adult learning and job training for in demand sectors. Our early learning program, youth build, career center, programs provide foundational skill building that includes GED and coaching that results in sustainable employment for Detroiters. We’re talking about jobs in sectors such as the skilled trade sectors like plumbing, HVAC, electrical, manufacturing, as well as construction just to name a few. It also includes financial education and Huntington Bank has always been a willing partner to actually present at our financial workshops and help our individuals learn the ins and outs of financial management.
We’ve met with the Huntington development team yesterday, as a matter of fact, to discuss an exciting new community development strategy that blends all the great work that Southwest Solutions does, all 40 programs, to convert that same Chadsey Condon neighborhood, into a place where legacy Detroiters can live, work and play in an affordable setting, just a stone’s throw away from Corktown and the train station. All the components are there to create an equitable model that can be replicated in other Detroit neighborhoods.
Last but not least small business lending to entrepreneurs is a critical component to job creation and family wealth. Our prosperous Detroit program has trained over 1000 neighborhood-based entrepreneurs and approved close to a hundred micro loans to launch their businesses. In most instances, our microloans are the only willing lending option for them. We can do more and we are exploring collaborative opportunities with Huntington Bank to create and secure more lending capital. We all know that locally based micro lending providers support the entrepreneurial seeds of hope that our communities of color so desperately need. One successful example…
… that our communities of color so desperately need. One successful example is Mamba Hamissi, a refugee from East Africa. He and his wife graduated from our program and are about to open Baobab Fare, a restaurant featuring East African food in Detroit’s new center community. We’re proud of them.
This unprecedented five year investment by Huntington Bank is extraordinary and it sets the bar for strategically impactful investments to help address longstanding structural inequities in our cities. I applaud and thank the entire Huntington team as well as NCRC for their efforts to help shape and create this plan as well. Thank you.
Thank you, Sandy and Hector for joining us today, we really appreciate it. I’m going to open it up for a few questions, but before we get started, want to say a few words about gyms and organized sports.
I know a lot of people are feeling anxious, our students and parents and coaches, and small business owners. And I also know Michiganders, me included, love sports. We love to compete, it is in our DNA, and it’s a part of what makes this state so special.
When it comes to battling COVID-19 we all have to be on the same team. And I want people to understand that we are working around the clock and have been throughout the duration to ensure that every determination is made with the best expertise, the best protocols, following the best science. And that’s what we’ve continued to do and that’s how we will continue to operate. It’s what also has contributed to Michigan being in the strong position that we are relative to the rest of the country. And we have to get this right.
So we take this very seriously and the decisions that I will make in the coming days and announce are made in a way that will be protecting athletes and families and coaches and parents and patrons, our small business owners as well. So people’s lives are at stake, COVID is still a very real threat all across our state. I will continue to treat it like that.
And so for now, I want everyone to know that I will have more to say on this topic very soon. So stay tuned, keep your eye on the ball and keep working to beat this virus together.