Michigan should shut down again to combat Covid surge, CDC chief says

Joan E Greve and agencies
·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images

Michigan should shut down again to combat its worrying spike in coronavirus cases, Dr Rochelle Walensky, the director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Monday.

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The governor of Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer, has argued the state should receive more vaccine doses.

The Democrat, who experienced Republican criticism for her aggressive pandemic response last year, has been hesitant to tighten restrictions again.

At a White House briefing on Monday, Walensky said vaccines have a “delayed response” when it comes to lowering new cases because it usually takes two to six weeks to see the effect of increased vaccination rates.

“The answer to that is to really close things down, to go back to our basics, to go back to where we were last spring, last summer, and to shut things down,” Walensky said. “I think if we try to vaccinate our way out of what is happening in Michigan, we would be disappointed that it took so long for the vaccine to work to actually have the impact.”

Joe Biden has said Washington will give Michigan more resources but not additional vaccines. On Sunday, Whitmer told CBS she would work with the White House but wanted to do everything she could to get additional doses.

“We did not have a national strategy for a long period of time,” Whitmer said, “and then the Biden White House came in and we have one. And by and large, they’re doing a great job. I would submit, though, that 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.”

Michigan has the highest rate of new Covid-19 infections in the US. Whitmer said one factor behind the spike was that her state “kept our spread low for a long period of time, so we’ve got reservoirs of people that don’t have antibodies. We have variants, big presence of variants here in Michigan that are easier to catch. And people are tired and they’re moving around more.

“… 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. So despite all of that, we are seeing a surge because of these variants. And that’s precisely why we’re really encouraging [the White House] to think about surging vaccines into the state of Michigan.”

Media outlets have reported Biden officials saying Michigan is not making full use of vaccine supplies. Whitmer said: “I don’t think there’s a governor in the country that’s leaving any vaccines on the table … We are getting shots in arms. We got over a million shots in arms just in the last two weeks. So we have really been rolling.

“…But all of that being said, right now we know we’ve got even greater capacity. We could get more vaccines in arms. And 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.

“It’s on all of us to recognize we can squash where we’re seeing hotspots. It’s in everyone’s best interest.”