Published in Economic Development

Whitmer, coaches stress mask wearing as Michigan reaches pandemic ‘turning point’

BY Wednesday, July 15, 2020 04:29pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer — with help from athletic coaches at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan — today reiterated her calls for residents to wear masks as the state hits a “turning point” in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Whether schools reopen for in-person instruction within the next two months or statewide restrictions are eased or tightened depends on getting control over the growing numbers, which Whitmer said can be done largely by wearing masks. She cited recent studies showing masks can reduce the spread of COVID-19 by up to 70 percent.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer COURTESY PHOTO

“We have a choice to make,” Whitmer said. “Do we double down and get more vigilant, or do we let all of our hard work go to waste?”

Whitmer held a press conference as the state announced 891 new cases of COVID-19, the highest increase in two months that continues a growth trend in recent weeks.

“That’s very concerning,” state Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said of today’s increase.

The Grand Rapids region leads the state in concentration with 53 cases per million people per day, followed by the Kalamazoo and Detroit regions.

While COVID-19 testing has increased to more than 21,000 per week, the percentage of positive results also has increased from 2.8 percent to 3.4 percent over the previous week, Khaldun said.

“This is an indicator that there’s ongoing spread of the disease and we’re simply not seeing more cases because we’re doing increased testing,” she said.

Whitmer called the state’s current trajectory “troubling,” and presented a forecast of the current path reaching daily case increases matching figures from months ago at the height of the pandemic.

“We’re trying to hold to staying in phase 4,” Whitmer said of the state’s reopening plan. Most of Michigan is in phase 4 while the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula are in phase 5. “If the numbers keep going where they’re going, it’s going to be very problematic.”

State officials were joined by MSU men’s basketball coach Tom Izzo, MSU women’s basketball coach Suzy Merchant and U-M women’s basketball coach Kim Barnes Arico.

“If we want our kids to be in school in the fall, we have to wear a mask,” Merchant said.

Izzo stressed a unifying message as the state looks to stop COVID-19 case increases.

“This common opponent is a deadly opponent,” he said. “I have been disappointed in how some Michiganders have handled this lately. I’m asking everyone to join me in wearing a mask.”

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