Whitmer calls federal coronavirus testing efforts uneven, asks Congress for help with budget short

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An uneven federal response to states’COVID-19 testing needs and a looming budget crisis cast uncertainty over Michigan’s next steps to address the ongoing pandemic, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told members of Congress Tuesday.

Whitmer told lawmakers on the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations that she appreciates the financial assistance and supplies provided so far during the pandemic, but said more clarity -- and more federal funding is needed as Michigan continues to grapple with the fallout of COVID-19.

Michigan has been hit exceptionally hard by COVID-19, and our state revenues have been drained because of it,” she said. “I appreciate the federal assistance provided to states to date, but more is needed to support our response to this crisis. ”

Whitmer testified alongside Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and Democratic Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado during the three-hour panel, fielding questions about the state’s COVID-19 response and future plans to reopen the economy.


Whitmer said supply shortages “continue to limit how many tests Michigan can conduct each day" and said more accurate information on the supplies being shipped to Michigan would help ensure supplies are being used and distributed more quickly.


Republicans on the panel grilled Whitmer on various aspects of her administration’s COVID-19 response, including the decision to direct COVID-19 positive patients from hospitals into nursing homes and the lack of clarity on nursing home deaths in Michigan.

Whitmer said she based her decisions on advice from public health experts, but acknowledged there are "probably a number of decisions we would have made some adjustment in.”


U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, a Michigan Republican from Tipton, was especially critical of Whitmer’s handling of economic reopening, noting her decision to keep salons, gyms and other businesses closed while other states have allowed those industries to reopen.


That grows our economy. We can't deal with that 6.2 billion shortfall if we don't grow our own economy in Michigan, he said.


He also said other states that have reopened sooner should not “be expected to help pick up our shortfall.”


Whitmer responded that the measures Michigan took saved thousands of lives.


Michigan’s had a uniquely hard time with COVID-19 and we have needed help from the federal government,” she said. “We were in desperate times and that’s why we had to take aggressive actions. And they have worked. They have worked.”

COVID-19 PREVENTION TIPS


In addition to washing hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone may be carrying the virus.


Health offfcials say you should be staying at least 6 feet away from others and working from home, if possible.


Use disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray cleaners on frequently-touched surfaces in your home (door handles, faucets, countertops) and carry hand sanitizer with you when you go into places like stores.


Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also issued an executive order requiring people to wear face coverings over their mouth and nose while inside enclosed, public spaces.


Additional information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.