Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently laid out some metrics that should lead to a gradual easing of statewide COVID restrictions. That’s certainly better than having no targets in place, yet many questions remain about how those benchmarks were set and what it will take to reach them.
Just this week the state hit the first threshold — 55 percent of adults have gotten at least one dose of the COVID vaccine — so in two weeks the Whitmer administration says it will allow a return of in-person office work.
The state had already been close to hitting that initial target, however. With the slowdown of vaccinations due to decreased demand, reaching the next milestones may prove more challenging. Until 70 percent of Michigan adults get their first dose, Whitmer says the Health Department won’t lift its epidemic order that stipulates mask wearing and gathering limits.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) sent a letter last week to Elizabeth Hertel, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, laying out a series of questions related to the state’s “Vacc to Normal” plan and seeking clarity about when the state will be out of the emergency.
Shirkey had asked for responses by this Tuesday, but the department requested more time.
He remains frustrated with the lack of transparency coming from the executive branch in its response to COVID, and he’s pushed for more legislative involvement in the decision-making process — to little avail.
Shirkey’s questions include the following:
• On what studies or credible data is the governor’s 70 percent operational goal based?
• On what grounds did the health department make the apparent choice to exclude naturally acquired immunity from its calculations?
• What studies have been conducted on the long-term effectiveness of vaccinated immunity that exceeds any research done on the long-term effectiveness of naturally acquired immunity?
• In some Michigan counties, the vaccination rate is greater than 60 percent and will likely reach the 70 percent threshold sooner than other parts of the state. On what grounds has the administration apparently rejected a regional approach to lifting restrictions, as has been done previously?
The Health Department claims not enough is known about natural immunity following a COVID infection, and recommends residents who’ve had the disease still get the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated immunity from an infection could last “at least” 90 days.
But it seems natural immunity could help the state get closer to “herd” immunity, along with the vaccinated.
Other Republicans had called on the state to do a better job tracking the number of people who had gotten vaccinated out of state when it was difficult to land an appointment earlier this year in Michigan.
Just last week, the MDHHS started adding in data from the CDC, which includes those who’ve been vaccinated through Veterans Affairs and the Bureau of Prisons, as well as out-of-state providers.
That’s progress, but Shirkey’s questions deserve an answer.
— THE DETROIT NEWS