Gov. Gretchen Whitmer warns Michigan may have to 'dial back' reopening as COVID-19 cases rise

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said on Tuesday the nation needs a mask policy to effectively fight the continual spread of COVID-19 while also saying, if Michigan cases continue to rise, she's ready to close parts of the economy again and move the state backward, if necessary.

Whitmer spoke to CNN's New Day on Tuesday morning to discuss Michigan's rising cases of COVID-19. During the interview, she was asked about the state's growing numbers with a chart that showed Michigan's 7-day moving average is just under 500. While far from Michigan's peak over 1,500 in April, Whitmer said she's concerned.

That's why she said the state's reopening plan was dialed back before the Fourth of July weekend and inside service at bars was closed late last week. Whitmer doubled down on the readiness to pull back on Tuesday.

“We’re going to continue to monitor the numbers. If they keep moving up, we’re going to dial back if we have to. That’s the last thing any of us want. I’ve got to tell you, I want to reengage this economy more than anyone, but I’m not going to do it if it is too risky to do so, and that’s why we’re seeing focus on the epidemiology. I’m not going to be bullied into moving before it’s safe, and if we have to move back, we’re gonna," Whitmer said.

The governor said while many things have reopened, like salons, retail, and other business, she said she knows it angered a lot of people when it closed but it saved lives - and she's ready and prepared to do it again.

"I took a lot of heat, (but) when we brought that curve down, we saved thousands of lives. I’m prepared to take heat if that’s what it’s going to take to keep people safe," she said.

The movement to close indoor seating for bars was the first time Michigan seemed to be reversing course in the fight against the virus and Whitmer credited the effort by everyone in the state. But, she said, we can't stop now.

“COVID-19 is still very present here in Michigan and across the country, obviously. We have taken herculean effort to push our curve down. We’ve saved thousands of lives, Michigan has been on the forefront, we’ve done an incredible amount of work. I would hate to think that this sacrifice that we have made would be made in vain because some people are losing interest or are dropping their guard. We’ve got to double down right now more than ever.”

Over the holiday weekend, a video on social media was spread that showed a massive party at Diamond Lake in Cass County in southwest Michigan. With little evidence of social distancing or face mask-wearing seen in the video, the party was among several that took place over the Fourth of July holiday weekend. 

The footage was initially posted onto an Instagram story, before taking off on Twitter and garnering more than 10 million views. In it, primarily young people stand in waist-high water drinking alcohol and dancing to music. 

As Michigan's cases have grown in the 20-29 age group, Whitmer expressed concern about how the message is being communicated to younger people.

“We know that across the country we’ve seen an increase in this age group in terms of COVID-19. Perhaps it’s all of the mixed messaging that’s happened at the federal level. Perhaps it's the fact that COVID-19 doesn’t have the same death rates among that age group and maybe it’s not taken as seriously. But the fact of the matter is every one of those people can be carrying COVID-19, and a lot of them might be without even knowing it. That’s the inherent danger in this moment. That’s why it’s incumbent on every one of us to mask up, from the White House to the State House and everywhere in between," Whitmer said.

She said wearing a mask is the most important thing we can do right now to slow the spread of the virus and is calling for a national mask mandate while calling numbers in the south 'concerning' while calling for everyone to mask up.

Whitmer called for a national campaign that she said would be a simple, cost-effective way to mitigate spread but says the messaging needs to come from the top.

"The symbols that come from the very top matter and it changes behavior. If we can take the politics out of mask-wearing we can save a lot of lives and in doing so save the pain, the economic pain, that we are feeling across this country," Whitmer told CNN.