There are signs the coronavirus is finally under control in Michigan, but a lack of testing and defiance of social distancing orders might stall the restart of Michigan’s economy.
MICHIGAN — As the curve shows signs of flattening, one key element of that plan is still missing: testing.
Last week, a number of Midwestern states joined Michigan’s Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in her plan for restoring a sense of normal order in the wake of the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus called COVID-19. .
The four markers needed to start phasing out the stay-at-home order in Michigan were outlined as a sustained control and reduction of cases of the coronavirus, enhanced ability to test for and trace the virus, capacity for health systems to handle resurgences of the disease and a set of social distancing best practices for workplaces.
While Whitmer is hopeful that these criteria can be hit by early May, the lack of testing remains a major roadblock to the ability to effectively prevent a resurgence of the coronavirus when stay-at-home orders begin to phase out. Michigan could triple it’s current testing abilities, but Whitmer said on Sunday’s Meet the Press that the state lacks the needed supplies to do so.
“If the federal government would use the Defense Production Act and say ‘We’re going to make every swab people need and we’re gonna expedite creation of the reagents,’ we would be able to know how prevalent COVID-19 is,” she said. “It would take down the risks associated with taking action to re-engage parts of our economy.”
As Slate reports, President Trump has argued that there is enough testing to reopen the economy, but governors have called that claim “dilusional”.
Re-engaging those economies too soon could have disastrous effects, warned America’s top expert on the novel coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“Unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery economically is not going to happen,” Fauci said on ABC’s Good Morning America. “If you jump the gun and go into a situation where you have a big spike, you’re going to set yourself back.”
So despite the signs that the curve is flattening and day-over-day statistics on the virus’ growth giving cause of optimism, without the other elements of the response plan in place to deal with a possible, and even probable, second wave of the virus the ultimate effect of ending stay-at-home orders will only be another round of difficult pandemic response choices.
Whitmer attributed that flattening to Michiganders abiding by the stay-at-home orders from the state and the serious approach most Michigan residents have taken to policies like social distancing. Those successes helped drop Michigan out of the top three states in terms of coronavirus cases last week.
“You’re the reason we’re driving this curve down,” Whitmer said.
But the protests of those stay-at-home policies risk extending them. Protesters traveling to Lansing and disregarding social distancing risk further spreading the pandemic. That, combined with a lack of testing, temper the optimism found in the slowing growth of the disease in Michigan. President Trump over the weekend tweeted a call to “liberate” Michigan, further fueling those protests and hindering efforts to slow the virus’ spread.
But Whitmer remained resolved that Michiganders would get through this trying time together, using the advice of public health officials and scientists to protect lives.
“There’s a lot of anxiety, and I think the most important thing that anyone with a platform can do is to try to use that platform to tell people, ‘We’re going to get through this.’ We will re-engage our economy when it’s safe,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.