Whitmer: COVID-19 will push healthcare system to brink, staying home "patriotic"
As of 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Michigan is under an official stay-at-home order. People are allowed to go outside for exercise and for essential activities like grocery shopping and medical appointments.
But, the order requires non-essential businesses to close any of their in-person operations and prohibits any gatherings with people who aren’t members of your household.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the order Monday. It lasts until April 13. She joined Michigan Radio Morning Edition host Doug Tribou to discuss its scope and other effects of the coronvirus pandemic.
You can hear the interview in its entirety at the top of the page. Here are some excerpts:
"I was on the phone all weekend with experts from across the country, from University of Michigan, Harvard, and many other places, and it became very apparent to me that the trajectory that we are on looks like Italy," Whitmer said. "And that's the worst case scenario is, if we don't take aggressive actions now, our whole healthcare system crumbles, and gets overwhelmed, and more people die, and our economy suffers longer. And so it really was important that we do this.
"[I]n a situation where we don't have enough tests, enough masks, enough gowns, enough face shields, the most important tool that we have is the ability to just distance from one another. We can mitigate the spread of this, but it is going to have to be because of aggressive measures like the stay-home order [Monday]. If you're a nonessential employee or worker or in a nonessential industry to life, then the best thing you can do to contribute to us getting through this crisis is to stay at home. It's the best thing for you and for your families and for our economy."
Are more restrictions coming to Michigan?
"The most important, patriotic thing a person can do right now is stay home and stop the spread of COVID-19." -Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
"There will be other needs to ensure that people aren't put out of their homes for lack of payment 'cause we've got a lot of people out of work right now. We've taken those kind of actions and I could anticipate there being additional ones that we would want to take to protect people in this very precarious time," Whitmer said.
"I'm not having any announcement right now, but we are continually working with people, advocacy groups, and industries to make sure that we're being really thoughtful about the actions that we're taking and doing everything we can to support our hospitals and our frontline responders, and even the grocery clerk who are working so many hours to keep food available. We have to protect each of those industries and make sure that they've got the support they need."
Is the worst is yet to come?
"I think that's accurate. We know that this aggressive order that I issued ... is really important, but let's be clear, the cases are going to keep rising because we're doing more testing. And this COVID-19 has been spreading across our state for weeks before it shows up. And so we know that we're going to continue to see these cases rise," Whitmer said.
"If we don't take aggressive actions now, our whole healthcare system crumbles, and gets overwhelmed, and more people die, and our economy suffers longer." -Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
"Our healthcare system is going to get pushed to the brink. We are – because we can't get everything we need from the federal government – working with partners inside and outside of Michigan to obtain the masks, to obtain gowns. We are going to produce some ourselves as a state, but also working with people in the private sector to meet this need.
"We've seen distilleries start to produce hand sanitizer and those are wonderful things to see people coming together. But we're nowhere near meeting needs that we currently have in hospitals, much less what we're projected to have to meet as the surge continues to go up. So we've got to all do our part by staying away from one another."
Does Whitmer expect to extend the order past April 13?
"If everyone does their part, it will shorten amount of time that we are under severe restrictions like this. If people break the order, they go out, they continue to see one another unnecessarily, it will take us a longer time," Whitmer said. "The most important, patriotic thing a person can do right now is stay home and stop the spread of COVID-19."
Editor's note: These answers have been edited for length. You can hear the complete interview at top of this page.