Michigan is roughly a month away from reaching the “apex” of the coronavirus epidemic, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said during a press conference today shortly after ordering school districts to close for the rest of the school year.
“At this juncture, we think we’re probably a good month out from the apex of COVID-19, and this disease is spreading very fast here in Michigan,” Whitmer said today alongside Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. “We still don’t have enough tests to really have confidence that we know precisely how many people are carrying COVID-19.”
Whitmer’s statement aligns with estimates from health systems. Earlier this week, Spectrum Health President and CEO Tina Freese Decker said based on projections and the pandemic’s current rate, “we would exceed demand for hospital and intensive care services in early May, and this would last for many weeks.”
University of Michigan researchers reported this week that aggressive social distancing could reduce the number of patients at the university’s hospitals in early May by as much as 65 percent, a “crucial” step to helping the state “flatten the curve.”
Whitmer is also asking lawmakers for a 70-day extension of emergency powers, a request that faced pushback from Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, who yesterday expressed concerns about the length of the extension. The request would not apply to Whitmer’s stay-at-home order that is in place until April 13, but she has reportedly said that it will likely be extended.
“We are nowhere near the end of COVID-19 in the state of Michigan,” Whitmer said today. “As we look at the modeling, we know we’re in for a tough three, four, five, six weeks.”
While Khaldun said officials are not sure of the exact date when cases will peak, the state is still on the upslope, with more cases and deaths expected to be reported today. Over the past few days, the state has seen more than 1,000 new cases each day.
Whitmer emphasized that Michigan, a hotspot for the coronavirus outbreak that has been particularly acute around Detroit, will likely require several more weeks of strict social distancing to stop the spread based on health models.
“It’s so incredibly important that people stay home,” Khaldun said. “This is incredibly serious.”
Whitmer said officials have not discussed a statewide curfew “at this juncture.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, the state reported 9,334 positive COVID-19 cases to date, including 337 deaths.
Since Monday, Michigan has received 400 ventilators from the strategic national stockpile, although Whitmer said many more are still needed.
Hospitals across West Michigan and the state have filed plans to increase hospital capacity as other facilities are being repurposed to house patients.