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YPSILANTI – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Monday that the state will extend COVID-19 restrictions in the workplace this week for another six months due to current pandemic trends.

She stressed that the extension does not mean that no one will have access back to the office. Instead, she said it provides the state with the necessary tools to transfer employees back to work.

“At this point, with our high positivity rates, it’s really important to extend another six months so we have the ability to work through what these protocols look like and get people back in the workplace when it’s safe to do so.” Whitmer said and spoke outside a mass vaccination clinic at the Eastern Michigan University Call Center in Ypsilanti.

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The state’s workplace regulations expire this week. They require employers to allow people to work remotely, if possible, and outline safety and health protocols to be followed if employees are to work together in the same place.

While the governor said the restrictions are necessary, it is one of only a few COVID-19 rules extended by the Whitmer administration in recent weeks.

Instead, the health department and the governor are taking a different approach to combating the latest new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic – depending on personal responsibility and accountability.

“I think the role of government is when we can not take steps to protect ourselves, the government must step in. This is where we were a year ago, this is where we were four months ago, said Whitmer.

“We are in a different moment. Each one of us has the ability and knowledge to do what is required and it is up to all of us to do that. And that is why we just ask people – take this seriously. ”

Whitmer and joined the rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Detroit, on a vaccination tour. They thanked frontline workers and talked to the residents who got their vaccines.

Ypsilanti resident Kevin Lawson said he was surprised but happy to see Whitmer at the EMU vaccination site. The 51-year-old father said he appreciates everything the governor has done to fight the pandemic and thought it was extremely important to get the vaccine.

“It’s a battle chance,” Lawson said, adding that he wanted the vaccine to protect his family. “I take a chance to fight without any chance.”

Whitmer and Dingell also renewed their requests that the Biden administration increase vaccines to Michigan and other states where COVID-19 rages. In a call with President Joe Biden last week, Whitmer asked him and other federal officials to send more vaccines to Michigan. Dingell and the rest of Michigan’s congressional delegation sent a two-letter letter to the president expressing a similar request.

“Like it or not, Michigan is getting more attention than we want. We are the leading state with number one cases,” Dingell said.

“It all worries me – I have lost too many people. I have lost family and friends to this virus. We may be sick of the virus, but this virus is not sick of us.”

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The Biden administration said it will not increase vaccines for national hotspots. Officials have argued that the state can allocate doses it already has to parts of the state that need it most.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Monday that even though Michigan received a wave of vaccines today, it would take weeks to see the impact of these new doses. Instead, she argued that the state should impose new restrictions.

“We know that if vaccines go into arms today, we will not see an effect of these vaccines, depending on the vaccine, anywhere between two to six weeks. So when you have an emergency situation, an extraordinary number of cases like us have in Michigan the answer is not necessarily vaccine, ”Walensky said.

“In fact, we know the vaccine will have a delayed response. The answer to that is to really shut things down, go back to our basics, go back to where we were last spring, last summer, and shut things down, to flatten the curve, to reduce contact with each other, to test to the extent we have available, to contact tracks. “

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A report in the Washington Post on Friday also claimed that Michigan and other states may not formally ask for any available dose from the federal government.

Michigan has denied this report.

“We distribute and arrange all the vaccines available to us,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, CEO, Friday morning before the report.

“We actually met with the White House team yesterday and went through our entire ordering strategy … they agree with us that we order all the vaccines that are available to us.”

Neither Whitmer nor Dingell said how many vaccine doses would be enough. After the event, Dingell said the state needs as many as the federal government can provide.

Despite Michigan’s COVID-19 trends in a dangerous direction for several weeks, the health department and the governor have not introduced new mandates to limit the capacity of restaurants, other businesses or personal gatherings.

On Friday, Whitmer called for a two-week break on indoor dining at restaurants for two weeks, personal classes for colleges and for all youth athletics. While Republicans cheered for the lack of new rules, athletic associations, school districts and businesses seemed to ignore the request.

Whitmer did not say directly whether any difference in COVID-19 trends would cause her to change her mind about restrictions. She pointed to a recent bill passed by every Republican vote in the state Senate that would tie indoor dining in restaurants to COVID-19 case rates and hospitalization rates.

“If it were the law now, everything would be closed right now. And that speaks exactly why identifying a number or two numbers doesn’t tell the whole story. Public health experts will tell you you’ll have to look at context,” Whitmer said.

“Here’s where we are: instead of a year ago, when this was a new virus, where we did not even know that a mask would give us 97% protection, we had to take strong action to protect people. We now know a lot more about this. We now have PPE, we have now tested, we now have vaccines. We each have enough information to do our part, and that is what we encourage people to do, to do your part. ”

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The governor’s office was criticized at the end of last week in light of Trish Foster, the governor’s Chief Operating Officer, who posted photos on social media of a family spring break to Florida. The move came after Whitmer expressed concern over Michigan’s trips to spring break.

On Friday, Whitmer’s press secretary said Foster “is fully recovered from COVID and fully vaccinated,” noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently provided updated guidance that fully vaccinated people can travel in the United States.

The seven-day COVID-19 rate in Michigan is almost the highest it has ever been during the pandemic. The seven-day average deaths per Today is more than double what it was a month ago. Hospitals across the state are approaching or have reached capacity.

More than 2 million people are fully vaccinated with a total of more than 3.2 million people injected with at least one dose. About a quarter of the 16-year-old population is fully vaccinated. The governor recently acknowledged that vaccine supply is likely to remain a problem, but suggested that the state could reach 70% vaccination at any time between mid-May and early July.

Reporter Kristen Jordan Shamus contributed to this report.

Contact Dave Boucher at dboucher@freepress.com or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @ Dave_Boucher1.

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