Whitmer speaks on Capitol riot, in-person learning and vaccine rollout in Friday's news conference

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held a news conference Friday to talk about the state of COVID-19 and the continuing response to the virus.

She announced a push for districts to begin offering an in-person learning option by at least March 1, and also spoke about the riot that unfolded earlier in the week at the U.S. Capitol. 

She also addressed the possibility of bars and restaurants opening back up Jan. 15 during her news conference, saying ultimately that health officials are still watching the numbers closely before any decision will be made. 

Gov. Whitmer said health officials are considering two things right now before allowing in-person dining to resume: the post-holiday data trends, as well as the looming COVID-19 variant. 

"This variant is giving us pause and we want to watch and make sure we've got as many days 'worth of data post-holiday so we recognize whether or not this blip beyond the holidays is a trend or if it's just that, a blip," she said.


The state's medical director Dr. Joneigh Khaldun reported the most recent post-holiday data in the state on Friday during the news conference. 

As of January 8, 2021, health officials are continuing to see improvements - but may be seeing some plateau - in three key COVID-19 metrics in the state. 

Michigan is seeing an average of 222 cases per million people per day. Dr. Khaldun said earlier this week these case rates have plateaued after having been clearly declining over the previous 46 days. 

The case rate is still currently two times what it was in the beginning of October. The average case rate in Michigan peaked at 739 cases per million on Nov. 14.

The percent of hospital beds being used for COVID-19 patients is continuing to decline. As of Jan. 8, the capacity was at 12.8% for beds with COVID-19 patients. This peaked at 20.1% on Dec. 1. 

The state is seeing a slight increase in test positivity, which could be attributed to a dip in testing over the holidays. As of Jan. 8, Dr. Khaldun said the percent positivity is at 9.3%, up from 8.2% on Dec. 27. Dr. Khaldun has said a percent positive rate below 3% indicates community spread isn't happening. 


Whitmer last spoke on Wednesday when she announced the state was moving to the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollouts to allow elderly and essential workers to be vaccinated starting on Monday, Jan. 11.

The state health department began vaccinating residents in December after the Pfizer treatment was approved. 

Since then, tens of thousands of residents have been given the first dose. However, Michigan has lagged behind most states in vaccine rates, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. However, on Wednesday, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said Michigan had moved into the top 5.

Furthermore, there is skepticism among many people including health care workers and emergency responders about taking the vaccine.

The second phase of vaccine distribution represents the state's gradual bolstering of vaccine administration in a year that health officials hope to inoculate more than 70% of the state's residents over the age of 16.

Currently, Michigan is still in Phase 1A. The next step will be Phase 1B, followed by Phase 1C, then Phase 2. A break down of what each phase entails is below.

  • Phase 1A: Paid and unpaid persons serving in healthcare settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials and are unable to work from home as well as residents in long term care facilities. 
  • Phase 1B: Persons 75 years of age or older and frontline essential workers in critical infrastructure.
  • Phase 1C: Individuals 16 years of age or older at high risk of severe illness due to COVID-19 infection and some other essential workers whose position impacts life, safety and protection during the COVID-19 response.
  • Phase 2: Individuals 16 years of age or older.