Washington — In the 10 months the coronavirus has spread across the United States, governors have come together to fight a "common enemy," leaning on one another to navigate the pandemic, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said as they reflected on the challenges they faced addressing the extraordinary public-health crisis.
"I know that this is not a moment that any one of us governors would have chosen to be in, and yet it was incumbent on us to rise to this challenge and to do what we needed to do to protect the people that we serve," Whitmer, a Democrat, said in an interview alongside DeWine, a Republican, on "Face the Nation." "In lieu of a broader national strategy, it really was on us to navigate. And I think we've done a lot of it together."
Governors have been at the helm of the response to the pandemic, implementing orders to mitigate the spread of the virus while grappling with the economic fallout of the once-in-a-century public health crisis. While states have implemented varying degrees of measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus, no state has been spared.
In Michigan, there have been more than 515,000 confirmed infections and more than 12,680 deaths. In Ohio, the number of confirmed cases tops 664,000, and the death toll is more than 8,400. Nationwide, the number of confirmed cases stands at 19 million, and more than 332,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.
Both Whitmer and DeWine characterized the coronavirus as a "common enemy" that has united governors of neighboring states as they have pooled resources and expertise to combat the pandemic.
"This virus does not stop at state line. It doesn't stop at party line. This is a common enemy," Whitmer said. "And that's always been how we've looked at it, trying to learn from the best science. This being a novel virus, we've learned an incredible amount. But when I share information with Governor DeWine and vice versa, I get the benefit of the Cleveland Clinic and all the experts he's talking to and he gets the benefit of the University of Michigan and all the experts we're talking to."
DeWine said governors across the Midwest are now working together on strategies for prioritizing which populations receive coronavirus vaccines first. He said while there has been consensus among those who were in the first batch — health care workers and nursing home residents — he expects there to be splits when it comes to identifying those who will be next to get their shots.
Both DeWine and Whitmer were targets of extreme vitriol and threats due to the mandates they imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Six men face federal charges over a plot to kidnap Whitmer over her restrictions.
Whitmer said every governor has received backlash both for doing too much and not doing enough, but said the "right thing to do is to follow the science and to put people's lives first, because we can and we will recover from the economic blowback from COVID-19 that has run amuck in our country."
"What we can't do is, you know, bring someone back to life," she said.
DeWine, meanwhile, said it's "understandable" people are upset given the duration of the restrictions they've had to adhere to.
"People are tired of it, so I get it. And we've asked people to make sacrifices," he said. "But my message to the people of Ohio continues to be, we should do everything we can to save lives and hope is there. The vaccine is here. Now, it's going to take a few months, you know, for everybody to get it, but this is not the time to pull back. This is not the time to give up."
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