Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer answered our questions Wednesday morning to talk all about the effort to increase vaccination rates in Michigan and when we may get to the point where Michigan begins opening things back up.
Check out her interview with Simon Shaykhet above, and read our Q&A below.
Responses are edited for clarity
Question: In the last couple of days, the Michigan vaccination rate has only gone up tens of a percent, when do you anticipate hitting the 55% benchmark, and what will you do if we don't reach 70%?
Answer: Well, we're hopeful to hit this in the coming 7-10 days. We think that it's very possible. There seems to be a glitch in the data from yesterday so we're trying to understand what happened. We know that there were more than 10,000 shots performed yesterday, but we also expected the supply to eclipse demand this time, and that's not just what's happening in Michigan but across the country.
We've got to all try to encourage our friends and relatives and neighbors to avail themselves of this great vaccine. it is easier than ever to get one. It is the best tool we have to combat COVID and get back to normal, and so we anticipate getting there in the next 7-10 days. We've all go to do our part to encourage our loved ones and friends and coworkers to get vaccinated.
What is the state doing to track vaccines that are given out of state to Michiganders?
When people get their vaccine, generally, it is assigned to their home ZIP code, regardless of if you went across the border to get it or not. However, we are recognizing that there are some places where perhaps vaccines are being distributed that aren't logged in the national database. We're working through that. Our experts tell us it's not a huge number, but there could be a gap. We're working with the feds and our providers to make sure we have the best information about how many people got vaccinated.
If any viewers think the vaccine they got out of state hasn't been counted, they should be reaching out to their department of public health and make sure they know. We don't want to miss anyone. The sooner we get to 55%, 60, 65, 70%, the sooner we can get back to normal and we want to make sure everyone is counted.
Will you consider relaxing restrictions on businesses when vaccines are readily available and people are choosing not to get them in some cases?
Well, when we get to 55%, which isn't that far off, we will see some relaxation, we'll be able to get back into office places. The "Vacc to Normal Place" we announced last week has not only been lauded by businesses but by public health experts as really focusing on the right metric, which is how much of our percentage of the population is vaccinated. That's why we talk about the herd and what it means to keep COVID at bay so we can get back to going to football games this fall. This is the most important thing each of us has the ability to take action on and that's getting ourselves vaccinated.
Will it be illegal to dance at a wedding or grad party this summer with a mask on, when people can go to a Zumba class, which is similar, and wear a mask, and participate there?
I know that some of the Republicans in Lansing are pretending that our actions are limiting dancing. It's just preposterous. What we have done in the last handful of days is show the path out of the pandemic, which is what everyone is asking for, so that is available and it's gotten incredible reviews from businesses, from families, from health experts.
We also yesterday loosened our mask mandate, so when you're outdoors, you don't have to wear that mask if you're in groups of 100 or less. We're making major steps toward the re-engagement and getting back to normal. Any conversation otherwise is rooted in politics and misinformation and we want to set the record straight.
What's the science behind, say, a banquet hall that can hold 600 people but can only allow 25 inside, while a restaurant holds 100 people but can have 50% capacity?
What we know is that when people congregate with the kind of the third surge we just came through in a place where people are taking off their masks, that it's inherently more likely to have spread. The greater our vaccination rates go, the quicker we'll be able to do a lot of our events indoors, and know that we're going to be safe. That's why we're going to stay focused on the back to normal plan, the "Vacc to Normal Plan," and we're making great progess.
To those businesses waiting to hire or waiting to fill jobs because they don't know what the summer looks like, or feel they're being punished because people don't want to get the vaccine, what do you say to them?
We're all in this together. We're going to be successful when we work together. That is the call to action. This is a public health crisis that we're trying to come out of, and it requires every one of us to do our part and take this seriously. I know there are a lot of business owners who are eager to come back, and the quicker we can get vaccinated, the quicker we can do those things.
We are working incredibly hard to make it easier and easier to get vaccinated. WE are doing mobile clinics, we've seen incredible strides happen here in Michigan. Our actions have put us in a strong position, and we have to keep our foot the gas here. That's why everyone needs to be part of getting the community vaccinated.
What will happen to someone who holds an indoor wedding and simply ignores the rules?
I know that's the question people want to know, what are the penalties, how do we punish people? That's not what we're focused on. We're focused on protecting people. We're focused on trying to get us all to a place where we can enjoy family weddings, barbecue for the Fourth of July, that's the goal. I was really pleased to see President Biden embrace that same goal. That's been the trajectory that we've been focused on, and that's the promise of what these modern miracles of medicine give us.
The fact that we have a number of vaccines on the market that are safe and effective in under a year of this pandemic coming to our shores, is really incredible. utilizing these, keeping people safe, following the science, we know that's the best way to re-engage, the best way to stay healthy, and the best way to get to a big wedding with a bunch of your relatives and loved ones you haven't seen.
I got my second shot last week, and I am counting down until next weekend when I have the full benefit of full immunity, and I'm going to get together with some friends I haven't seen in over a year. I'm really excited about it. I know that as more of us do this, we're going to be able to do more of these things.
Q: What's your greatest fear at this point?
Certainly, this is a virus that can come roaring back if we let our guard down. In India, there is so much community spread that the virus continues to mutate. What happens in one part of the world can quickly come to another part of the world. These are the things that I think keep us very alert and watching the data, listening to our public health experts, because it can come roaring back and that's why we are in a race. The quicker we get vaccinated, the better for all our sake and the better at keeping the mutation at bay that might overcome one of these vaccines. That's the race that we're in and the race we're staying focused on.
Have you met anyone who is against getting the vaccine and engaged them in conversation?
I've talked with a few people who are hesitant. They have a lot of questions, and I respect that. I want to make sure we take the time to answer anyone's question. I know there are a lot of people out there who are waiting on it to be more convenient, that's more and more the case every single day. It's easier to get a vaccine. I'm hopeful anyone who continues to have questions, there are a lot of resources to get them answered. These are safe and effective vaccines, and after everything we've been through, the opportunity to get vaccinated is one that comes with a great sense of relief. No one wants to get this virus and no one wants to be responsible for passing it to loved ones. That's why we're answering questions and doing what we can to make it as convenient as possible for people to get these vaccines. Nowadays, you don't even really need to have appointments, you can walk into these places and get this vaccine, and we hope people do.
Detroit's vaccination rate is a disappointment at this rate, what are your insights into why that is?
I think we've done an incredible job out of the gate. I give incredible reviews to Mayor Duggan and the team he has assembled at the TCF Center with his health department. We have worked very closely with feds on Ford Field. We've made great strides, but there's more work to do. Our mobile units will be partnering with churches and other organizations that are housed in communities that are easy for people to access and have confidence in. This is the next stage of this effort to get people vaccinated, and we're going to continue to partner to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to get the vaccine.
Additional Coronavirus information and resources:
View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.
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