Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urges caution in COVID-19 update

In a press conference on Wednesday, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer urges all residents to remain vigilant and not let their guard up on social distancing and staying home. 

Gov. Whitmer was joined by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Maureen Frances, a local realtor and Rachel Lutz a small business owner to talk about the MI Safe Start plan. FOX 2 will stream the press conference when it starts at 3 p.m. Watch in the player below or at fox2detroit.com/live

The Governor said as we start to head back to work, people who are still at home need to stay vigilant.

"Those who can't go back need to continue to stay home, to stay safe. When you have to leave - stay smart, wear a homemade mask, stay six feet apart, wash your hands, and use hand sanitizer," she said.

Gov. Whitmer is also urging Michiganders to help each other out during this time, whether that's donating food or money or helping a family in need.

"Do some research, find a good cause. There are people across the state who need help. If you're one of them, ask for help," she said.

Gov. Whitmer was joined by two small business leaders who stressed the importance of waiting for their time to open, in the interest of employees' and customers' health. Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) announced the suspension of the business license of a mid-Michigan barber who reopened on May 4.

The Governor also discussed a recent report about increases in Michigan's in-state travel and non-essential travel. She said while we may be slowing the spread of the virus, we're not done yet.

"We're in the flattening phase where case growth is gradually declining. we got here by taking aggressive measures to fight COVID-19," she said. "I am concerned, the more people are out and about, that's how COVID-19 spreads."

She said if we drop our guard now, all of our work will be in vain. When pressed on the possibility of extending the state's Stay Home order, Gov. Whitmer past the current deadline of May 28, Whitmer said the state is in a good position for more outbreaks, if it happens.

"The good news is that we have built up our PPE, we're doing a lot more testing, we've built up or tracing. If there's a spike, we're a lot more prepared to identify it," she said.

Earlier in the day, she announced more than 31,000 state employees will take two unpaid days off every pay period for the next three months. 

“As we continue to combat COVID-19, it’s clear that we’re facing unprecedented challenges that will lead to serious budget implications for the state of Michigan,” said Governor Whitmer. “Utilizing this federal program keeps state employees working so they can continue to provide critical services to Michiganders and protects their paychecks so they can continue to support their families.”

The MI Safe Start program was announced last week by Gov. Whitmer and includes six steps to re-engage Michigan's economy in the COVID-19 pandemic and crisis:

  1. UNCONTROLLED GROWTH: The increasing number of new cases every day, overwhelming our health systems. 
  2. PERSISTENT SPREAD: We continue to see high case levels with concern about health system capacity. 
  3. FLATTENING: The epidemic is no longer increasing and the health-system's capacity is sufficient for current needs. 
  4. IMPROVING: Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are clearly declining. 
  5. CONTAINING: Continued case and death rate improvements, with outbreaks quickly contained. 
  6. POST-PANDEMIC: Community spread not expected to return. 

Gov. Whitmer said last week that Michigan is currently in Phase 3, the flattening phase - and that's why also she extended the Stay Home Stay Safe order through May 28 on Thursday. Though, this new executive order allowed manufacturing workers, including employees at the Big 3 automakers, to return to work on Monday, May 11.

"We have to reengage like a dial, not a switch that goes on or off but a dial we can turn, and we can continue to turn the intensify up if everyone does their part. We have to remember the threat of a second wave is very real," she said. 

As testing continues to increase across the state and cases, hospitalizations and deaths are clearly declining, we will progress into Phase 4. 


Whitmer says that phase will include the opening of additional lower-risk businesses with strict safety measures such as retail, with capacity limits, and offices, though telework will be required if possible. 

Once we move into Phase 5, that will allow increased size gatherings and for most businesses to reopen with strict mitigation measures. This includes restaurants, bars, schools and travel. 

And the final phase, Phase 6, is when all businesses can safely reopen and events and gatherings of all sizes can occur, though likely with new safety guidelines and procedures. Social distancing rules will also relax in this phase.