Whitmer visits Kalamazoo clinic as vaccination push continues

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KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday visited a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Kalamazoo as she and the state continue to urge people to get the shots.

Whitmer toured the clinic at the Kalamazoo County Expo Center, speaking with Kalamazoo leaders and clinic workers.

Michigan on Monday reached 55% of its population age 16 and up with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. That was the first benchmark set by the governor tied to the loosening of restrictions. As a result, on May 24, all sectors may return to work in person.

Whitmer said the government has set a date to start calling workers back in person en masse, but she did not say what that date was. For now, she indicated, workers who have been remote will stay that way.

She was noncommittal when asked by reporters if state unemployment offices, which have been closed for more than a year, would reopen in two weeks. She pointed toward in-person meetings as a higher priority.

The next milestone is 60% with at least one dose; two weeks after that threshold, places like stadiums, conference halls and funeral homes may welcome 25% capacity, gyms may go to 50% capacity and the curfew for bars and restaurants will be lifted.

The percentage of the population already vaccinated varies by county, and at least one has already hit 70%. Whitmer said the plan is to keep the benchmarks statewide for now, but didn’t rule out changing that in the future.

If you were vaccinated out of state, you can take your immunization card to your health care provider to get added to the Michigan database.

Earlier Tuesday morning, Whitmer visited a construction site along I-94 at Portage Road in Portage to promote her bonding program to cover road repairs. Speaking to reporters there, she said the state is looking into whether to offer people incentives to get vaccinated.

“We’re having some conversations around what we can and cannot do in this phase,” Whitmer said. “…We would like to see if there are other things we can do to encourage people to get vaccinated. We’ve got to work with our employers, we’ve got to work with our local leaders because we’ve got to all be in this together.”

The incentive idea has been floated as demand for first doses has dropped off in recent weeks. Health officials say that most people eager to get the shot have already had the opportunity to do so. They are working to reach people who are hesitant and those who are willing to get the shot but don’t want to have to make an appointment.

When asked if Michigan is still bringing in its maximum allowed dose allotment each week, Whitmer replied, “We’re requesting all we need to meet demand.”

The federal government on Monday greenlighted Pfizer’s vaccine to be administered to kids as young as 12. Doses could actually start being administered any day now once final guidelines come down.

“That’s our next big push,” Whitmer said. “so our kids can be back in school universally come this fall.”

She said there has been no discussion in Lansing about requiring COVID-19 vaccines for kids to go to school — nor has there been any talk about vaccine passports, she added.

She noted 12- to 15-year-olds won’t be counted as part of the benchmark percentages until their vaccination rates have caught up to those 16 and up. She said adding them in now would “artificially slow” the state’s march forward.

“We want to give people predictability and goals to focus on,” Whitmer said.

Michigan is still seeing high virus numbers, though the key metrics continue to improve, with case, positive test and hospitalizations rates all declining. The rate of daily deaths has been flat recently.

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