Families can feed their children, workers can return to the job and people can start to gather with those whom they love when everyone can feel safe and be healthy, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer stressed in her 2021 State of the State address.
That cannot happen on a wide enough scale until the majority of Michigan adults are vaccinated, Whitmer said Wednesday evening.
“In the coming months, the vaccine will be available to the general population. When very little seems in our individual control, the act of getting a vaccine is,” Whitmer said.
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She used the virtual address to reiterate the state’s inoculation goals and highlight her COVID-19 recovery plan.
However, the speech did not include much new information for residents desperate to get a shot: the more vaccines sent by the federal government, the sooner Michiganders will be vaccinated.
“I know people are anxious and ready to get the vaccine. That’s a good thing. The fact of the matter is: We don’t have the supply we need yet, but we will — and the good news is that we do have a plan to get 50,000 shots in arms per day when the supply comes in,” Whitmer said.
“Every eligible Michigander who wants a vaccine will get one. This process is like a locomotive — it will be cumbersome and slow in the beginning, but it will get faster and smoother as we go.”
More than 550,000 Michigan residents have caught COVID-19, resulting in the deaths of nearly 14,500 residents. Case rates, test positivity rates, the percentage of in-patient beds used for COVID-19 and deaths are all down across the state compared with the alarmingly high rates seen in the late fall.
But a highly contagious new variant of the virus is starting to spread, prompting the University of Michigan to shut down athletics for two weeks and a request to urge students to temporarily stay away from campus.
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Nearly 1.5 million vaccines are in the state, with more than 800,000 already injected. While the governor noted that’s more vaccinated Michiganders than reported COVID-19 cases in the state, it’s still not the ratio anyone wants to see.
Whitmer continued to preach patience but recently urged the federal government to drastically increase doses made available to states. President Joe Biden has promised to ship more vaccines on a regular, predictable basis to states, but it remains to be seen whether there are enough supplies available to make that happen.
Recently, the governor announced a $5.6 billion plan that relies heavily on federal funds to increase vaccination efforts, help schools safely offer more in-person classes and give struggling businesses and families the aid they need. She repeated her call for lawmakers to quickly approve the plan during her address Wednesday.
“My plan gives crucial support for small businesses and resources to help them thrive long after the pandemic is over,” Whitmer said.
“I invite the legislature to partner with me on the health of our people, the education of our kids, and the resurgence of our economy.”
Republicans and other critics continue to blast the state, local health departments and other providers, arguing they should have been ready to more efficiently vaccinate people. Those local departments and pharmacies say they’ve been left out to dry by the state as they rapidly tried to scale up the largest vaccination effort in generations.
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Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, president of the Michigan State Medical Society, thanked Whitmer for her ongoing commitment to administering more vaccines.
“Vaccinating as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, is not only vital to the public’s overall health and well-being, it is also necessary in returning our economy and education system back to where they need it to be,” Mukkamala said.
The governor’s promises to ramp up vaccine rollout comes the same day Michigan House Republicans unveiled a COVID-19 plan that would limit federal funding for vaccine distribution efforts. Although the federal government already approved and allocated those funds, the state Legislature is in charge of formally doling it out.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Thomas Albert, R-Lowell, said Whitmer does not deserve to have a “blank check” — even without this bill, the governor couldn’t just spend the federal funds however she wanted — and must present evidence additional funds are needed before he would support handing over the already earmarked funds.
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The House plan would provide $22 million for vaccine distribution efforts and another $144 million for testing, but would only dole out additional (and previously approved) federal funds “when they are needed.”
“Our plan requires transparency and accountability, forcing the administration to start delivering results,” Albert said Wednesday morning.
It’s early in the legislative process. Any plan proposed by the governor or Republicans is likely to change before it would become law. Delays in finding common ground likely would hamper the state’s ability to maximize its ability to distribute and inject the vaccine though.
Contact Dave Boucher: [email protected] or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.