Former Gov. Whitmer opponent says Michigan needs COVID lockdown

As Michigan's COVID-19 cases continue to stay at the highest levels in the United States, many health experts have called on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to impose new restrictions and shutdowns, something she's said will not happen. Now she's getting criticized by a member of her own party who happens to be an epidemiologist and former hopeful for governor.

Dr. Abdul El Sayed was a progressive hopeful for governor who was edged out by Whitmer in 2018.

The former health officer and executive director of the Detroit Health Department is now calling on the governor to institute lockdowns for two or three weeks. Whitmer has resisted urges to take such action, instead calling for citizens to voluntarily comply with the mandatory mask law and other safety protocols. 

She has said the issue is not a policy problem but rather one where some citizens still refuse to "do the right thing."

More: Michigan extends COVID-19 restrictions, strengthens mask mandate for children

Last Monday, the CDC warned that a shutdown was necessary, with director Dr. Rochelle Walensky saying that lockdown is the best way to slow the out-of-control spread of COVID-19 in Michigan right now.

El Sayed agrees.

"We need a lockdown in Michigan," he told FOX 2's Tim Skubick, saying there is no question that if he were the governor, he would have shut down the state.

"I think she stood tall when it came to taking on the pandemic in the spring and fall but part of the frustration is having shut it down in the past, the fact that she is not shutting down now sends the message to folks that this one is nest not as serious by contrast to the other two," El Sayed said.

The governor justified earlier shutdowns explaining that the science warranted that action because cases, hospitalizations and positive tests were off the charts.

El Sayed argues Michigan is in that same boat again and the governor's policy of relying on the vaccine to bend the curve will not work.

"The timing is not going to work out. It's going to take too long. That is not a viable approach," he said.

Whitmer has been pressured to avoid more shutdowns from Republicans and is now receiving praise from the GOP Senate leader.o

"You gotta ask yourself whether or not you're doing the right thing," Dr. El Sayed said the choice shouldn't be between politics and science. "Politics being what it is, I understand why that is difficult. Science being what it is, I understand why locking down the nation that we need deadly. so if it's between saving Michaganders lives or doing what's politically feasible, I know the governor is going to make the right decision."

So far he concludes she has not.