LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told Congress on Tuesday that Michigan still lacks enough supplies to fully ramp up testing for the coronavirus and said it is difficult to determine what the U.S. government is shipping.
She said while the state is appreciative for the federal assistance, information about the types of swabs and other testing supplies being delivered is sometimes inaccurate.
“It’s made our planning very difficult,” the governor testified remotely to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. “Supplies could be allocated more quickly. If we had a detailed breakdown of what was actually in the shipment, we could mobilize and ensure that we can make the best use of the supplies and hit our capacity.”
As of Sunday, about 13,400 COVID-19 diagnostic tests were conducted per day over the previous week. That is near Whitmer’s short-term goal of 15,000 a day but short of the 25,000 she said could be done across at least 67 labs in the state.
The Democratic governor faced tough questions from Republicans on the Democratic-controlled panel. Rep. Tim Walberg, of Michigan, cited a federal report showing that the state had the fifth-most coronavirus-related deaths among nursing home residents: at least 1,654. About 46% of nursing homes nationwide had not reported, however.
He asked why it “took so long” for Whitmer to loosen an order that required recovering COVID-19 patients to be readmitted to nursing homes from hospitals, which critics worry potentially exposed people.
“We recognize that of course in retrospect probably a number of decisions we would have made some adjustment in,” she said, while saying she relied on the advice of public health experts. Michigan’s experience with the coronavirus — the hard-hit Detroit area was a national hot spot where hospitals were at capacity in March and April — has been different than in other states, she said.
Whitmer renewed her call for Congress to help states address budget holes by providing additional flexibility and funding. Walberg, criticizing her decision to keep closed some businesses, told her he hoped “you wouldn’t expect that other states who have opened up their economies … should be expected to help pick up our shortfall.”
She responded that Michigan was facing exponentially increasing cases and deaths two months ago.
“It is something as Americans, everyone who’s confronting COVID-19 should be able to expect our government to step up and to help us,” Whitmer said. “It shouldn’t be based on what which state you’re in, which party your governor is in.”