As Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took her first of two COVID-19 Pfizer vaccination shots on Tuesday in Detroit, she urged GOP lawmakers to join her in publicly getting immunized.
“We’ve got to get the politics out of public health,” said Whitmer, referring to Republican state House and Senate members. “I know that it has been difficult to do. … If we are all rolling in the same direction, we’re going to get to our destination a lot quicker. We may not all agree on everything, but we all want that.”
Almost half of Michigan Republicans, 47%, don’t plan to get COVID-19 vaccine, according to a March Detroit Free Press poll.
Whitmer made the comments at Ford Field where she was joined by her daughter, Sherry, a University of Michigan student, and several teenagers who are enrolled in metro Detroit high schools. The mass regional vaccination site at Ford Field opened last month and has the capacity to administer 6,000 shots per day.
Michigan has a total of 702,499 confirmed COVID cases and 16,239 deaths as of Monday. Michigan leads all states in the seven-day average for cases per capita, per the New York Times’ tracking, averaging 6,720 cases per day. New Jersey is second and New York is third.
The top six metro areas with the highest average daily cases per capita in the last two weeks are all in Michigan: Jackson, Detroit, Flint, Monroe, Owosso and Lansing. Battle Creek and Bay City also make the top 10.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that Michigan has the second-highest number of more contagious variants of the virus behind Florida.
The Whitmer administration has not issued more health restrictions, in contrast to actions during previous surges. Whitmer said her administration is consulting with experts on strategies to mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic.
When asked again Tuesday whether more state COVID-19 restrictions are needed, Whitmer said “it’s not a policy problem.” She said the new surge in cases is being driven by variants of the virus, an increase in people moving around and not complying with existing restrictions.
“What we really have to do is put our foot down on the pedal on vaccines, and implore people to do what we know keeps us safe: masking, distancing and washing,” Whitmer said.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, state chief medical officer and chief deputy director for health for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, administered the vaccine to Whitmer and her daughter. Dr. Betty Chu, Henry Ford Health System senior vice president, associate chief clinical officer/chief quality officer, administered the vaccine to the high school students.
As of Monday, Michiganders age 16 and older now are eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. The Biden administration announced it was increasing its COVID-19 vaccine direct allocation to Michigan this week by 66,020 doses for a total of 620,040 vaccines, a weekly record high for the state.
About 3 million people, 37% of Michigan’s population over 16, have gotten their first dose of the vaccine and 1.8 million, or 23%, have been fully vaccinated.