Whitmer, govs. call for ‘clear and swift guidance’ from feds to fight COVID-19

By: - March 20, 2020 10:58 am

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives the Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address, Feb. 4, 2020 | Gov. Whitmer photo

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer led the call for “clear and swift guidance” from the federal government when it comes to fighting COVID-19, a disease caused by a new coronavirus during an interview with news anchor Lester Holt on MSNBC Thursday night.

Whitmer was joined by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a fellow Democrat, and Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan, who both echoed her call.

“Let me start by saying and repeating something that Gov. Whitmer said. We haven’t had leadership in Washington on [COVID-19]. The governors have had to lead [efforts to combat COVID-19]. Each of the three of us have led on this issue,” said Pritzker.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) website, there are 334 COVID-19 cases in the state, but health experts believe the actual number of cases is actually much higher. As previously reported by the Advance, three people have died from COVID-19

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, more than 400 COVID-19 cases have reported, and four people have died from the disease. More than 3,000 people have been tested. The Maryland Department of Health reports more than 100 cases have been reported and one person has died. 

The World Health Organization says that there are now more than 209,000 cases and 8,700 deaths globally. In the United States, there have been 7,087 cases and 100 deaths.

The MSNBC interview with the three governors came after another conference call with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

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Following Trump’s remarks earlier this week that governors need to step up and purchase equipment to tackle COVID-19 themselves, without waiting for the federal government, Holt asked Whitmer if she was doing everything she could to purchase said materials.

“Oh, we absolutely are. It’s a sad state of affairs when the federal government [says to work around them]. But we’re going to do everything we can to pull out the steps,” said Whitmer.

President Trump took a swipe at Whitmer Tuesday and said she needed to work harder and wasn’t being proactive. Whitmer responded to Trump on Twitter Tuesday morning: “Now that I’ve got your attention, Mr. President – attack tweets won’t solve this crisis. But swift and clear guidance, tests, personal protective equipment, and resources would.”  

Whitmer also stressed to Holt that more COVID-19 tests were needed in order to identify where outbreaks are happening, so officials are able to focus on those communities.

“But when there are so few tests, it leaves a lot to chance and a lot unknown,” said Whitmer.

Whitmer said that the nationwide shortage of COVID-19 testing kits “…was a failure to plan upfront, which means now we governors are on the frontlines trying to manage as well as we can.”

Column: Michigan gets called out for having the most Black children living in concentrated poverty

Michigan distilleries OK’d to make hand sanitizer

Whitmer announced Thursday that Michigan’s licensed distilleries are now permitted to produce ethanol-based hand sanitizers in order to help meet demand as the state of Michigan combats the spread of COVID-19. 

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) relaxed its regulations in order to allow beverage distillers to make denatured alcohol. This production is not normally permitted unless a distillery has an industrial manufacturing permit, which no Michigan distiller currently has. Under the relaxed rules, Michigan distillers can make denatured alcohol without the normally required permit.  

All TTB-permitted Distilled Spirits Permittee (DSP)  may manufacture hand sanitizer products composed of: 

  • Denatured or undenatured ethanol
  • Glycerol (not less than 1.45% of the finished hand sanitizer product on a volume basis)
  • Hydrogen peroxide (not less than 0.125% of the finished hand sanitizer product on a volume basis) 

These rules were approved through June 30 and could possibly be extended if necessary.  

“Even in times of crisis, Michiganders have shown their willingness to step up and help each other,” said Whitmer. “I am profoundly grateful for the Michigan distilleries who are putting people before profit and are using their production facilities to make hand sanitizer during this COVID-19 emergency.” 

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Madeline Ciak
Madeline Ciak

Madeline Ciak is a former Michigan Advance reporter. She’s a University of Michigan-Flint graduate and previously worked as a digital media manager at NBC25/FOX66 in Flint and a weekend producer at ABC12.