Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said Monday she was floored by a call from controversial White House COVID-19 adviser Dr. Scott Atlas for people in her state to “rise up” against new rules imposed to mitigate the deadly surge in the disease’s cases there.
“It actually took my breath away, to tell you the truth,” Whitmer said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We are in the midst of the worst weeks of this pandemic, we’ve been going through this for nine months, and right now the numbers are as bad as they’ve been at any given time, and so we have to take aggressive measures.”
Referring to the lack of a strong public response by President Donald Trump to the spike in COVID-19 cases, she added, “With the vacuum of leadership in Washington, D.C., it’s on the state’s governors to do what we can to save lives.”
Whitmer announced an epidemic order over the weekend that will halt indoor dining, in-person learning, group exercise classes and all events at theaters, casinos and other venues for at least three weeks from Wednesday. The order also halts all organized sports activities, with exemptions for some professional teams and colleges.
Atlas, a neuroradiologist with no background in infectious diseases or epidemiology, has been widely criticized by members of the scientific community for advice he’s offered since becoming a member of Trump’s COVID-19 task force in August. He has discounted the effectiveness of many of the protocols issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stem the pandemic, including the wearing of masks.
He posted on Sunday his controversial tweet urging Michiganders to fight the new restrictions imposed by Whitmer:
Atlas’ “rise up” call to was particularly startling, given that Whitmer, the repeated target of Trump’s ire for her strict COVID-19 mitigation measures, was the planned victim of a violent kidnapping plot foiled by the FBI last month. According to the FBI, a Michigan militia planned to snatch her and put her on trial for “treason.”
“We know the White House likes to single us out here in Michigan, me out in particular,” Whitmer told CNN on Sunday evening. “I’m not going to be bullied into not following reputable scientists and medical professionals.”
“I mean, I don’t want to say anything against Dr. Atlas as a person, but I totally disagree with the stand he takes. I just do, period,” Fauci told NBC’s “Today” show.
Biden praised Whitmer’s measures during a press conference Monday.
“The idea that (Atlas) is saying that they should resist. What the hell is the matter with these guys? What’s the matter with them. Resist?” he asked.
Whitmer said Monday she would continue to follow the advice of epidemiologists and health experts to limit indoor gatherings as temperatures continue to drop and flu season approaches.
“The modeling shows that we will lose another 20,000 people here in Michigan between now and the middle of February if we don’t take aggressive action now,” she said. “So for three weeks, we’re going to tighten things up, batten down the hatches, and try to get everyone to rise to the challenge in front of us.”
Michigan has had more than 288,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 8,400 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.