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Gov. Whitmer Provides Updates on COVID-19 Joined by New MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel

Whitmer and Team Addressed the New COVID Variant, Where the State Stands on Case Numbers and Vaccines

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Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer provided an update on the state’s COVID-19 response yesterday, addressing the emergence of a new COVID-19 strain in Michigan and the state’s vaccine rollout while brushing off questions about the departure of MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. Gordons Departure came as the state announced a return to indoor dining starting February 1.

THE DEPARTURE OF MDHHS DIRECTOR ROBERT GORDON

While neither Gordon nor Whitmer gave a concrete reason for the quick departure from MDHHS, there has been some assumption relating the move to the planned resumption of indoor dining or perhaps relentless personal attacks from those angered over the pandemic orders and rolling lockdowns. When asked during her press release on January 25, Whitmer declined to answer whether or not she had asked Gordon to resign.

Joining Whitmer in the conference, new director Elizabeth Hertel expressed gratitude and thanked Gordon for his service while also commenting on the States food assistance programs during the pandemic.

“Today, we are proud to highlight the actions the have been taken to ensure Michigan families have action to food despite the economic impacts of this pandemic,” shared Hertel. “Moving forward, we will do everything we can do to ensure that Michiganders are able to have enough food to eat.”

During the conference, the team also addressed the new COVID-19 variant spreading in Michigan and the vaccine effort that is currently underway.

NEW COVID VARIANT AND VACCINES

As of the moment, there have been at least 17 cases of the new COVID-19 variant, B.1.1.7, in Michigan. While the variant spreads easier from person-to-person, chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun reassured viewers that the variant does not seem to be a more severe illness, and current vaccines and testing are effective measures against it.

Yet, she also urged caution, as officials worry the more contagious strain will lead to a dramatic spike in positive cases throughout Michigan.

“But this new, more easily transmitted virus is still very concerning. We do not want to have to go backwards to slow the great progress we’ve already made. We want to continue to reopen our economy and get back to a sense of normalcy,” shared Khaldun. “This means that we all have to think a bit differently and more aggressively about preventing the spread.”

Whitmer addressed the current vaccine distribution, sharing that compared to two weeks ago — when the state had used 44 percent of state-controlled vaccines — Michigan had now used 67 percent of its supply. With this number, Michigan is now in the top 10 states when looking at the total number of vaccines used.

Despite this data, there are concerns over the vaccine supply as many in Phase 1A and 1B of the rollout struggle to make appointments for the vaccine. Comparing the vaccine push to a slow-moving train, Whitmer urged patience as the state works to acquire more shots.

“Once we have the vaccines that we need, every eligible Michigander who wants a vaccine will get the vaccine. This process, though, is like a locomotive. It is cumbersome and bumpy and slow at the beginning, but we will be picking up steam and things will be going faster,” shared Whitmer. “I just ask for patience as we work to get shots in arms.”

As the vaccine struggles continue, Michigan is trending better than most in regard to the virus, with 203 cases per million — a 72 percent decline since November. The better trending data also played a part in the state’s decision to reopen indoor dining starting in February.

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