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Gov. Whitmer warns of Thanksgiving impact, calls on legislature to take action

"We all know the next two months are going to be hard," Governor Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday.

The governor said Tuesday that despite a recent downward trend in numbers, it's likely that holiday gatherings and travels will have an impact on the spread of the coronavirus in Michigan. 

"We all know the next two months are going to be hard. Too many people traveled for Thanksgiving, and we will see our numbers increase very likely because of it," Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer said during an afternoon press conference.

"And that will coincide with the next big holiday, Christmas. Too many people are considering traveling and I'm reiterating, please don't."

Her warning comes at a time when COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have been increasing in most parts of the state. In many West Michigan counties, November marked the worst month of pandemic thus far. 

RELATED: West Michigan officials recommend quarantining after Thanksgiving travel

The governor continued her call Tuesday for the legislature to work with her to find solutions before the end of session. 

"This is the most urgent public health emergency our state has faced in any of our lifetimes, and it demands our full, immediate and unified attention," she said. 

Whitmer said her three priorities are her recently proposed $100M COVID-19 relief plan, an increase to unemployment benefits and a mask mandate. 

Currently, the state is in week two of a three-week epidemic order, which expires on Dec. 9. The order shutdown things like indoor dining and placed tighter restrictions on social gatherings. The governor said her administration will not have a decision about the fate of the order until early next week. 

"We'll have a much better idea of what this pause has meant, if people have taken it seriously and done their part, and that will inform any decision going forward," she said. 

Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive Health and Human Services Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said the testing positivity rate statewide dropped from 14% to 13% over the last week, however, the state's threshold is about 3%. 

"We are cautiously optimistic, based on what we are seeing more people started doing the right thing towards the beginning of November," Khaldun said.

But, she added that the impact of Thanksgiving travel on the current surge will not be known for about two to three weeks. 

Both Khaldun and Whitmer expressed optimism in regards to the progress being made on the vaccine front. Whitmer saying, "there is hope on the horizon." 

Khaldun said she expects that the FDA and CDC will have a decision made on the vaccine by mid-December. In the meantime, she says, the state is making arrangements. 

The Pfizer vaccine in particular requires special freezers, which as of Tuesday, 48 hospitals and 12 local health departments had received and would be able to store the vaccine immediately. 

Frontline healthcare workers will likely be prioritized for the early doses of the vaccine, but Khaldun said the hope is to make it available to the general public in late spring. 

"Let's all continue to wear our masks, to avoid gatherings, to wash our hands and please, there's still time to get your flu shot," she said. "A vaccine, fewer deaths and brighter days are right around the corner in 2021."

Watch the full press conference here.

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