The two months anniversary of the coronavirus emergency coming to Michigan’s shores reminds us how far Gov. Whitmer has led the state toward recovery, and how far is left to go.
LANSING, MI — On the coronavirus two months anniversary of the pandemic, Michigan saw the fewest daily deaths since March: 25.
It was a Tuesday 62 days ago that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency following the first two confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus that was spreading across the globe. What have those 62 days changed?
Sunday was the two-months anniversary of the beginning of the pandemic in Michigan, and over those two months 47,138 Michiganders were confirmed to have cases of the coronavirus. Of those, 4,551 have died and 22,686 have been declared “recovered”.
Monday’s 414 new confirmed cases bring the overall total to 47,552 and the 33 new daily deaths bring the total to 4,584.
“From the very early days where we had to take aggressive steps to take kids out of schools and go into a shutdown to the steps we’re taking now to turn the dial and start to re-engage sectors of our economy, we’ve come a long way in the past two months,” said Whitmer Monday.
The ‘Gander looks back at coronavirus’ two months of statistics, challenges and triumphs of the human spirit during this once-in-a-century pandemic crisis. And, notably, at the difference between local and federal management.
To a large extent, Michigan’s story played out on a national stage. The fire thrown by President Donald Trump at Gov. Whitmer has thrown constant roadblocks in the way of Michigan’s response to the pandemic.
By the two-months anniversary, the President’s twitter rants and Whitmer’s graceful professionalism mixed with the occasional stinging clap-back have drawn The ‘Gander’s sister publication The Americano to draw comparisons between Whitmer and San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz.
When President Trump started rattling sabers about the danger he saw in vote-by-mail, Wtihmer and her team carried out the safest, most successful May election in Michigan history in stark contrast to the calamitous result in-person voting had in neighboring Wisconsin.
When President Trump pushed to “reopen” states with his power as the President, Whitmer clapped back that the government isn’t opened or closed by Twitter. She maintained her plans to keep the state re-engaging in a steady, slow and safe way despite the intimidating protests fueled and supported by President Trump.
And the months it took to get even the supplies to test those who needed it the most were potentially rooted in Trump’s feud with Whitmer. Even with expanded access to testing today, Michigan is still falling short of its goal of 15,000 tests per day.
The case fatality rate in Michigan has continued to hold steady at just under 10%, though dipped very slightly from Sunday to Monday. Michigan’s fatality rate remains far higher than the national average, though. Based on data from NPR, The ‘Gander calculates the national fatality rate at about 6%.
Since The ‘Gander has been tracking the case fatality rate, it has trended upward despite increased access to testing, which was expected to drop the fatality rate as less serious cases got diagnosed.
Things are more grim in Detroit, where Monday holds to the near-12% fatality rate the city has been rocked by in recent weeks.
But not all the numbers are so grim. Michigan recently fell out of the top three states in total deaths, and most day-to-day spikes in new confirmed cases are the result of the state identifying previously unreported deaths. Not only has Michigan fallen out of that category, in April it ceded its place among the top three states in number of total infections.
This means not only has the spread of the disease significantly slowed as we approached coronavirus’ two-month anniversary, it’s grown steadier.
“We must stay the course. We cannot ease up too soon,” stressed Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Chief Medical Executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services on Monday. “We are making progress, but please do not become complacent. We must all do our part to stop the spread of this disease and to save lives.”
Also, infectivity rates are much higher in marginalized communities. For instance, while only 14% of Michiganders are black, black people account for 32% of coronavirus infections. This could be part of a legacy of environmental racism in black communities. We have the data for black Michiganders, we don’t for trans Michiganders who are likely also infected and dying at an accelerated rate, a medical expert told The ‘Gander. And women seem to be infected at slightly higher rates than men.
Where that Venn diagram overlaps has always been a dangerous place, Time reports.
While it’s unclear how bad a second wave of infections will be, it is safe to say that the first wave has long since crested, and broken on Michigan’s shores. That is what flattening the curve looks like, and the road to this milestone was long and hard-fought.
The coronavirus has both provided unique challenges and exposed challenges that already existed for Michiganders. And while some of those challenges are systemic, others are on their way to resolution on the two-month anniversary.
One underlying problem exposed by the virus had been the difficulty blind Michiganders faced using absentee ballots. That’s already on its way to being fixed. As The ‘Gander reported, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson worked out an emergency solution to help the disabled in May 5’s election and plans to design a permanent system to better access mail-in voting for them in the future.
And mail-in voting itself was a challenge overcame. Early in the pandemic, Gov. Whitmer made the decision to encourage vote-by-mail by sending everyone set to vote an absentee ballot application proactively. This was a smash success, posting the highest voter turnout ever for a May election in Michigan. That was so successful that one legislator wants to make vote-by-mail the new normal long after coronavirus fades into memory.
But some challenges remain to be overcome. Beyond just the extraordinarily high fatality rate in Michigan, protests with violent imagery, implied and explicit threats and dramatic tactics have pressed their agenda on Lansing. While the Legislature did essentially as the protesters demanded, Whitmer remained resolute and wouldn’t rush her economic re-engagement plan, MI Safe Start, in a way that wasn’t balanced against public health concerns. That tension remains the fierce battle in the Capitol. A swath of conservatives are taking her to court as well (and, it should be noted, Whitmer has been winning in court).
But beyond political tensions, the coronavirus two-months anniversary is hitting Michiganders close to their hearts.
Some state services and charities have been burdened beyond anything they could’ve imagined. There are personal costs, like that of a man turned away by an ER three times or the prisoner who died just before his scheduled release.
The pandemic has also posed challenges to services like Meals on Wheels that are, for many isolated seniors, their lifeline to the outside world. And for shelters for those fleeing abuse, finding ways to adapt has been a challenge to navigate.
It didn’t help that poison control had to deal with the aftermath of President Trump’s off-hand remark about ingesting bleach.
But there have been kindnesses Michiganders showed one another during this crisis that remind us what humanity exists in our state.
Michigan businesses have changed their focus to help produce what is needed to respond to the pandemic. As The ‘Gander reports, this kind of action can be vital in preparing for a second wave. Michigan is also playing a role in the development of treatments by Pfizer.
And from a wider perspective, the nation is supporting Michigan. Following the coronavirus two-months anniversary, the Blue Angels are set to fly over Detroit in a salute to essential workers Tuesday and celebrities have stepped up to support the state.
But it’s really the personal touches that make it easier to handle these stressful times.
From making sure the Easter Bunny was out and about to surprise parades, Michiganders have been coming together while keeping six feet apart. The ‘Gander specifically dived in on some ways Michiganders have done that recently to commemorate two months of making some little light in the quarantine.