Topline

The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention justified the federal government’s decision not to funnel additional Covid-19 vaccines to Michigan as cases there surge, saying Monday it would be more effective for the state to impose restrictions and shut down again instead of waiting weeks for vaccines to take effect.

Key Facts

Michigan right now has the highest number of Covid-19 cases per capita in the country and is facing a serious surge of hospitalizations, with nearly two dozen hospitals reaching 90% capacity and the Detroit Free Press reporting that hospitals in the city are seeing their highest number of patients since the pandemic began.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has requested voluntary restrictions be imposed but declined to put any mandatory restrictions in place, instead pushing for more vaccinations and pressuring the federal government to send the state a higher number of vaccine doses—something the federal government has not been willing to do.

CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a White House Covid-19 briefing Monday the federal government’s decision was justified because vaccines would take “somewhere between two to six weeks” to fully take effect, and would not be useful in an “acute situation” like in Michigan.

Michigan should instead “really close things down” and “go back to our basics” with shutdowns, increased testing and contact tracing to “flatten the curve,” Walensky said.

The CDC chief noted that the vaccine supply Whitmer wants to be diverted to Michigan is also needed in other states, adding, “We don’t know where the next place is going to be that is going to surge.”

Crucial Quote

“Really what we need to do in that situation is to shut things down,” Walensky said about Michigan’s surge. “I think really if we try to vaccinate our way out of what is happening in Michigan, I think we would be disappointed we waited so long for the vaccine to work and to actually have the impact.”

Big Number

39.7%. That’s the percentage of Michigan residents that have already been vaccinated, according to the state.

Surprising Fact

According to the CDC, Michigan has the second-highest number of recorded Covid-19 cases linked to the B.1.1.7 variant first detected in the United Kingdom—Florida has the highest—which is far more transmissible and is likely contributing to the state’s surge.

Key Background

Walensky’s warning that Michigan should shut down and not rely on vaccinations comes as governors of both parties have so far been resistant to reimposing restrictions. Officials have instead loosened Covid-19 guidance or dropped measures entirely, despite warnings from Walensky and other public health officials not to do so amid a rise in cases nationwide. Governors, including Whitmer, have typically cited the increase in vaccinations as a key reason not to reimpose restrictions, despite vaccination levels not yet being high enough to result in herd immunity that could keep cases from rising. “What we need to do is double down on our masking and get more people vaccinated,” Whitmer said on CNN in March when asked about the possibility of reinstating restrictions, saying residents voluntarily following public health protocols and getting vaccinated is “the best thing for them individually and for our economy.”

Further Reading

Workers weary, patients angry as COVID-19 fills Michigan hospitals — again (Detroit Free Press)

Whitmer And Other Governors Justify Reopenings Despite Biden And CDC Warning Of Covid-19 Surge (Forbes)

Michigan Battles Covid Surge: Gov. Whitmer Urges Suspending In-Person Schooling, Youth Sports (Forbes)

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