Whitmer urges vaccinations, boosters as omicron variant begins to spread in MichiganDecember 21, 2021
Dec. 21, 2021
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the director of the state health department urged vaccination and boosters for eligible residents amid still-high rates of COVID-19 in the state before many travel for the holidays.
Whitmer, for the first time since June, led a state COVID-19 update Tuesday in Grand Rapids, joined by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel and local doctors.
Michigan’s COVID-19 hospitalizations and daily case rates remain high, with state health data indicating 437 new daily cases per 100,000 residents and 16.2 percent test positivity. With the emergence of the highly contagious omicron variant in Michigan and throughout the U.S., health officials continue to point to COVID-19 vaccinations and boosters for those who have not received them yet as the best way to prevent severe outcomes from the virus.
“Our goals are simple — keep Michiganders safe by helping people get vaccinated and get boosted, it’s the best way to stay safe against omicron,” Whitmer said. “Protect our health care workers in our hospital systems from becoming overwhelmed — yes, they are overwhelmed, let’s keep them from getting more stressed under this moment. And let’s ensure that our kids can stay in school and our businesses can stay open.”
Whitmer and Hertel said from Jan. 15 to Dec. 3, unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated individuals made up 85 percent of all COVID-19 cases, 88 percent of all hospitalizations and 85.5 percent of COVID-19 related deaths.
State vaccination data currently shows 56.8 percent of eligible residents, those five-and-older, having received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The state has also administered more than 2 million booster doses of the vaccine. Health officials say booster doses of the vaccine offer an additional layer of protection from the virus, particularly with the omicron variant looming.
In addition to preventing severe outcomes from COVID-19, health officials also point to vaccines as paramount in preventing the virus from being spread to individuals who cannot receive the vaccine due to age or other health reasons.
Dr. Shelley Schmidt, a pulmonary diseases physician with Spectrum Health, stressed the importance of being vaccinated to prevent hospitalization. According to an MDHHS report, more than 4,000 people were currently hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Monday.
“We doctors are vaccinated, our children are vaccinated,” she said. “You will have to trust me when you or your relatives come to my intensive care unit and need to be put on life support. Trust me now. Trust this vaccine. Mask, distance, but above all, vaccinate.”
Whitmer also stressed the importance of lowering COVID-19 rates to maintain in-person education and keep businesses open, but said she had no plans to implement any restrictions like those issued earlier in the pandemic. The governor pointed to vaccines as a stronger tool than any mandate from the state.
“At this juncture, we know that it’s the unvaccinated population that is most at risk to themselves, to others, to all of us in terms of being a vector for mutation,” Whitmer said. “And so that’s why our focus has to be on making sure that we all get boosted, the unvaccinated get vaccinated, are our kids get vaccinated.
“Sweeping mandates are less likely to influence and encourage that population to get vaccinated, and that’s why it’s an education effort.”
COVID-19 rates are high throughout the U.S., currently. President Joe Biden is expected to announce Tuesday a plan to make 500 million at-home COVID-19 tests available for free starting next month.