Royal Oak Tribune

New order eases some virus restrictio­ns

Whitmer blisters Trump administra­tion, Congress with announceme­nt

- By Charles Crumm ccrumm@medianewsg­ @crummc on Twitter

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a relaxation to the temporary pause in some activities in a new epidemic order Friday that will allow high schools and colleges to return to in-person learning in January and ease restrictio­ns on some other activities.

Whitmer, in her final coronaviru­s news briefing before Christmas, blasted both the Trump administra­tion for its rollout of coronaviru­s vaccines to Michigan and Congress for its delay in passing another coronaviru­s relief bill.

Whitmer opened her remarks by noting the COVID-related death of Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon before venting her frustratio­n at the Trump administra­tion and at Congress.

“My heart hurts,” Whitmer said. “And while I’ve stood here for approximat­ely 80 press conference­s over the last 10 months, today I’m very sad and I’m pretty angry too. And I’ll tell you why.

“I’m angry because people like Benny are losing this battle every single day, and I still cannot get a straight answer out of the Trump administra­tion about why Michigan, like many other states, is receiving a fraction of the vaccines we were slated to receive,” the governor said. “There are millions of Pfizer vaccines, many right here in Portage, Michigan, that are waiting to be shipped but the feds are slow-walking the process of getting the addresses to Pfizer for some reason I cannot get to.

“We have Michigan hospitals and nursing homes ready to administer this vaccine and the bottleneck appears to be the White House,” Whitmer said. “And I can’t get an answer why. I’ve put a call into ( U. S. Health & Human Services) Secretary (Alex) Azar’s office and here’s what I would ask if I could get them on the phone. Where are our doses? What is holding them up? When can we expect them?

“I’m angry because this virus is raging on in this country, and there is either corruption or ineptitude that is keeping us from saving lives and protecting people. And Washington D.C. hasn’t gotten any relief done yet. They’re on the brink of a shutdown.”

Congress has struggled for months to agree on new relief or stimulus for individual­s and businesses affected by the virus and remains at an impasse with the holiday approachin­g.

In other parts of the briefing, state health officers said key metrics – a decline in the rate of new virus cases, the number of hospital beds set aside for coronaviru­s patients, and the number of positive tests for the virus – are all improving, even though the number of deaths remain higher than they would like.

The state hopes to begin vaccinatin­g residents of long-term health facilities by the end of the month, and is hopeful widespread vaccinatio­ns will be available to everyone who wants one by late spring.

The new epidemic order takes effect Monday and runs until Jan. 15. It allows in-person learning at high schools and indoor entertainm­ent venues. Casinos, bowling centers and movie theatres will be allowed to reopen with total capacity capped at 100, but with food and drink concession­s closed, and with social distancing requiremen­ts in place. College students will also be allowed to return to campus in mid January.

There were 4,180 new confirmed coronaviru­s cases reported Friday and 66 deaths, bringing the statewide total to 454,956 cases and 11,274 deaths since the pandemic began in March.

In southeast Michigan Friday, Oakland County had 403 new cases and three deaths, Wayne County had 440 cases and two deaths, Macomb County had 294 cases and no deaths, and Detroit had 205 cases and no deaths.

A higher number of fatalities from the virus were reported in other Michigan counties: 272 cases and eight deaths in Kent County, 171 cases and four deaths in Genesee County, 210 cases and four deaths in Saginaw County, 68 cases and six deaths in Muskegon County, and 105 cases and two deaths in Washtenaw County.

In rural mid Michigan, there were 43 cases and one death in Isabella County, 35 cases and two deaths in Gratiot County, and 22 cases and no deaths in Clare County.

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