Washington — As Michigan grapples with a spike in coronavirus cases, Governor Gretchen Whitmer continued to push the Biden administration to send more vaccine doses to the state to combat its ongoing crisis.
“We are seeing a surge in Michigan despite the fact that we have some of the strongest policies in place, mask mandates, capacity limits, working from home. We’ve asked our state for a two-week pause,” Whitmer said in an interview on “Face the Nation.” “So despite all of that, we are seeing a surge because of these variants. And that’s precisely why we’re really encouraging them to think about surging vaccines into the state of Michigan.”
Whitmer on Friday first publicly urged the Biden administration to send more coronavirus vaccine doses to the state as it experiences a rise in cases, hospitalization and deaths. But while Michigan is one of the nation’s worst coronavirus hotspots, the federal government declined to send more shots to the state and instead is maintaining its plan to distribute doses based on adult population.
Jeffrey Zients, the White House COVID-19 Response Team’s coordinator, did say the administration would be sending more vaccinators, testing supplies, therapeutics and treatments to Michigan.
Whitmer, however, said the state has the capacity to get more shots in arms and warned that maintaining rigid plans for vaccine distribution could also harm other states if they experience outbreaks.
“In an undertaking of this magnitude, with such consequence, it’s important to recognize where there might need to be some adjustments along the way,” she said, adding that in the last two weeks, more than 1 million shots have been administered in Michigan.
The state, she said, has “thousands of partners” ready to administer the vaccines, but “we just need those vaccines to come into Michigan.”
“When there is a surge, we think that it’s important that we rush in to meet where that need is, because what’s happening in Michigan today could be what’s happening in other states tomorrow,” Whitmer said. “And so it’s on all of us to recognize we can squash where we’re seeing hot spots. It’s in everyone’s best interest.”
As of Thursday, Michigan has administered more than 5.3 million coronavirus vaccine doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While residents of the state who are 16 and older are eligible to receive their shots, Whitmer stopped short of committing to dropping the requirement for residents to have an appointment to get vaccinated, which could boost vaccine rates in communities that lack access to the internet.
“We’ve had an appointment process and it’s worked quite well,” she said. “And I think that with more vaccines, we’ll continue to see that work well.”
While Whitmer implemented some of the nation’s more stringent mitigation measures during previous surges of coronavirus infections, she would also not commit to mandating children get vaccinated before returning to school. Pfizer said last week it has asked the FDA to authorize its vaccine for adolescents between 12 and 15.
“The schools may well do that. At this juncture, we are not having that conversation,” she said. “I can tell you this. We have continued to have good mitigation policies. We’ve continued to move shots and arms. And that’s all despite the fact that I’ve got a reduced set of powers because of the antagonism from my own legislature. And so there’s not a conversation on that front. But we are encouraging schools to move forward, to take a pause right now and to promulgate policies to keep their students and their staff safe.”
Whitmer attributed her state’s spike in coronavirus infections to past low infection rates, which means fewer people have antibodies, the prevalence of variants and fatigue from residents in limiting their activities.