Despite Michigan having the highest new case rate of the coronavirus in the U.S. in recent weeks, Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) has so far resisted reinstating lockdowns and mandating new restrictions on citizens in the state.
The state has had 50,000 new cases in a week’s time, but most of those cases are in younger people as most of the state’s elderly population has now been vaccinated. Hospitalizations have increased 30% since last week, but deaths have not jumped in a similar way because younger people rarely die from the virus. A full 70% of new cases are the UK variant, which is more contagious than the original virus, but not more deadly.
Whitmer has decided not to mandate any further restrictions like closing down businesses and schools, which have recently re-opened for in-person learning. Instead, Whitmer made recommendations that people pause so-called high-risk activities like indoor dining, youth sports and in-person instruction for two weeks.
“To be very clear, these are not orders, mandates, or requirements. A year in, we all know what works and this has to be a team effort. We have to do this together. Lives depend on it,” Whitmer said. “There’s light at the end of this tunnel, but the recent rise in cases is a reminder that we are still in the tunnel. That’s the nature of this virus, the second we let our guard down it comes roaring back.”
A welcome change
One year ago, Michigan was one of the most locked-down states in the country, but Michigan has also seen lawsuits to stop executive mandates, protests against lockdowns and a failed plot to kidnap Whitmer over her coronavirus policies. The Republican-led legislature has also threatened Whitmer with impeachment over her mandates.
It is not clear what has led Whitmer to resist new lockdown mandates even as the CDC calls for them, but it is a welcome development.
Whitmer and other Michigan officials have called for the federal government to send more vaccines to the state because of the surge, but the White House has said it would not do so.
“When you have an acute situation, an extraordinary number of cases like we have in Michigan, the answer is not necessarily to give vaccines — in fact, we know the vaccine will have a delayed response,” CDC Director Rochelle Wallensky said during a briefing.
Michigan an example of “tensions” in US over virus
“I think that Michigan is really kind of an exemplar of the tensions existing in the country at large,” director of wellness, resilience and vulnerable populations at Michigan State University Claudia Finkelstein told The Hill.
Michiganders have been unnaturally locked down for more than a year due to this virus, and Whitmer knows many will not go along with further restrictions.
Some of the current surge can no doubt be attributed to Whitmer’s previous draconian restrictions, which artificially tamped down the numbers of cases compared to other states with looser restrictions. As soon as Whitmer lifted the restrictions, it was natural that cases would increase.
Michigan will get through this wave in short order if they hold their ground, and once vaccinations hit critical mass, case numbers and deaths will inevitably drop, variant or no.