News 10 Exclusive: Governor Whitmer reflects on 2020

News 10 Exclusive: Governor reflects on COVID-19 crisis and 2020
Published: Dec. 22, 2020 at 4:47 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - In an exclusive interview with News 10, Governor Gretchen Whitmer wrapped up 2020 and looked ahead to 2021.

It’s been a year dominated by COVID-19. So much so, Governor Whitmer says she hasn’t had a lot of time to reflect.

“People have been asking me, you know what, how do you look back at 2020 and go through the litany of things that have happened this year and it’s kind of stunning. I’ll be honest with you. I don’t. I haven’t had a lot of time to pause and reflect and really kind of think about it,” said Whitmer.

The governor has led the state’s pandemic response since March. Now able to look back, she says there’s plenty she would change.

“I mean, any person in a leadership role throughout COVID would say if I could go back in time with the knowledge we have now, I would do some things differently. Of course we...I think we all would have been. This is a novel virus. When we first got hit with it in March, we had no idea that the single best tool we would have is wearing a mask,” said Whitmer.

Countless businesses are struggling and many have closed due to her administration’s pandemic restrictions, but that’s not something Governor Whitmer says she regrets putting in place.

“COVID-19 is not the fault of President Trump. It’s not my fault. It’s not the fault of restaurants. We’re all grappling with a novel virus, and we all have some responsibility here to take action to keep people safe. I know that the actions that we’ve taken have saved thousands of lives. Studies have shown that,” said Whitmer.

“During the summer, Michigan was known as a national leader and our economy had rebounded. We are in the soup again with the rest of the country, and Michiganders are taking this seriously. This pause is working,” she added.

News 10 asked what led to her decision to reopen certain industries like movie theatres and keep others closed.

“Right now we have engaged our activities that you can do fully masked. And so that’s the big difference here. Eating in a restaurant, obviously, you have to take your mask off,” said Whitmer.

But she has advocated and pushed the legislature to pass COVID relief for struggling businesses and workers out of a job. On Monday, the legislature sent a $483 million plan to her desk. She plans to review and sign it next week.

“We’re gonna work as quickly as we can. We’ve built up on apparatus, and so I do believe that it will translate into help quickly. I also am told my understanding of the federal action is that, that those relief dollars will be in people’s accounts in the coming week or so. That is much-needed relief at a really tough time,” said Whitmer.

For the governor, the biggest challenge facing the state is to repair the damage done by the lockdowns and making sure people get vaccinated.

The state is now at the stage of administering the vaccine to its first group, but it’s moving slower than expected. According to the state’s website on Tuesday, 140,450 vaccine doses have been shipped. As of December 20, 13,321 vaccine doses have been administered.

“I think in the coming days we’ll see that it becomes more real-time and more accurate in terms of what’s happening on the ground,” said Whitmer.

She says right now they have the ability to administer around 50,000 doses a day and the primary focus is on hospitals.

“I voiced some of the frustration that not just Michigan but many states are having with the federal government because our initial allotment of the vaccine was supposed to be 300,000. We got around 80,000 in that first wave. It was a fraction of what we were expecting,” said Whitmer. “And so, not being able to tell you precisely what’s coming from the federal government, I can tell you that we are moving swiftly to make sure that every vaccine that’s available is getting, you know, is being put to good use immediately.”

With so much of her attention on the pandemic, Governor Whitmer says she hasn’t had much time to process the kidnapping plot against her that was revealed three months ago.

Fourteen men were charged for planning to kidnap and kill her. Six have been indicted by a federal grand jury. Investigators say they were angry over her coronavirus restrictions.

Despite all that was conspiring against her, she says she hasn’t feared for her or her family’s safety.

“I am grateful to be the governor of Michigan, even on the hardest day of 2020, and there have been some hard days. I know that we’ve got more work to do. I’ve never not felt safe thanks to the Michigan State Police and also a special thanks to the FBI, who foiled this domestic terror plot to kidnap and execute me,” she said. “I don’t spend energy worried about my safety because I know that they’ve got that. And that’s a good thing because all my energy has to go into getting our state through this global pandemic and getting our kids back in school, getting people back to work and getting Michiganders vaccinated.”

Governor Whitmer says the first vaccine Phase 1A, which is happening now, is strictly for frontline workers directly dealing with COVID-19. Workers at private doctors’ offices and urgent care centers will be later down the line.

MDHHS is still trying to figure out who will be considered essential for that next phase of vaccinations. They’re hoping the federal government will establish clearer guidelines.

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