Michigan continues to lead the country in new Covid-19 cases, with 7,955 new ones added in the last 24 hours. But in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Wednesday briefing, she announced no new restrictions on indoor dining or other activities.
Rather, the event amounted to a drug commercial for monoclonal antibody treatments for Covid by drug companies Regeneron and Eli Lilly. Whitmer announced expanded access to the IV infusions, with additional doses being made available to health-care providers around the state.
The Regeneron drug was given to President Trump last fall when he contracted the disease, and this week, the National Institutes of Health "strongly recommended" it, and the Eli Lilly drug, be given to certain high-risk Covid patients. Both significantly reduce the risks of hospitalization and death in those patients, Whitmer said.
Data to date suggests that of the more than 6,600 Michiganders to receive the treatment, 65 percent reported feeling better within two days, and fewer than 5 percent still required hospitalization.
When pressed by reporters afterward, Whitmer defended her decision not to close or otherwise increase restrictions on restaurants or indoor gatherings, saying the rapid rise in cases is being driven by new, easier to catch variants of Covid, especially B117, the so-called U.K. variant first detected there.
Whitmer also blamed pandemic fatigue and relatively high numbers of still-uninfected individuals for the new cases.
"Sitting in an indoor space like a restaurant ... is not a safe thing to do," Whitmer said, recommending outdoor seating or carryout options instead.
She also urged residents to get vaccinated, saying it is the most potent weapon the state has against Covid. So far, over 5.4 million doses of all vaccines have been given to 3.4 million residents of the state. Masking, distancing and handwashing all continue to be important, too.
When asked directly about Elizabeth Hertel, the state health and human services director who apparently traveled over spring break to the Gulf of Mexico, Whitmer replied, "I'm not going to get distracted by partisan hit jobs on my team," but added that "there have never been travel restrictions" in Michigan, only recommendations, and that she is "asking people to be smart." Travel can be done safely with testing before and after, masking and other practices.