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Whitmer: Michigan is at ‘a really dangerous moment’ with COVID-19

The governor explained how the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will decide whether to extend restrictions
Gov. Whitmer defends MDHHS orders after Thanksgiving weekend.
Gov. Whitmer defends MDHHS orders after Thanksgiving weekend.(WILX)
Published: Dec. 3, 2020 at 2:46 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer noted progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19, but she said the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has not decided whether it’s enough to ease restrictions.

The state health department issued an epidemic order imposing a three-week pause of dine-in service at restaurants, closing all high schools statewide and adding other restrictions from Nov. 18 to Dec. 9.

Whitmer pointed out that Michigan’s COVID-19 spread and the increase in coronavirus hospitalizations appears to be leveling off after explosive growth in early November. But she said the state remains at a tipping point in battling the illness.

“Right now it’s a really dangerous moment,” Whitmer said.

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She said the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will look primarily at the percentage of positive coronavirus diagnostic tests and confer with health care systems around the state about their treatment capacity before deciding next week whether to extend restrictions.

Whitmer said the state health department may consider extending some or all of the most recent restrictions beyond Dec. 9.

“That is possible because of just the sheer amount of COVID,” she said.

As of Wednesday, Michigan hospitals are treating more than 4,200 patients with confirmed or probable COVID-19 illnesses. That is down slightly from the peak of more than 4,300 patients earlier this week, according to state health department statistics.

Coronavirus hospitalizations previously peaked around 4,000 in April, but most of those were in the Metro Detroit area.

Whitmer noted that 81% of intensive care unit beds in Michigan hospitals are occupied, although not all of them are coronavirus patients.

While Michigan’s daily counts of newly confirmed coronavirus cases have declined from the peak above 9,000 per day and hospitalizations for the illness are flat this week, Whitmer said health officials will be looking for those numbers to come down more.

She said that depends on people following orders, wearing masks, practicing social distancing, avoiding gatherings and washing their hands often.

“The bottom line really is, do the masses do the people do their part? It comes down to individuals doing their part and taking this seriously,” Whitmer said.

She is concerned about the number of Michiganders who traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday and the potential of them spreading COVID-19. Whitmer and state health officials will be watching for illness levels to increase over the next couple months after Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said experts at the University of Michigan are reviewing mobility assessments from November to determine how many people traveled. While there appeared to be a decrease in travel around early November, she said preliminary data shows more people traveled over Thanksgiving.

Whitmer again called on Michiganders to avoid in-person holiday gatherings and opt for virtual get-togethers instead.

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