Cautious optimism, uncertainty as state virus cases decline

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) – A top Michigan health official said Tuesday she was cautiously optimistic that more residents took steps to combat the surging coronavirus last month, citing declining case rates, but warned that the spread remains significant and the effect of Thanksgiving will not be known for two to three weeks.

Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive and an adviser to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, urged people who traveled for the holiday to stay away from others for 14 days.

The Democratic governor, meanwhile, said it was too early to say if her administration will extend a three-week order that prevents high schools from offering in-person instruction, prohibits dine-in service at restaurants and closes various entertainment businesses. The restrictions are due to end in a week, Dec. 8.

Joe Vicari, who owns more than 20 Detroit-area restaurants, has urged other restaurant owners to defy the indoor-dining ban if it is continued.

“I would discourage people from willfully breaking the law always, no matter what the law is, on any subject,” Whitmer said at a news conference. “In this moment, we need to give one another empathy and a little bit of grace and recognize the gravity of this situation.”

Whitmer noted the risks of unmasked people gathering inside at eateries, though did not specify how many cases have been linked to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. She said COVID-19 has contributed to more than 9,000 deaths statewide.

“I understand the frustration. I understand the fear,” Whitmer said. “We’ve had over three 9/11s here in Michigan in the last 10 months… This is still a very real threat to all of us.”

Whitmer again urged the Republican-led Legislature to pass a $100 million relief plan and for Congress to enact a separate round of aid.

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