Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that her state is "seeing a surge" of COVID-19 cases even though the state government continues to impose strict mask mandates and capacity restrictions on residents.
Whitmer made an appeal to the White House, requesting that the Biden administration send additional vaccines to Michigan as the state reports the worst virus surge in the nation. Last week, Michigan averaged 6,429 new virus cases per day, and nine of the 10 U.S. metropolitan areas with the most new cases per capita are in the state, according to the New York Times.
The governor told CBS News there is a combination of factors leading to increased spread.
"We 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," Whitmer said.
On Friday April 9, Whitmer asked high schools to voluntarily go virtual, youth sports to pause, and residents to avoid indoor dining for two weeks to slow the spread of the virus. Though the governor also requested more vaccine doses from the federal government, White House COVID coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters Friday that the "fair and equitable" way to distribute the vaccine was to prioritize states with the largest adult populations.
Speaking on "Face the Nation," Whitmer said the White House should reconsider, pointing out that even though Michigan has some of the harshest COVID restrictions in the country, cases are continuing to rise.
"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," said Whitmer. "That's precisely why we're really encouraging them to think about surging vaccines into the state of Michigan."
Host Margaret Brennan asked Whitmer about reports that Biden officials are saying Michigan's state government is failing to distribute the vaccines that were allotted to it. According to the New York Times tracker, Michigan has distributed 78% of its allotted vaccine doses, which is slightly lower than average for the nation. Neighboring Wisconsin has a much more efficient distribution rate of 91%, and New Hampshire leads the nation with 95% of its vaccine doses used. Only 35% of Michigan residents have received their first vaccine shot and 23% are fully vaccinated, though these numbers are average for the nation.
"I don't think there's a governor in the country that's leaving any vaccines on the table. And I can tell you that's certainly the case in Michigan. 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," said Whitmer.
She added: "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 — we go to — 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. 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."
Though the White House is not yet sending additional vaccines to Michigan, Whitmer thanked the Biden administration for promising to send additional resources for testing and to distribute the remainder of its vaccines more efficiently.