Gov. Whitmer’s recent NYT profile follows her leadership through the layered crises of the coronavirus pandemic. We have the highlights.
MICHIGAN — Feb. 27 was a day that sent shockwaves through the agenda of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. It also radically redefined her political career.
A recent New York Times profile of Michigan’s governor explored the briefing Gov. Whitmer got weeks before the novel coronavirus pandemic had it’s first diagnosed case. Even then, she and the state’s chief physician, Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, discussed topics ranging from the economic impact of the coronavirus and whether a state of emergency needed to be declared immediately.
Khaldun said she was certain the coronavirus had already come to Michigan, but a lack of support and supplies from the federal level left her unable to prove it. Symptom data later proved Khaldun’s insight was likely correct, The ’Gander reported. Khaldun warned Whitmer that the disease was pernicious, deadly, and could spread even before symptoms were noticed. She warned that dramatic measures would be needed to prevent disastrous spread of the virus.
Their plans, according to that symptom data, were almost immediately effective when implemented and were instrumental in flattening the curve. Michigan, and in particular Detroit, has been one of the hardest-hit states in the early weeks, and without measures laid out Feb. 27, the viral spread in April could have been catastrophic.
The Times profile reads like a Hollywood disaster movie replete with crisis management teams in windowless bunkers writing on white boards and Detroit hospitals with bodies piling up. All throughout, Khaldun continued to report on the lack of federal support or involvement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“That really took my breath away,” Whitmer told the Times. “That’s when it became clear that there’s no bigger plan. We are just going to have to put our heads down and do what we have to do here in Michigan.”
Through the last few months (see our three-month recap of the pandemic), Whitmer’s well-publicized attempts to stay that Feb. 27 plan, to keep Michigan’s curve flat, have had tidal forces arrayed against them. From protests to lawsuits, all designed to chip away at the state’s strategy for management and mitigation of a crisis.
“They’ve asked to negotiate terms of reopening like we’re in a political crisis,” Gov. Whitmer said. “We’re not in a political crisis, we’re in a public health crisis. I can’t negotiate people’s lives.”
Gov. Whitmer is a thorough public servant, the Times explained, with a storied history before her governorship and an attitude toward an unprecedented crisis that focused on pragmatism and decisiveness. There was no model for how a state should function in such a crisis, so Whitmer made her own.
The Times also recounted the familiar tale of Michigan’s struggle to get supplies. Gov. Whitmer testified to Congress on that subject in early June, and the battle over coronavirus supplies hasn’t gone away since. The Times reported that Whitmer’s staff called the global scramble to get supplies in fierce competition with other governments “The Hunger Games,” and without any experts in a situation like this on hand in Lansing, Gov. Whitmer’s team brainstormed solutions to survive that battle royale.
To read more about the management of the worst days, solutions to problems caused by federal mismanagement, and a host of other topics ranging from the breakdown of the unemployment system, rising political tensions leading to an armed occupation of Michigan’s Capitol Building, and a text exchange between governors during the call where President Trump called on states to “dominate” Black Lives Matter protesters, check out the full profile here.
Or just wait for the inevitable biopic starring Cecily Strong. As The ’Gander’s readers know, she does the accent just right.