Whitmer: MLB Struggles Show Michigan Schools What To Expect


(WWJ) The city of Livonia first announced classes would resume in-person this fall, and then as the reality set in of navigating a complicated system of masks and social distancing as cases rise across the country, they changed course and announced school would resume online only.

Is that a trend we'll see for the rest of the districts across metro Detroit?

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer took on that question during a live interview on WWJ Newsradio with Tom Jordan and Roberta Jasina where she acknowledged there continue to be many unknowns in the fight against coronavirus and how it will affect children as school swings back into session.

"I think that if you study what's going on around the world in education, places that have re-engaged safely do so when they've got a very small number of cases compared to their population," Whitmer said. "I think it's 10 per million in terms of new cases daily and those are numbers that we're not at yet. We want to drive our numbers down to that. That's why masking up and tightening up on bars and other places of congregation is so important to try to get our numbers there."

Abject failure has been the result in places like Georgia where schools tried to reopen while cases rose and "that's desperately what we want to avoid," she added, saying that research shows younger kids can more safely reengage than older kids and that they need in-person instruction more for skills like reading.

Essentially, the state has provided guard rails for local school districts and decisions are up to them, Whitmer said.

"I think that's the best way to proceed, but as we watch MLB struggle with getting it right we know that this is going to be a challenge. Any place where people congregate is going to be a potential for an outbreak. That's why we want to be in a strong position in terms of low case numbers," she said.

Michigan's governor added what we are seeing is younger people who are contracting and spreading the disease as older Americans have taken it upon themselves to observe those best practices of prevention.

Whitmer has been battling since March to create and enforce the kind of restrictions in the face of Republican and sometimes public opposition. Her stay at home orders were challenged in court by some who continue to try to strip her of powers A recall effort gained traction, a Facebook group against her restrictions gained thousands and thousands of supporters.

So, is she ready to throw in the towel in Michigan and become Joe Biden's running mate? She thinks not.  

"No, I love where I am!" Whitmer said, laughing when Roberta Jasina asked if she was going to join the Democratic ticket for president. "Even on the hardest days, I am grateful to be the governor of this state. I love the state of Michigan. I'm proud to be here."

Still upcoming is an expected coronavirus vaccine -- which may come by the end of the year, per Dr. Anthony Fauci. But that may also bring difficult questions and decisions about who gets it and how it's delivered.

"I think that there are some really exciting things that are happening in that space. The creation of a vaccine is one step. and scaling up of it is another," Whitmer said, adding developments toward a vaccine are phenomenal, but it won't be widely available right away.

"It will take a little longer than that. We've all got to accept that science is moving quickly ... but we've all got to continue to do our part. At this juncture, a mask and hand washing and staying home or staying away from crowds is the most effective thing we have against this virus," she said.

In Russia, doctors and teachers will get the vaccine first, per governmental orders. Who's going to get first dibs on the coronavirus vaccine in Michigan?

"A lot of that will come from the federal government, but we're going to continue to do everything we can to contain this virus here," Whitmer said. Local decisions, meanwhile, include when gyms and casinos reopen. Whitmer said the decision to reopen casinos at very limited capacity this week was made after Indian casinos managed to re-open it without outbreaks. She would not give a deadline as to when gyms may reopen. "Gyms and fitness centers, sadly, remain one of the higher risk parts of our economy," Whitmer said, adding that some gyms that reopened against orders have had outbreaks. 

Also unknown is when -- and if -- offices across Michigan and the rest of the country will reopen, and if they don't, what will become of all that real estate.

"I think that a lot of things are going to be different for awhile," Whitmer said. "But we also know that people do love to be in a fantastic city like the city of Detroit."

The cultural change of people working from home may last, she said, but Detroit has been successful because it offers things you can't get anywhere else. And that will still be true post-pandemic.

No matter what happens, the truth is that for many of us life in a pandemic is overwhelming, the governor said, so it's time to show each other grace.

"We recognize that it's a reality that a lot of people are confronting ... alcoholism, substance abuse, mental health struggles, these are all increased at this moment. It really is important that we give one another some grace and that we reach for help when we need it," she said.