Michigan Gov. Whitmer urges HS to go remote for 2 weeks, pause athletics

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has said she will not issue new restrictions as the state has become the newest epicenter on COVID-19 cases and reiterated that stance on Friday during a press briefing when she urged high schools to go remote for two weeks after spring break.

Speaking from Lansing, Whitmer said that policy changes alone will not reduce the spread of COVID-19 as cases in Michigan are the highest in the nation.

"We all need to go above and beyond the rules we have in place," said Whitmer.

She called on high schools to voluntarily go remote for two weeks after spring break, to pause athletics for two weeks after spring break, and asked residents to avoid eating indoors for two weeks to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

During the update, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said that there are 515 cases per million people - 4 times higher than it was in February. Similarly, 18% of all tests are positive - 4 times higher than it was in February - and the highest it's been since March of 2020 when significantly fewer people were being tested.

Over the past week, 58 outbreaks have been identified at Michigan restaurants and Dr. Khaldun is urging everyone to order in instead of dining in, reminding everyone 'just because you can, doesn't mean you should'.

"If we can pause some of these activities, temporarily, it will go a long ways to prevent the spread and save lives," said Dr. Khaldun.

As of Tuesday's data, the state of Michigan's positive cases were up 348% since the low on Feb. 19. 

In the past seven days, Michigan has risen to the No. 1 spot for cases and case rates, up from the second highest in previous weeks.

The statewide positivity is the highest it has been since April 24, 2020, health officials said.

Since last week, 63 of 83 counties had double-digit positivity. This is a 21 county increase, while 73 counties had positivity greater than 7%, a nine-county increase.

Winter shutdown

The winter shutdown, which started in November, was implemented when Michigan was experiencing a second wave of significant cases and overwhelmed hospitals.

Over the course of the next 3 months, Michigan's cases and deaths plummeted while hospitals were freed up again. 

That led to bars and restaurants reopening for indoor dining on Feb. 1 and then increased capacity allowed on March 5.

On March 19, Whitmer's last statewide update before Friday, she announced that student-athletes would be tested before every practice and game and would require a negative antigen test in order to participate.

Since Feb. 19, the case rate increase, as well as the number of cases, has been the highest among people younger than 70.

The 20-29 and 30-39 age groups are seeing the highest case rates, while the 0-9 and 10-19 groups are at an all-time high. Cases have more than quadrupled from a month ago, officials said.

State of vaccine doses in Michigan

The state of Michigan is rapidly trying to deploy as many vaccines as possible and on Monday, April 5, the state opened up vaccine appointments to everyone 16 and older.

Michigan has the 10th highest number of people who have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as the 10th highest for people fully vaccinated.

According to health officials, 36.7% of people 16 and older have received at least one dose, and more than 4.7 million vaccine doses have been administered.

"Our administration capacity is definitely increasing in the state," Lyon-Callo said.

More: State vaccination access opens up in 'race against COVID-19 variants'

Health officials said the case rates are lower in age groups that have higher vaccine coverage. Older people were eligible to receive the vaccine sooner than younger people. Vaccinations for all people 16 and older opened up Monday.

However, the spike in cases doesn't mean vaccines don't work. With two shots needed, it may not be until mid-May before the benefits of the increased vaccinations is seen in most of Michigan.

The 75 and older age group has the highest number of fully vaccinated people and the lowest number of cases compared to all people older than 10.

In contrast, the 20-29 age group is seeing the most cases. However, only 8.3% of people in that group are fully vaccinated.

While cases are increasing in this group, they are declining in the population that had access to vaccines before anyone else. Michigan's vaccine eligibility started with older people and those with health issues. Younger people were the last group to become eligible for vaccines.