Gov. Whitmer Says We 'May Have To Take Steps Back' If Cases Rise, Says Everyone Hopes For In-Person Classes This Fall

Up North restaurants will be open for Memorial Day

WWJ News
May 19, 2020 - 8:13 am

(WWJ) Detroit's safety protocols are so strong that city workers are safer at work than they are at home, Mayor Mike Duggan said reassuringly this week about one of the hardest-hit areas in the country.

So, why not push those protocols across the state and let everyone get back to work?

"Yeah, that's what we're doing and it's important that we're doing this incrementally," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told WWJ's morning show during a live interview Tuesday morning where she also addressed questions about what schools may look like this fall, why less populated areas were locked down along with hot spots in metro Detroit --  and whether she's going to meet with Donald Trump -- with whom she has a contentious relationship -- during a local stop he has planned.

On the protocols, Whitmer added, "I think when we do engage a certain part of our workforce, when we have those protocols, people are going to be really safe in the workplace. It's important that we get it right. And so as people are starting to think about re-engagement and future waves they should be familiarizing themselves with these best practices."

Is it something she'll discuss with President Donald Trump, who blasted her on social media and on interviews on FOX News when she spoke repeatedly early on about Michigan's lack of access to testing and protective gear. He called her "that woman from Michigan." 

"We have not connected and I know they're coming and it's a good thing," Whitmer said. "If I'm not part of the group gathering, then whomever is ... that they impress upon him how important it is that we get this fourth supplemental (bill) done. And I think that's really crucial."

What's also crucial -- especially for parents -- is what the plans are for school this fall. Will schools resume with in-person classes? The governor said she hopes so.

"We all are worried about budgets, we're worried about kids, we're worried about anything that congregates people. One of the issues that we as a nation are grappling with is there's not a national standard even though even sate in the nation is asking the same questions ... I'm going to continue to work very closely with the leaders on our campuses .. to be sure they're working with the best data.

"They desperately want us to get this right. And that's what's driven every decision that I've had to make in this moment ... "It is all of our hope that we can continue in-person instruction. It may look very different than what in-person instruction usually looks like ... We're going to do everything we can to mitigate risk. And if it's safe to come back to campus in the fall then we'll pursue that. If it's not, then we'll work with our universities to make sure we have a plan that helps them meet the needs of their students and also keep them safe."

Whitmer announced on Monday that restrictions will loosen Up North on Friday, allowing people to gather in groups of 10 or less, go to bars and restaurants with social distancing. Many believe that always should have been the case in less populated areas, but the governor defended the state's plan to lock down everyone and gradually ease certain areas step-by-step. 

"In hindsight, there are a lot of actions that we've taken that have contributed to our being able to take this step forward with confidence. We always had to be really aggressive on the front end to keep out curve from going straight up, which is where it was projected to be. COVID-19 doesn't stop at county lines. It's still present in 79 out of 83 counties. That's why it was really important to take these incremental steps. The action that we're taking that will kick into effect on Friday morning is supported by data that the risk is low enough. We're working very closely with our local leaders ... Once we start to see a spike, if we do, we've got to take quick action and we may have to take steps back."

She said the state was anticipating having another 4,000 deaths by this time, deaths that have been avoided by steps that flattened the curve. At one point, hospitals only had enough protective gear to get through one shift. Now, the curve is flattened and it's time to let life slowly shift back into gear, carefully watching the data and dialing it back if and when cases spike in any particular area.

"We're in this place now because we prepared for worst case scenario," the governor told WWJ's Roberta Jasina.