Mich. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says we're 'in the worst part of the pandemic to date'

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state's medical director Dr. Joneigh Khaldun spoke on Thursday about the state of COVID-19 in Michigan.

"We are in the worst part of this pandemic to date. This is the moment medical experts have been warning about and dreading since the beginning of the pandemic," Gov. Whitmer said. 

Both urged that holiday plans should look different this year and urged Michiganders not to gather for Thanksgiving with people outside of their own households. If it must be done, masks, social distancing and frequent handwashing while indoors is strongly recommended. 

Their news conference came just hours after Michigan hospital executives spoke that morning to sound the alarm on hospital capacity

Health executives from Beaumont, Henry Ford, Spectrum, as well as health care systems in the Upper Peninsula described positivity rates Thursday from testing tripling at some hospitals. 

"Our situation in Michigan is once again heading to a place that is going to be very painful for our state unless we take personal responsibility - all of us across the state to slow the spread," said Gerry Anderson, executive chairman of DTE, who hosted the virtual press conference.

"The state is now in a phase of exponential increases in both COIVD-19 cases and hospitalizations," he said. "A 40% weekly increase implies cases double every two-to-two-and-a-half weeks."

Unlike the COVID-19 surge in late spring, when available beds ran short and ventilator supply ran dangerously low, hospitals are now seeing bigger signs of exhaustion and fatigue among health care workers along with fewer rapid testing supplies due to necessity for the tests elsewhere around the country. 

So far, Beaumont and Henry Ford Health have both altered visitation policies for some of their hospitals. They haven't made the decision to postpone elective surgeries but may have to halt some scheduled procedures as staffing burdens become more serious.

The state's medical director Dr. Joneigh Khaldun also spoke Thursday and gave updates about case rates in regions across Michigan, which you can find below. 


In Michigan, an average of 45,000 diagnostic tests is being done daily. Dr. Khaldun said that's the fifth-largest number of total tests per state in the country. 

Overall right now, Michigan is seeing a 10.8% positive rate. 

"To have more than 10% of those tests coming back positive is alarming and means this virus is out of control. There is wide community spread of COVID-19 across the entire state," Dr. Khaldun said. She has previously stated that a percent positivity rate of 3% and below indicates community spread is not happening. 

The Upper Peninsula, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, and Saginaw regions all have percent positive rates above 10%. 

The Jackson, Detroit and Lansing regions are seeing percent positive rates between 6.3% and 10.9%. 

The Traverse City region is seeing a percent positive rate at 8.7%. 

Information from Gov. Whitmer's 11/12 news conference


Overall, Michigan's daily case rate is 416 cases per million people per day right now. Dr. Khaldun said the state is reporting 3,000 more cases a day than just one month ago. 

The Upper Peninsula, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Saginaw regions all have case rates between 497 - 653 cases per million people per day.

The Jackson, Detroit and Lansing regions are seeing case rates in the 300s cases per million people per day.

The Traverse City region has the lowest case rate - 278 cases per million people per day. 

Information from Gov. Whitmer's 11/12 news conference


Dr. Khaldun said all regions are still seeing an increase in hospitalizations, which can be dangerous because hospitals won't be able to share staff with other regions as they were in the spring when hospitalizations were concentrated in southeast Michigan. 

Dr. Khaldun said 20% of ICU beds across the state are filled with COVID patients right now. Hospital staff are also using more and more PPE. 

As hospitalization rates go up, expect deaths to follow in a few weeks. 

Dr. Khaldun said the average right now is 35 deaths per day, which is seven times what it was in June. 

Information from Gov. Whitmer's 11/12 news conference


Local health departments are tracking 747 outbreaks across the state right now, the largest number since the state began tracking outbreaks. She said that's also a 25% increase in outbreaks verse just one week ago. 

The top categories for outbreaks continue to be long-term care facilities, manufacturing and schools. She said health departments are also seeing increasing outbreaks in healthcare settings and in restaurants and bars. 

"Let me be very clear - our outbreak data is not perfect. It is only as good as the information we get from people who actually get a test done and, if their test is positive they have to tell us where they've been and who their contacts are. That system is strained right now," Dr. Khaldun said. 

"Everyone who needs a test may not actually be getting one. And while our local health departments are doing their best, as they have been all year, the system is simply not keeping up. It, too, has limited capacity. Because there are now so many positive cases and those cases each have so many contacts, it is taking longer for us to reach all of them. This means there may be ppl walking around who are in close contact with a positive case and they don't even know it. In fact, only 28% - less than a third of positive cases we're investigating - were in quarantine at the time of their diagnosis. This means that over two-thirds of positive cases were out and potentially spreading the virus to others."

Michigan officials also recently rolled out the MI COVID Alert app to help notify of possible exposure and with contact tracing. 

Authorities are still urging everyone to answer their phones if you get a call from the health department. Text messages are also now being sent in advance of the incoming call. 

Meanwhile, everyone is also still reminded to keep doing the basics to stay healthy - wear a mask, wash your hands and keep your distance from other people.

Information from Gov. Whitmer's 11/12 news conference


On Monday, Sept. 14, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services started tracking outbreaks in schools across the entire state.

Using data from 45 health departments, the updates will be released every Monday at 3 p.m. and will include K-12, college and universities, number of cases, and if the cases involved staff, students, or both. It does not include cases where the virus was contracted from outside of the school.

You can read about the latest outbreak data in schools here