With COVID cases in Michigan receding and vaccinations increasing, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is calling on the GOP-led Legislature to work with her to pass $370 million to help in providing childcare for workers heading back to in-person work.
Whitmer announced earlier this week the state reached the milestone of 55% of residents 16 and up having at least one dose of the vaccine “sometime” between Sunday and Monday. That milestone means that on May 24, workers can return to offices, per her vaccination-based reopening plan.
She said Wednesday that residents could have a “sense of hope” with the increase in vaccinations and reduction in new cases of coronavirus.
As of Tuesday, Michigan had almost 870,000 total cases and more than 18,000 deaths, but the pace of new cases is on the downturn after the state led the nation at points last month.
Michigan Manufacturing Association President John Walsh, a former Republican lawmaker, joined Whitmer for the press conference to praise those who have gotten the vaccine and encourage more “Michiganians” to do the same. He noted the planned May 24 return to work was “an indication of our progress in the fight against the virus.”
But as more workers make the move to shift from home offices to the regular office, Walsh and Whitmer said childcare was going to be a stumbling block.
“Childcare is a critical component of getting back to work,” Whitmer said.
Whitmer held her press conference hours before the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory panel on vaccinations is expected to approve the use of the Pfizer vaccine in 12 to 15 year olds. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use on Monday, but the CDC panel has the final approval.
If, as expected, the CDC OKs the younger age bracket, Whitmer said the state is ready to immediately expand vaccination opportunities to them.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical officer, said youth vaccination was an essential tool in fighting the ongoing pandemic and moving the state back to normal. She said vaccinating younger residents would result in less disruption to school attendance, sporting activities and social events.
State officials expect the state will soon reach the next milestone in the process of undoing pandemic restrictions. That milestone will hit two weeks after 60% of Michiganders 16 and older have had at least one dose of the vaccine. When that happens, Whitmer said, the state will be able to lift restaurant and bar curfews, as well as lift the cap on attendance at places such as the gym. Officials put the marker two weeks after the dosing goals are met to allow those persons vaccinated to reach full immune response.
Whitmer also took the opportunity to slap back at the Michigan Republican Party press conference that occurred after her news conference where officials attacked her for a trip she took to Florida a month ago. That trip, she said, was to take care of her sick father. Republicans have criticized the trip, which Whitmer said was over a weekend, as well as her use of a private plane to get to Florida.
She noted that when she was running for governor she spoke often about balancing caring for her family — whether attending to her dying mother or being a mother to her daughters — with work responsibilities.
“If someone thinks I wouldn’t be checking in on a sick family member, they’re not paying attention to who I am,” she said.