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Biden to rush vaccinators, testing to Michigan

WASHINGTON (AP) — Washington is rushing federal resources to support vaccinations, testing and therapeutics, but not vaccines, to Michigan in an effort to control the state’s worst-in-the-nation COVID-19 transmission rate, the White House said Friday.

President Joe Biden outlined the moves late Thursday in a call with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to discuss the situation in the state, according to senior administration officials. It will not include a “surge” of vaccine doses, a move Whitmer has advocated.

Instead, Biden outlined how the federal government was planning to help Michigan better administer the doses already allocated to the state, as well as surge testing capacity and drugs for virus treatment.

During a press conference on Friday, Whitmer confirmed that she had asked Biden on the call to send more vaccine doses to Michigan, particularly the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.

“I made the case for a surge strategy,” she said. “At this point, that’s not being deployed, but I am not giving up.”

Doses are currently allocated to states proportionally by population, but Whitmer has called for extra doses to be shifted to states, like hers, that are experiencing a sharp rise in cases.

“We’re going to stick with the allocation system of allocating by state adult population,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients, calling it “the fair and equitable way” to distribute the vaccines. He said the administration was looking to help Michigan administer more of its vaccines efficiently.

Officials noted that surging vaccines would not be nearly as effective in curbing the spike in cases than increasing testing and restoring mitigation measures like mask wearing and curbing high-risk activities like social gatherings, indoor dining and youth sports. That’s because the vaccines take at least two weeks to begin providing immunity.

Biden told Whitmer that his administration stands ready to send an additional 160 Federal Emergency Management Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention personnel to Michigan to assist in vaccinations, on top of the 230 federal personnel already deployed to the state to support pandemic response operations.

Biden added that he was directing his administration to prioritize the distribution of doses through federal channels, like the retail pharmacy program and community health centers, to areas of the state Whitmer identifies.

“We are at war with this virus, which requires leaders from across the country to work together,” said White House spokesperson Chris Meagher. “We’re in close contact with Gov. Whitmer, who is working hard to keep Michigan safe, and working in close coordination through a range of options that can help stop the spread of the virus.”

About 39% of Michigan residents ages 16 and older have gotten at least one vaccine dose.

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