COVID-19 expansion is slowing but Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says it's not time to let up

As the growth of COVID-19 in Michigan continues, Governor Gretchen Whitmer told FOX 2 we need to continue our strict policies of staying home unless it's absolutely necessary to prevent the virus from coming back again in the summer or fall.

In an interview with FOX 2's Roop Raj on Friday, Whitmer said she extended the Stay Home order through the end of the month, with stricter policies, to protect everyone in Michigan. So far, she said, it's working.

"It's not taking on that exponential nature that we all were kind of bracing for. There is reason to believe that these Stay Home, Stay Safe measures are going to save lives. That's why we thought it was really important to extend it," she said.

Whitmer said this is the time to double-down. 

On Friday, Michigan's death rate from COVID-19 spiked to the highest in a single day with 205 more people losing their life. The previous record high was 118.

She knows that people want to visit family or friends at Easter or Passover but we have to adhere to the order.

"That tells you that we are not out of the woods. This is still a very serious moment here in Michigan and that's precisely why we really have to double down. Easter and Passover, these are holidays where people want to get together and it's really hard for families but right now we've got to communicate through technology," Whitmer said. "This is tough, we've got another three weeks of this really aggressive approach but I believe we're going to see the benefit of it and we're asking everyone to do their part."

As for Republicans who say it's too tight and it's time to restart the economy, Whitmer said she's listening to the medical professionals first and we're not even in the peak yet.

"I wish a lot of things as well but I'm going to make decisions based on the best medical science there is available," she said. "As we contemplate re-engaging our economy, we have to know it's safe to do it. And at this point and time, we are still in the upward trajectory."

On Wednesday, Michigan passed 20,000 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 and a total of 959 deaths. Now the third-highest state total in the country, coronavirus has been spotted in almost every county in Michigan. Despite the rapid spread extending as far as the upper peninsula's western Goegibic County, the majority of cases have been out of Metro Detroit, where 80% of cases have been confirmed in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties.

In the end, Whitmer said this is about limiting the number of people who are out. That means no landscaping business, no golfing, and no driving your vacation home Up North.

"We have got to limit how many people are out and about. That's what the order is all about because the worst thing would be a second wave of COVID-19 where we have to go through this again in the summer or in the fall," she said. "Getting  in the car and going three hours away to go to a vacation property, stopping for gas, stopping for lunch - that's the danger of the spread."

That doesn't mean you're stuck inside. You can and should still leave the house to go for a walk or a hike.

"If you're going to a park that's 5 miles away or you're going to throw your family in the car and you're gonna go take a walk in the park and you're going to stay 6 feet away from everybody else, then that's fine," she said. "We would prefer it if you didn't get in your car at all unless you have to go for the rare trip that you need to get groceries or you need to pick up your prescription."

While not a surprise following Whitmer's confirmation residents should expect an 'additional' shelter-in-place order earlier this week, the order could only be made following approval from the state legislature to extend her state of emergency declaration another 23 days.

One of the starkest examples of how stay-at-home orders is the impact on Michigan's unemployment rate. After a record-breaking number of people filed for unemployment benefits, more of the same is expected to come later Thursday. Similar headlines were reported for the country's unemployment rate, which neared 10 million by the second week of social distancing guidelines taking precedent.

The skyrocketing number of people that went to the state's website to apply for aid crashed the website.

RELATED: Whitmer orders K-12 schools close for rest of year, sets guidelines for remote learning

Whitmer's original stay-at-home order was set to expire on April 13th.

A model released by a health institute echoed that prediction, projecting the state will report its peak in resources around mid-April and over 3,000 deaths by May. So far 617 people have died from the coronavirus.