Gov. Whitmer holds COVID 19 press briefing as more cases of new variant detected

Posted at 5:12 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 17:31:45-05

(WXYZ) — During a press briefing held Monday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said the state’s vaccination effort is ramping up, saying the state is now in the top 10 for doses used.

“Michigan is quickly going up in the ranks when it comes to getting shots in arms,” Whitmer said,

She is pledging to reach a pace of 50,000 vaccinations a day. According to the state online dashboard, more than 1 million doses have been distributed so far.

The state also reported declining hospitalizations and positivity rates, with the state case rate down 72% since November.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel. However, we are still in the tunnel,” Whitmer said.

The new challenge is the emergence of a COVID-19 variant, known to spread more easily. At least 13 cases have already been identified in Washtenaw County, with another 4 in Wayne County.

“There’s likely more cases that we have not yet identified and there’s possibly spread of the variant that is happening right now,” said Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldoun.

The variant is not known to be any more deadly, and our current vaccines and testing are still effective. However, since it spreads faster, health officials warn it’s important to remain vigilant.

“We do not want to have to go backwards to slow the great progress we have already made,” said Dr. Khaldoun.

Also during the conference, the governor introduced the new Director of Health and Human Services, Elizabeth Hertel. She steps in for former director Robert Gordon, who resigned on Friday.

The governor was pressed multiple times on whether she asked Gordon to resign, but she declined to answer. She instead turned the focus to Hertel who takes over the department in the midst of its biggest challenge.

“I wish him well, and I'm grateful for his leadership," Whitmer said of Gordon. "We’ve got a wonderful new director at the department so we’re going to forge ahead here.”