Whitmer Says It's Likely All Michiganders Will Be Touched By Coronavirus

WWJ News
April 02, 2020 - 7:56 pm

(WWJ) It's likely that every one of our lives will be touched by COVID-19.

Michigan's Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said those solemn words during a town hall meeting Monday evening, which was carried live on Michigan's three major TV networks and WWJ Newsradio.

The governor's talk capped off another troubling day amid the novel coronavirus outbreak that shuttered schools, bars, restaurants, offices, and cost Michiganders their jobs by the thousands. The COVID-19 curve is getting steeper in Michigan, as the number of deaths in the state tops 400 and cases soar past the 10,000 mark. As of Thursday, Michigan has 10,791 confirmed cases of the virus, with a total of 417 related deaths statewide. The official count, reported by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Thursday, includes 1,457 new cases and 80 additional deaths. 

Michigan has the third highest number of cases in the country.

"It will continue to climb exponentially," Whitmer added about the number of coronavirus cases in Michigan. The need for hospitalization will continue to grow, the governor added, and preparations are being made for more off-site places to treat the ill.

As those numbers rise, Michigan's state of emergency was extended another 70 days and the school year was ended early. But the governor stressed those measures are different from the stay home, stay safe order that has basically quarantined residents of Michigan except for quick trips for takeout food or to pick up groceries or medicine.

When that quarantine may lift is still up in the air, the governor said. "We're making decisions based on the best science, the best facts," Whitmer said. "We've got to do what's in the best interests of the health of the people in this state." 

Social distancing is currently the best way to keep people safe, she added. Not doing everything we can now just means the length of time we experience this outbreak will last longer.

"Whether it's touching the gas station pump when you're filling up your car, or a door handle ... Every time you're out and about you're getting exposed to COVID-19 ... and you're risking exposing other people as well," she said. She told a story about two people in the same house, both young and healthy, who both got the virus. One had a mild case, the other died.

The only ticket to safety is to assume everyone is capable of having the virus, or that they already do. "This is how we flatten the curve," Whitmer said.

On the good news front, could a treatment be forthcoming? Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said a trial for the drug hydrochloriquine at Henry Ford Health System is "very exciting."

Henry Ford Health System will lead the first large-scale study in the United States of the effectiveness of an anti-malarial drug in preventing COVID-19 in healthcare workers and first responders who volunteer to participate. The study of hydroxychloroquine used as a preventative could begin as early as next week, after a plea to the federal government by Detroit Mayor Michael Duggan and Metro Detroit healthcare experts.

“This is going to be the first major, definitive study in healthcare workers and first responders of hydroxychloroquine as a preventative medication,” said the study’s organizer, Henry Ford Health System’s Dr. William W. O’Neill, a world-renowned interventional cardiologist and researcher who has pioneered multiple treatments for heart disease. “There has been a lot of talk about this drug, but only a small, non-blinded study in Europe. We are going to change that in Metro Detroit and produce a scientific answer to the question: Does it work?”

The governor said of the study:  "There is some great potential here amid all of the sadness and heartache we're going through now."

Even with treatments starting to come forward, the apex of the curve could still be three to five weeks away, Whitmer said. How many people will likely die in Michigan?

It's not easy to know, but Dr. Khaldun warned the state has been behind in testing, and hasn't had enough swabs or supplies, and because of that cases will continue to swell. "But what's important to know (even after the curve descends), there will still be a lot more cases and there will still be a lot more deaths."

About when the finish line could arrive, Whitmer said she's listening to a lot of different experts to make informed decisions. And there isn't yet a consensus.

"We have to be smart. We have to make decisions based on the best science."