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Whitmer cites progress curbing virus; no Thanksgiving surge

December 15, 2020 GMT
In a photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. The governors's administration reported progress Tuesday in the fight against the coronavirus, saying new cases continue to decline and Michigan has seen no spike related to Thanksgiving travel. Officials warned, though, that the case rate remains high. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP)
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In a photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. The governors's administration reported progress Tuesday in the fight against the coronavirus, saying new cases continue to decline and Michigan has seen no spike related to Thanksgiving travel. Officials warned, though, that the case rate remains high. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP)
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In a photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020. The governors's administration reported progress Tuesday in the fight against the coronavirus, saying new cases continue to decline and Michigan has seen no spike related to Thanksgiving travel. Officials warned, though, that the case rate remains high. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — 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.

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“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.”

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She cautioned, however, that case rates are “alarmingly high” and the percentage of tests that are 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 COVID-19 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. About 3,800 were hospitalized with virus-related symptoms, a decrease from roughly 4,300 on Nov. 30.

VACCINE PUSH

Some front-line workers at Michigan’s largest health care system, meanwhile, have received the COVID-19 vaccine. The group of doctors, nurses and others got the shots Tuesday at Beaumont Health’s Service Center in the Detroit suburb of Southfield.

All were members of the 1A high priority group, meaning they have direct or indirect exposure to patients with COVID-19 or infectious materials.

“It’s been a very long nine months. And I look at it as the beginning of a turning point, hopefully,” Dr. Ghadi Ghorayeb said after receiving a shot administered by Carolyn Wilson, a registered nurse and Beaumont’s chief operating officer.

“Been dodging bullets for far too long. You know, as front-line workers, we are exposed on a daily basis,” said Ghorayeb, an internal medicine physician at Beaumont’s Taylor campus. “And that’s what we’ve been waiting for, a vaccine.”

Health care workers across the country began receiving the vaccine Monday, marking the start of the biggest vaccination campaign in American history.

“It almost feels like it’s gold,” Wilson said of the vaccine, adding that there is “a lot of anticipation, a lot of excitement.”

SCAMS

State Attorney General Dana Nessel warned the public about vaccine-related scams — such as promises that it will be available quickly and offers to participate in clinical trials that actually are attempts to put malicious software on computers.

“Do not buy a treatment or vaccine online and always consult a medical professional, and do not respond to text messages, emails or calls that offer you the vaccine,” she said.

MASK UP

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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Householder reported from Southfield.

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Follow David Eggert at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00