MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – On Wednesday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer spoke with WJMN to personally address concerns about the coronavirus. She joined us in our studio, not in person but via video call. It’s part of a larger effort to continue bringing you the latest information while also practicing responsible social distancing.
On Tuesday we asked for your questions so we could take them directly to the governor.
Corey asked about the possibility of a statewide quarantine.
Governor Whitmer responded, “We are being aggressive on the front end of this. What we know here is, in looking at other countries have confronted and listening to our medical experts here in Michigan including the Chief Medical Executive and our health care providers and epidemiologists. The places that took action early on mitigated how many people contracted the coronavirus and obviously had an impact on the death toll. Also, their economies were able to ramp up again quicker. That’s why being aggressive on the front end is so important. So the executive orders that I’ve issued with regard to our schools or bars and dine out only in restaurants. Executive orders for extending unemployment benefits. Executive orders surrounding price gouging. Each of these is an important part of the protections we need to enact. To the question of a statewide quarantine, that’s not something I’m going to say at this moment we’re going to do on a state level. I do understand that on a Federal level there is conversation on that front and that is a possibility.”
We asked Governor Whitmer how the number or lack of confirmed cases in the Upper Peninsula relates to the amount of test kits are available in the area.
Whitmer responded, “We know that the coronavirus has been present in Michigan for weeks even though our first presumptive case came in just eight days ago. We knew that it was going to be here in Michigan and we anticipate that it will present all across the state as it has in every other state in the nation. The amount of test kits that we have is woefully under the amount of kits that we need.”
Whitmer went on to say she is working hard with the private sector to bring more labs online to process that number of kits that are backed up.
“We need additional kits from the Federal Government so that we’ve got them all across the state including the Upper Peninsula. In order to really get our arms around how much spread there is, we have to be able to test, and we have to be able to process those tests in real time,” said Governor Whitmer.
We also talked with Governor Whitmer about one advantage the Upper Peninsula has over other parts of the country. She first offered a bright moment acknowledging the natural beauty of the area.
“One of the great things that my Yooper friends love is being remote and being out in nature. That is a wonderful thing that is accessible to everyone in the Upper Peninsula. You know getting outside is really important when we are limiting all other forms of social contact. To be able to go outside and take a walk with your dog perhaps, or going for a walk with a relative, you know keeping them at a safe distance. Getting outside and enjoying it is what is so unique in the Upper Peninsula is that we don’t necessarily have in other parts of the state,” Whitmer said.
Whitmer did acknowledge there are challenges including providing our front line providers with the support that they need in the form of equipment.
With many people, specifically in the service industry now not earning an income, Yvonne asked, what are utility companies and landlords doing to ease the burden?
“The Department of Economic and Labor Opportunity and I are working close to make sure we draw down as much as we can in terms of unemployment insurance. I’ve extended unemployment by six weeks, which when matched by the Feds is three months.” Whitmer continued by saying, “We’re working with the utilities to ensure that no one gets cut off during this time.”
Melissa wanted to know what’s being done to assist Michigan’s homeless population or people in transitional housing facilities.
“In the orders that I have exercised with regard to limiting places of congregation, we’ve had to make some exceptions. In thinking about the homeless population, how we are feeding people, how we are housing people, how we are ensuring that there is some access to healthcare when it’s necessary has been driving a lot of the decisions that we’ve made. So we’re working with local leaders and public health to ensure we’re able to meet that need,” Whitmer said.
Mike asked what the Governor’s response is to people who are panic buying or hoarding.
“We ask that people not panic. We’re making decisions based on facts and science, not out of fear. We are asking that people get prepared, where they take on the responsibility of practicing social distancing, the hand washing and all the important things we can do personally. I’ve also eliminated the weight restrictions on our roads right now so that we can get supplies into communities all across Michigan. It’s my understanding that we have plenty of supplies but we have to give our retailers the opportunity to restock,” Whitmer responded.
The Governor also made a plea to those who are able to help.
“We do have volunteer opportunities across the state. The 211 system is the best way to connect and see how you can be helpful.”
Whitmer also suggests contacting your local food bank or giving blood, which she did on Wednesday.
Keep up with the latest state updates here.
Reccomendations and updates from the CDC can be found here.