Will the current MDHHS order be extended? State officials say it depends on the numbers
Wed, 12/02/2020 - 3:37pm caleb
Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services discuss Thanksgiving gathering concerns, impending COVID-19 vaccine during televised update on December 1
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
State officials, during a televised update on Tuesday, December 1, expressed optimism with regard to Michigan’s current COVID-19 situation with a recent improvement in some of the numbers, but they also expressed concern about a potential spike due to Thanksgiving holiday gatherings, and Governor Gretchen Whitmer said it is too early to announce whether or not any regulations in the current Michigan Department of Health and Human Services “Gatherings and Face Mask Order” will be extended before the order expires on December 8.
The Gatherings and Face Mask Order forced the closure of restaurants to dine-in service, put further limits on gatherings, suspended in-person instruction at high schools and colleges, and paused the fall and winter high school sports seasons in the state, among other restrictions.
“We are now nearly two weeks into the MDHHS three-week pause to save lives epidemic order. This epidemic order is geared toward stopping the spread by limiting indoor gatherings where COVID-19 can easily spread from person to person. This is the right thing to do to protect our families, to protect our medical workers, and to protect small businesses from the virus,” Governor Whitmer said. “These steps are what public health experts say we need to take to avoid overwhelmed hospitals and death counts like we saw in the spring.”
“Earlier this year Michigan emerged as a national leader in fighting COVID-19 in saving lives. We beat COVID-19 last time by listening to public health experts and we can beat it again,” Governor Whitmer said. “This virus has infected more than 350,000 Michiganders and sadly it has taken the lives of over 9,000 people in our state.”
“I know every one of us is tired of this pandemic. Me too. We’ve been fighting this for a long time but we have to be resilient enough to see this through. We’ve got to continue working together to eradicate this virus,” Governor Whitmer said.
“At this point it’s really too early to say where precisely we’ll be in a few days, much less next week, but I think it’s important for people to know we’ve not predetermined anything. It’s going to be driven by where we see the numbers,” Governor Whitmer said. “I would anticipate early next week we’ll have a much better idea of what this pause has meant, if people have taken it seriously and done their part, and that will inform any decision going forward.”
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive, during the December 1 televised update, said case rates have “been declining for the past week” and test positivity rates have improved from 14 percent to 13 percent, a rate that is “still much higher than we would like it to be.”
“We are cautiously optimistic based on what we are seeing,” Dr. Khaldun said. “More people started doing the right thing towards the beginning of November – that means wearing masks, not gathering, and maintaining six feet of distance from others – and we think that is contributing to the decrease to our rate of rise in cases.”
Both Governor Whitmer and Dr. Khaldun expressed concern about possible spread of COVID-19 during the Thanksgiving holiday.
“We will continue to watch these trends, as we have throughout the pandemic, in case rates and positivity and especially looking for those increases from the Thanksgiving holiday,” Dr. Khaldun said. “That is one thing that I am very concerned about is that people may have gathered or traveled over the Thanksgiving break. Any increases in cases from the Thanksgiving holiday we would not expect to see for two to three weeks in our data.”
“We all know the next two months are going to be hard,” Governor Whitmer said. “Too many people traveled for Thanksgiving and we will see our numbers increase very likely because of it and that’ll coincide with the next big holiday, Christmas, and too many people are considering traveling and I’m reiterating, please don’t, and about four weeks after that we will see the impact of that.”
“If you did gather or travel during Thanksgiving, you should make sure you’re trying to stay away from others as much as possible for 14 days after you traveled. You should also wear a mask whenever you will be around someone outside of your own household and please keep in touch with anyone you may have interacted with over the holiday break,” Dr. Khaldun said. “If you or anyone you were in contact with becomes ill you should immediately get tested and isolate from others. The actions that you take now could have a real impact in decreasing how much the virus spreads.”
Dr. Khaldun said 20 percent of “in-patient hospital beds” in Michigan are being used by COVID-19 patients.
“Our case numbers, our hospitalizations, our deaths are dangerously high already, and even with our targeted temporary action to slow the spread, we expect to see numbers increase over the coming weeks and months as more people travel for the holidays,” Governor Whitmer said.
Governor Whitmer and Dr. Khaldun both spoke about the imminent COVID-19 vaccines and the state’s plan for distributing them once they’re available.
“The good news is there is hope on the horizon. There truly is significant progress being made in the realm of vaccine development. We will continue to work 24/7 to ensure an effective and safe vaccine is distributed safely and in a way that follows the (Centers for Disease Control) guidance. There is light at the end of this tunnel,” Governor Whitmer said.
Dr. Khaldun said two companies have submitted COVID-19 vaccines for CDC and Food and Drug Administration approval. Both require two doses “to provide immunity” and they’re both approximately 95 percent effective, she said. Dr. Khaldun said a decision is expected in the middle of December if the vaccines will be authorized for use and for what groups of people. Dr. Khaldun said health care workers will be among the first to be vaccinated in Michigan.
“We are actively working on plans for distribution when these vaccines become available,” Dr. Khaldun said. “When Michigan first gets the vaccine it will be available in very limited quantities and we are still awaiting order from the CDC on exact numbers of doses that Michigan will receive in that first allocation. Because there will be such a limited amount in the beginning our first priority will be to keep healthcare systems operating and to protect those who are the most vulnerable.”
“We are prioritizing vaccinating frontline healthcare workers such as EMS, those working on hospital medical floors and ICUs, or in emergency departments, and as the vaccine becomes more available, hopefully by January, we hope to quickly get vaccine out to people working in congregate care facilities and residents of skilled nursing facilities, but all this is dependent on how quickly additional vaccine becomes available from the manufacturer, per CDC recommendation, and again depending on the supply of the vaccine, we will continue to expand to other types of critical healthcare workers, that includes essential workers, which includes educators, also those that are at highest risk of severe illness due to COVID-19, and eventually to the general public. We hope to be able to have vaccine to the general public by late spring,” Dr. Khaldun said.