Governor Whitmer gives update on state's COVID-19 response, plan for schools to reopen

LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - Governor Gretchen Whitmer gave an update Wednesday morning on the state's response to COVID-19. Michigan was one of the hardest hit states at the beginning of the pandemic, and is now leading the way in the recovery.

Governor Whitmer went in depth on her administration's response to COVID-19, emphasizing what she calls the success of her preventative measures, and the shutdown.

"The data shows that before the public health measures were in place, the average Michigander spread the virus to 3 other people,” said Whitmer. “As measures were implemented and adherence grew, Michigan’s infection rate decreased to 2.5 people, and then 1.25 people, and then to 0.8."

Governor Whitmer went on to say that while these numbers are promising, the state is not out of the woods yet, adding that safety measures still need to be followed.

"Masks should not be political, they're designed to save our lives,” said Whitmer. “Please, wear your mask when you are in public, and continue to practice social distancing."

The governor also commented on the opposition's response to her pandemic handling. Republican members of the state legislature have attempted to curb her authority, and a recall movement has begun.

"Any attempt to strip away the powers of the governor during this crisis is irresponsible, dangerous, and foolish,” said Whitmer. “We're here today in Phase 4 of the ‘MI Safe Start’ plan, heading to Phase 5 and leading the country because of the action we took."

The next big step for the state, heading to Phase 5 completely. The governor hopes the rest of the state joins northern Michigan there by July 4. Along with the move to Phase 5, the governor plans to create Michigan’s ‘Return to School Road Map.’

"We are optimistic that schools will be able to conduct in person instruction, while also complying with strict safety measures," said Whitmer.

For schools to open, these guidelines would be required, and could include smaller class sizes, social distancing, and even wearing masks.

"Marquette Area Public Schools has followed those guidelines and I think our community has done a really good job of following those things, and we're going to continue to follow that to the letter of the law as we move forward," said Bill Saunders, MAPS superintendent.

The plan would potentially allow for regions, and districts to be flexible, in case there is a second wave of COVID-19 in the fall.

“If there's evidence of a spike in cases or significant community spread in Chippewa County, perhaps Chippewa County could shift down and not the whole region, that way Houghton schools could continue," said Whitmer.

That’s just one example of the road map, one that school administrators around the state approve of.

"I'm a huge proponent of the local control piece and allowing our school board, our county health department, our health system to come up with what that plan looks like for us," said Saunders.

The governor said she hopes to have a comprehensive executive order for the return of in class schools complete and signed on June 30. That way districts can begin to prepare for the fall.

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