Michigan Gov. Whitmer talks restrictions on assisted living, movie theaters reopening, and early voting

Early voting kicked off in Michigan today with millions of ballots being mailed to residents who applied to vote by mail. 

With 45 days until Nov. 3, the 2020 general election will put Michigan's election systems to the ultimate test with a record number expected to vote remotely. 

And don't forget - there's still a pandemic to continue mitigating after voting concludes. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined FOX 2 Thursday morning to discuss all of that and more.

During a Q&A, the governor was asked to respond to user questions about further reopening Michigan:

Question from Kim:

When is the governor going to loosen restrictions on visiting family in assisted living? Dementia patients are having a tough time right now and so are families?

"We are reviewing the guidelines right now. Of course, we are trying to be nimble and make sure that families can stay connected and get better connected. I understand it's been a hardship and its heartbreaking."

"We're going to make some changes I think in the coming weeks to acknowledge as the weather drops, we're going to want to make availabilities to connect, but we got to keep people safe."

"COVID-19 is still present all across the state of Michigan while we're leading the country right now in how we've saved lives and reengaged our economy and not seen our numbers skyrocket again like in other states, it's all very precarious and that's why it's important that we're very mindful in keeping people safe and that means especially people in congregate care settings."

Question from Rose:

I organize events and my daughter owns a wedding floral design company. When does she (the governor) think it will be safe enough to attend indoor weddings and events again?

"I sound like I'm repeating myself but COVID-19 is still very present in Michigan and the way it spreads from person to person and none of us knows how our body is going to react. Now we've made great strides. There are therapeutics that are in development, there are vaccines that are in development. We've learned a lot f about how masking up singularly remains the best tool we have to stay safe.

"So we've pushed our fatality rate down and our hospitalization rate down as well. But, we drop our guard now, we start congregating indoors and in large numbers close together, we will see a second spike that will be devastating and perhaps force us to take steps backward and that's what we're trying to avoid.

"I want their businesses to remain successful and I remain committed to being nimble so as these therapeutics come online and as we make advances we can reengage, but we got to make the science the center point of the work that we're doing."

Question from John, Dar, Terri:

I'd like to know the sources for her "science-driven" data. When will the entire state be in phase 5? 

"We are providing updated daily information on the (Michigan coronavirus) website about how many tests we're conducting, what the positivity rates are, what the hospitalization rates are. In addition to that, we're sharing information - I've done 53 different press conferences in the last few months. We've been incredibly transparent.

"We want people to see what we are really confronting as a state. As you look at where we are compared to the rest of the country, there's no question Michiganders have taken this seriously. We've done our part to push our numbers down. But we are seeing after groups are coming together like the event in Freeland when the president came to town, we're seeing Covid cases coming out of that. So we still have to do what we know to be the right thing which is social distancing, mask-wearing, hand washing, and being really smart.

Follow-up question from Amy: 

When it comes to the next step, are we close to another step forward or are we still leveled out at the same spot?

"The vast majority of our economy has been brought back online. The things that haven't been are where we have groups of people congregating. That will remain something we are hopeful to reengage, however, we always knew that would be the last to come back online.

"Our numbers have been somewhat steady, but we have seen some concerning increases and that's part of the data that Dr. J (Joneigh Khaldun) presents every press conference and it's also online on the state website. And I invite other people to check it out.

"While Michigan is stronger than a lot of other states, we do see concerning numbers growing in places like the upper peninsula and in different parts of our state and that's what we're watching very carefully."

Questions from Nona, Anna, Jane:

When can we go back to the movies?

"What we have always said from the beginning is we had to be incremental in terms of our re-engagement and that places that have lots of people in them will probably be the last to come online due to the nature of this virus.

"So right now we have engaged gyms for instance. We have in-person learning happening in our schools. There's sporting events that are taking place. And we're on the cusp of flu season. That's why as we engage this we got to see that we don't see community spread and then we'll take the next step.

"I'm as eager as anyone to get the theaters back open with a diminished capacity and protocols in place but I do think that is the next step and I'm hopeful we can take it in the coming days or weeks."

On voting now open in Michigan

For anyone prepared to mask up and stay six feet apart from others, the governor said she had no problem voting in person.

"But what we also know is we're preparing for what could be historic turnout and having additional tools at our disposal to make sure that we can exercise that right to vote early if want to so we don't have to stand in lines or worry about a big crush of people is important."

For more information on absentee voting or registering to vote, head to FOX 2's voter guide here.