“It is less of a policy problem that we have and more of a compliance and variants issue that we are confronting,” Ms. Whitmer said. “Policy change alone won’t change the tide. We need everyone to step up and to take personal responsibility here.”
The outbreak in Michigan is bad and getting worse. Hospitalizations have more than tripled in the last month and cases continue to spike. About 7,200 new cases are being reported each day, a sevenfold increase since late February. And 16 of the 20 metro areas with the country’s highest recent case rates are in Michigan.
Debra Furr-Holden, an epidemiologist at Michigan State University, said before the governor’s announcement on Friday that the state should reimpose restrictions that were loosened just before the most recent surge.
“What it looks like happened is she tried to be fair and meet us in the middle,” said Dr. Furr-Holden, who was appointed last year by Ms. Whitmer to the state’s Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities. “And what I think we’ve learned — and I hope other states will get the message — is that there really isn’t a lot of middle ground here. We just have to tighten up and hold tight.”
But there is also a sense — articulated by Ms. Whitmer, politicians from both parties and even some public health officials — that pandemic fatigue and partisanship have limited the effectiveness that any new state mandates might have.
“It’s been a long time,” said Mayor Pauline Repp of Port Huron, where case rates are among the highest in the country. “It’s a long time to be restrictive and you get to the point where you kind of think, ‘Will life ever go back to normal?’”