Focus on vaccines; avoid shutdowns

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has the right instincts in response to the latest surge of COVID-19 in Michigan — go full speed on vaccinations and avoid another broad shutdown of the state.

Michigan is in a baffling situation. It is among the nation leaders in new cases of the virus and is home to 10 of the 12 worst metro areas in the nation during this latest surge.

This is coming despite the state having maintained the most restrictive measures over the past year to contain the spread of the virus.

With other states, particularly in the south and southwest, reopening as rates decline, it’s a frustrating position for Michigan.

But Whitmer should stay the course she’s outlined in a few recent interviews to focus on vaccinations rather than imposing restrictions.

The pressure on her is growing to return to restrictions on schools, restaurants, bars and other public places, including from the Centers for Disease Control.

“I would advocate for sort of stronger mitigation strategies, as you know, to sort of decrease the community activity, ensure mask-wearing, and we’re working closely with the state to try and work towards that,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said about Michigan in a briefing this week.

In addition, the Republican-led state Legislature passed a bill that would tie shutdowns to COVID rates, a measure that would likely have all bars and restaurants closed now.

That obviously wasn’t lawmakers’ intent, and hopefully they’ll withdraw the measure now that the consequences are known.

With vaccination delivery growing daily and supplies apparently plentiful, the focus should be on getting the highest possible percentage of the population inoculated.

Statewide, 37% of the population has received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine. That’s slightly below the national rate of around 40%.

But in Detroit, the vaccination rate is lagging at just 21%, despite the city receiving a priority in vaccine distribution.

Detroit is working with churches and has opened neighborhood centers to deliver shots. It is also trying to break down barriers such as transportation and lack of Internet access to schedule appointments.

Despite an excellent safety record in the first four months of administering vaccines, there’s still some hesitancy among some state residents to get vaccinated.

Michigan must do whatever it takes to convince its residents that vaccines are the best option for protecting themselves, their families and neighbors.

Vaccinations, not additional restrictions, are the answer.

— Detroit News


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