Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives a COVID-19 update with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist | Whitmer office photo
State advancements in COVID-19 testing are paying off, with Michigan ranking fifth in the country last week for the number of daily tests conducted, Michigan Department Health and Human Services (DHHS) Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said Wednesday.
But Gov. Gretchen Whitmer warned at the press conference that “the fight is still far from over,” noting that residents must stay diligent in order for Michigan to continue fighting the virus better than most other states. She said that a decision on reopening gyms and other sports-related businesses will come later this week.
As of Wednesday, the DHHS reports a total of 103,710 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state and 6,509 deaths.
“We’re testing over 2% of our population a week, and last week we ranked fifth in the country when it comes to the number of daily tests that we’re running. That’s over 30,000 tests a day,” Khaldun said.
Whitmer announced that further expansion of testing in the state is still underway, with three new testing sites open now in Detroit and six more coming this week in Albion, Detroit, Ecorse, Flint, Grayling and Roseville.
Additional sites in Benton Harbor, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Muskegon, Niles, Saginaw and Wayne are slated to open in the coming weeks.
Khaldun noted that the state last week identified 93 new COVID-19 outbreaks that are now being investigated, and that the DHHS has been working with local health departments to track outbreaks at Michigan schools.
Data on outbreaks tied to schools will be available on the DHHS website in “the next two weeks,” Khaldun said.
“Right now as a state we are at 3.1% of our tests that are coming back positive, and that number has decreased over the past week,” Khaldun said, adding that it comes out to about 59 individual cases per million people, per day.
Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist highlighted the state’s advancements in testing availability and accessibility, including a pilot program to help bring tests to rural and impoverished areas. He thanked U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield) for securing federal funding for the program as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“When we look at testing in Michigan versus other states, it’s literally a night and day difference,” Gilchrist said. “We’ve worked diligently to expand access to testing and remove the barriers that limit people from getting the resources they need during this pandemic.”
He noted that nearly every insurance company in Michigan has agreed to cover the costs of COVID-19 testing, and that those without insurance are able to get tested at no charge.
Whitmer announced Wednesday that Huntington Bancshares, the national bank headquartered in Ohio, will be committing $5 billion over the next five years to expanding economic opportunities for Michiganders and their businesses.
The philanthropic investment is part of Huntington’s $20 billion plan for investing in seven states, including Michigan.
Sandy Pierce, senior executive vice president of Huntington Bank, said the investment details were developed in cooperation with the Whitmer administration and many community partners across the state. They focus on expanding social equity and affordable housing in Michigan.
The investment will focus on three main areas: Access to capital, affordable housing/home ownership and removing barriers to banking.
The first will put more money into small businesses with an emphasis on those owned by women, minorities and veterans. Expanding lending programs and educational services for minority and low-to-moderate income Michiganders is then meant to allow for more affordable housing and home ownership.
Investing in community efforts related to affordable housing, food security, workforce development and social equity will allow better access to banking, Pierce said, and all three focus areas target systemic barriers to economic participation.
Gilchrist described Huntington’s financial commitment as being a force to “push the pendulum” forward toward progress, to help small business owners overcome the challenges brought on by the pandemic — especially those of color who have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
“The reality is that the effects of COVID-19 will be felt long after there’s a vaccine. And they will be felt at even greater magnitude in those communities that were impacted the most, and often disproportionately so,” Gilchrist said.
Whitmer also thanked General Motors for its announcement Tuesday that the company will be donating 2 million face masks to Michigan public schools. Those masks will be ready for delivery by Sept. 28.
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