Whitmer: State not yet ready for phase 5 of reopening plan

Michigan reports 221 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives an update on COVID-19 | Gov. Whitmer office photo

The rest of Michigan will not be moving into phase five of its COVID-19 reopening plan this week as planned, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told WWJ News Radio on Tuesday.

“My hope was to do it this week — we’re not gonna do it this week. … We’re not in a position to do that yet. We’ve gotta get more data, because we are concerned,” Whitmer said.

The governor lifted the stay-home order on June 1. Most of Michigan’s regions are still in phase four, which means their COVID-19 outbreaks are “improving” but have yet to be “contained.” The state’s northernmost areas, the Upper Peninsula and the Traverse City region, are the only two regions to move into phase five so far.

In phase four, certain lower-risk businesses like offices and retail are allowed to open with strict safety measures in place. Small gatherings are limited in size.

Harper’s, March 17, 2020 | Susan J. Demas

In phase five, further restrictions are lifted and most businesses — including theaters, nightclubs, public pools, sports arenas and stadiums — are allowed to resume operation. All must still follow certain guidelines like social distancing and limited capacity rules. The size of social gatherings also increases.

Whitmer said there has been progress overall, but isolated outbreaks in areas like East Lansing and Midland are cause for closer examination before reopening further. She cited reports Tuesday that at least 18 people who visited Harper’s Restaurant and Brew Pub have tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the popular bar near Michigan State University between June 12 and 20.

In total, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reports Tuesday that 61,630 Michiganders have tested positive for COVID-19 and 5,864 have died from the virus — an additional 221 cases and 11 deaths since Monday.

DHHS also notes that an additional 6,567 Michiganders have been identified as “probable” cases for COVID-19, as well as 245 probable deaths. The department began tracking probable cases on April 5.

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Combining the state’s confirmed positive cases with probable cases brings the total up to 68,197 statewide cases and 6,109 deaths.

As of Tuesday, the state’s COVID-19 fatality rate stands at 9.5%. The virus has now spread to all but one of Michigan’s 83 counties. Ontonagon County in the Upper Peninsula has not reported any cases. 

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, DHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health, remotely testified Tuesday before the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on coronavirus.

“Now is not the time to celebrate or turn our focus away from COVID-19. If anything, we must get more aggressive,” said Khaldun. “More aggressive in urgently addressing health inequities, expanding testing and contact tracing, and ensuring our public health infrastructure is strong. We cannot let our guard down now.”

The first two cases of COVID-19 were reported in the state on March 10. Whitmer declared a state of emergency that day.

Johns Hopkins University reports that there are more than 9.1 million confirmed cases worldwide and 473,650 deaths. In the United States, there are more than 2.3 million confirmed cases and 120,674 deaths.