COVID-19 cases still surging, Whitmer supporting new restrictions

Jeff Thomas, Editor-in-Chief

During a press conference last Friday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced she is supporting new guidelines in hopes of stopping the rapid spread of COVID-19 in Michigan.

In response to the fourth wave of COVID-19 in Michigan, Whitmer is now recommending that schools suspend all in-person sports activities for the next two weeks and encouraging a return to virtual learning. The governor is also urging against indoor dining and other indoor gatherings during this time.

As of Apr. 9, the daily average for new cases in Michigan was 7,614. This marked a 74% increase in new cases over a 14 day span. There’s been a 71% increase in new COVID-19 deaths during that same time. Given the grim statistics, further action from Whitmer seems imminent.

Oakland county alone is now averaging 1,005 new daily cases, and Macomb county isn’t far behind at 954. Oakland University President Ora Hirsch Pescovitz has responded strongly to these numbers, rolling out an ambitious plan for the return to in-person campus activities in the fall semester.

The plan relies heavily upon members of the OU community receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. In the pursuit of a return to normalcy in the fall, the university acquired doses and made the vaccine available to staff and students in recent weeks.

“We are fortunate that Oakland is receiving these vaccines at a time when Michigan is experiencing a dramatic increase in both the number of COVID-19 cases and COVID-19 variants,” Pescovitz said. “The most effective way to prevent infection and transmission of this virus is vaccination. I expect everyone will do their part and get vaccinated.”

In a controversial move, Pescovitz announced last week that students will have to provide evidence that they’ve been vaccinated to live on campus next fall.

“By immunizing our entire community, we can return to pre-pandemic normalcy,” Pescovitz said. “Along with wearing a mask and social distancing, vaccinations are key for us to repopulate campus, and re-introduce the many special features that make up the OU experience.”

New cases of COVID-19 have been steadily increasing in Michigan ever since the beginning of February. This surge in cases has coincided with the easing of social distancing restrictions, specifically lifting the indoor dining ban and the reopening of public schools for in-person instruction.

Despite the rise in cases and the knowledge of the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant running rampant in Michigan, officials proceeded with plans to allow higher indoor dining capacities, more school activities and the reopening of sports stadiums.

Whitmer and her administration are facing increased criticism as new COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Pressure from both sides of the political aisle, as well as the reality of business interests and pandemic fatigue among citizens, are creating quite a bit of tension in Lansing. 

Unfortunately, Michigan is becoming a cautionary tale for a nation that is restless and chomping at the bit to get back to business as usual. While the vaccines increase immunity to COVID-19, they are not proven to stop transmission of the virus.

Despite an ambitious roll out of COVID-19 vaccinations, with 2,175,595 people or 21.85% of the population now fully vaccinated, the virus has spread exponentially in Michigan. Worse for Michiganders is President Joe Biden’s administration saying that more vaccine doses will not be allocated to the Great Lakes state regardless of rising cases.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been at least 812,489 cases of COVID-19 and 17,471 COVID-19 related deaths in Michigan. Michigan was one of the worst places in the world for COVID-19 in April of 2020. Now we’re right back where we started in April of 2021.