Gov. Whitmer cites progress curbing virus; no Thanksgiving surge

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LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration reported progress Tuesday in the fight against the coronavirus, saying new cases continue to decline and that Michigan has seen no spike related to Thanksgiving travel.

Officials warned, though, that the case rate remains high.

Whitmer, a Democrat, said “hope is on the horizon” now that a vaccine is being distributed. She again urged the Republican-led Legislature to approve $100 million in relief for financially battered businesses and laid-off workers before adjourning in the coming days. Talks continue.

Since Nov. 18, a state health department order has prohibited indoor restaurant dining and closed entertainment venues to keep hospitals from being overwhelmed with infected patients. The restrictions could be extended beyond Sunday. In-person high school instruction and organized sports also are banned, while masks are required and gathering sizes are limited.

“The good news is that we are making progress. It is working,” the governor said of the order.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said case rates, hospitalizations and positivity percentages are trending downward.

“We are cautiously optimistic that there was not a post-Thanksgiving surge in cases,” she said. “That means many Michiganders did their part in keeping the spread of the virus down over the Thanksgiving holiday.”

She cautioned, however, that case rates are “alarmingly high” and the percentage of tests that come out positive is four times higher than it was in early September. “Now is not the time to let our guard down,” she said.

Michigan’s seven-day average of daily new cases is at 5,197, down from 6,854 two weeks ago. The average positivity rate is 9.8%, a drop from 11.6% on Nov. 30, according to The COVID Tracking Project. Average daily deaths, which lag cases, have gone from 89 to nearly 124 over two weeks.

The state Department of Health and Human Services launched an initiative to get residents to “mask up” properly, not just to wear one. Officials said people should use a three-layered washable cloth face covering, a medical-grade disposable mask or a KN95 — and make sure it covers their nose and tightly fits without gaps.

Bandanas, gaiters and face shields without masks are not recommended.

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