| 3 min read | by Doug Marrin |
Governor Gretchen Whitmer outlined her reasons for the Stay Home, Stay Safe Executive Order in a press conference on Monday, March 23, 2020, at 11:00 a.m. Under the order, Michiganders are required to stay home for all but essential services.
“Since I took office, my administration I have been committed to lead with transparency and honesty,” Governor Whitmer said in her opening statement. “Obviously when I took office 15 months ago, neither I nor anyone could have anticipated we would be confronting a global pandemic.”
The Governor pointed out that in just 13 days, Michigan has gone from zero confirmed cases of the coronavirus, COVID-19, to 1,232. That number was updated to more than 1,300 soon after her speech.
She stated the concern of this exponential spread by experts in healthcare and disease is that it could overwhelm hospitals and other healthcare facilities well beyond their capacity to provide adequate care.
“COVID-19 is a global pandemic,” said the Governor. “It’s a novel virus, there is no cure. There is no vaccine. The only tool that we have to fight it at the moment, and to support our healthcare system to respond, is to give them the opportunity by buying some time.”
Whitmer went on to explain that of the nearly 10 million people in Michigan, one predictive model estimates more than 70% of the population could be infected with COVID-19, similar to what Italy is experiencing. According to current data, of the approximately 7 million people infected, 1 million would need to be hospitalized.
The Governor explained that there are about 25,000 acute care beds in Michigan. That’s only enough to care for one out of every 40 people who need hospitalization. Stopping the spread of this virus is our most important chance of keeping people safe.
“That means without aggressive additional measures, more people will get sick, more people will die and our economy will suffer longer,” said the Governor. “Without additional aggressive measures, soon, our hospitals will be overwhelmed, and we don’t all currently don’t even have enough beds, masks, gowns, and ventilators.”
“But if we all do our part and simply stay home, we have a shot at helping our healthcare system meet our needs because this disease can’t spread person to person if we’re not out there,” she added. “Right now too many people are still out and about unnecessarily.”
Governor Whitmer pointed to the lack of national strategy as forcing the states to take action. Michigan’s stay home order follows Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, California, New York, and others with more states expected to follow.
She reiterated the point several times that “We are doing this because of is absolutely necessary to protect the health of our people. The goal here is simple. Stay home. Stay safe. Save lives.”
It is a temporary order designed as a strategic intervention to buy hospitals time to increase their surge capacity. It also gives time to create a vaccine and therapeutic drugs that may lower hospitalization and fatality rates.
Whitmer emphasis that even with today’s action, the number of cases will increase. The preventive measures will take time to make an impact. The Governor’s Office will be continually evaluating the data, the science, and the impact on public health.
“It’s been observed if it were possible to wave a magic wand and make all Americans freeze in place for 14 days six feet away from one another, the whole epidemic would sputter to a halt. It’s on all of us to do our part.
The Governor consulted with medical experts from across the country who in turn recommended the stay-at-home order. Lifting the order will depend on factors such as data on COVID-19 infections, the rate of spread, and whether or not sufficient medical personnel, hospital beds, and equipment exist to meet anticipated needs.
During the stay-at-home order, critical services will remain open in person. Governor Whitmer described these as businesses and operations that do work that sustains or protects life. But in doing that critical work, they must take aggressive steps to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
“Do not panic. Do not hoard,” said Whitmer. “I have checked on our whole supply chain for food and it will be accessible.”
The order means that Michigan schools will remain closed at least through April 13, and the Governor said she would speak more on that subject at a later date.
“I know this is going to be disruptive,” she said. “And it’s certainly going to be hard on our economy as well, but our action will save lives. In the long run, doing this now shortens the time our economy suffers.”
Governor Whitmer had a message for the younger generations:
“Young people, I’m talking to you now. You’re not immune from this. You can get this virus. And in fact, 40% of the hospitalizations and positive cases are among people 20 to 49. You can carry this without even knowing it, and be unknowingly exposing others to it. If you don’t take this order seriously, we will have to observe these situations longer than we need to.”
In conclusion, Governor Whitmer stated, “Our aggressive action today will help mitigate how many people get sick and how long our economy suffers. I’ve seen some remarkable things in this time of crisis. This is a test unlike any we’ve seen before. We are up to it. We will get through this.”