Whitmer And Trump Agree: Michigan’s Not Ready
Michigan made global headlines Thursday, with armed right-wing protestors storming the state capital and posting armed guards outside the doors.
The move came as GOP legislators tried to block Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s extension of her “Stay Home, Stay Safe” lockdown order.
It was a political stunt that put lives in danger, both from the guns and spread of COVID-19. After all, Governor Whitmer’s action is in perfect agreement with the White House’s suggestions for states moving forward.
The president’s guidelines are specific about the three criteria states should meet before entering the next phase of the reopening process.
Michigan meets the first criterium — the case numbers have trended down over the last 14 days — but they fail on both measures included in the second.
The first measure is simple:
A downward trajectory of documented cases within a 14-day period.
Michigan doesn’t qualify.
While positive tests are well below their highs from early April, the numbers have gone up and down over the last two weeks.
The state also fails on the second measure used in the second criterium:
A downward trajectory of positive tests as a percent of total tests within a 14-day period (flat or increasing volume of tests)
The trend is generally down, but there was a spike from April 18–20, and the line has flattened out at 12%.
Michigan also hasn’t been able to reach a steady level of testing. They performed 8,000 at their peak — well short of the 15,000 recommended by a Harvard study — but have not been able to sustain those heights.
Michigan also fails on the third criterium.
The first measure — “Treat all patients without crisis care” — has not been reached. As of April 29, the state still had more than 2,000 COVID-19 victims requiring inpatient care, including 966 in critical condition and 760 on ventilators. Equipment is also an issue. Beaumont Health — one of Michigan’s largest health-care systems — has less than a week’s worth of masks while the University of Michigan’s hospitals only have enough shields on hand for a few days.
The third criterium has an “AND” between its two measures, but Michigan falls short there as well. The state is checking all at-risk healthcare professionals but does not have an antibody-testing program in place.
Michigan isn’t ready to lift the restrictions Whitmer has put into place, but her plan has moved the state in the right direction.
Things are improving
One day after Michigan below 1,000 patients requiring critical care — they were at 1,570 on April 12 — there were two more milestones on Wednesday.
In southeastern Michigan, the number of people requiring inpatient care went below 2,000. That represents a 46% reduction from the 3,461 reported on April 12, the first day of consistent hospitalization numbers from the state.
The northern part of that region — Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair — had 205 patients on ventilators Wednesday, a 51% drop from 415 on the 12th.
However, not everything has been good. While things are encouraging statewide and in Metro Detroit, there are concerning signs about Region 6 — the area of western Michigan anchored by Grand Rapids and Muskegon.
The state’s case-onset data shows the region with an average of 89 new infections over the past two weeks, double the rate of the previous fortnight. So far, hospitalization numbers and death counts have remained low, with only 17% of available ventilators in use. However, if the trend continues, it could become an issue as the state considers its reopening strategy.
The next step
The next chapter in Michigan’s coronavirus battle will be an effort to boost testing and creating the robust tracking program needed to prevent a second wave of illnesses and deaths.
Whitmer is under pressure from the Republican party to accelerate the reopening pace, but she needs to point to the president’s own criteria — the state isn’t ready.