Washington is rushing federal resources to support vaccinations, testing and therapeutics – but not vaccines – to Michigan in an effort to control the state’s worst in the nation COVID-19 transmission rate, the White House said on Friday.
President Joe Biden outlined the moves late on Thursday in a call with Governor Gretchen Whitmer to discuss the situation in the state, The Associated Press reported. It will not include a “surge” of vaccine doses, a move Whitmer has advocated.
Instead, Biden outlined how the federal government was planning to help Michigan better administer the doses already allocated to the state, as well as increase testing capacity and drugs for virus treatment.
During a press conference on Friday, Whitmer confirmed that she had asked Biden on the call to send more vaccine doses to Michigan, particularly the single-dose Johnson & Johnson shot.
“I made the case for a surge strategy,” she said. “At this point, that’s not being deployed, but I am not giving up.”
Michigan has averaged more than 7,000 new cases a day – a number that makes the state second in the nation behind New York. Michigan also has the highest number of new cases per capita, with one of every 203 state residents getting diagnosed with COVID-19 between March 31 and April 7, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Doses are currently allocated to states proportionally by population, but Whitmer has called for extra doses to be shifted to states, like hers, that are experiencing a sharp rise in cases.
“We’re going to stick with the allocation system of allocating by state adult population,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients, calling it “the fair and equitable way” to distribute the vaccines.
During the regular COVID response team briefing on Friday, Zeints said the administration would help states that are seeing a rise in coronavirus cases administer the vaccines they already have more efficiently.
“We will be offering the states with significant increases in cases a set of additional tools to help them to stem the spread, including first, working with states to make sure they are using all the doses they have received,” Zients said during the regular COVID response briefing on Friday.
“Today, millions of doses have been distributed but have not yet been administered as shots in arms,” he said.
Officials noted that surging vaccines would not be nearly as effective in curbing the spike in cases than increasing testing and restoring mitigation measures like mask-wearing and curbing high-risk activities like social gatherings, indoor dining and youth sports. That is because the vaccines take at least two weeks to begin providing immunity.
Biden told Whitmer that his administration stands ready to send an additional 160 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) personnel to Michigan to assist in vaccinations, on top of the 230 federal personnel already deployed to the state to support pandemic response operations.
Biden added that he was directing his administration to prioritise the distribution of doses through federal channels, like the retail pharmacy programme and community health centres, to areas of the state Whitmer identifies.
NEWS: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer urges a 2-week suspension of in-person high school classes, all youth sports & indoor restaurant dining. She stops short of ordering restrictions, instead asking for voluntary compliance to slow spread of COVID-19 as cases, hospitalizations mount
— David Eggert (@DavidEggert00) April 9, 2021
“We are at war with this virus, which requires leaders from across the country to work together,” said White House spokesperson Chris Meagher.
“We’re in close contact with Governor Whitmer, who is working hard to keep Michigan safe, and working in close coordination through a range of options that can help stop the spread of the virus.”
On Tuesday, Biden announced that all adults will become eligible for the coronavirus vaccine in every state in the US by April 19. Many states have already removed all restrictions.
The US is currently vaccinating Americans at a rate of three million a day, officials said on Friday. Nationally more than a quarter of Americans are now fully vaccinated. But while the death rate has been decreasing, new cases and hospitalisations have been on the rise, amid a growing number of infections among unvaccinated adults.
In Michigan, about 39 percent of residents ages 16 and older have gotten at least one vaccine dose.
First published on: Al Jazeera