WATCH: Whitmer emphasizes importance of in-person learning during news conference

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Posted at 9:46 AM, Feb 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-24 14:25:21-05

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer emphasized the importance of in-person learning during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

"While some students and families have been successful with distance learning, far too many have struggled," Whitmer said.

The state set a goal last month of all schools offering in-person learning options by March 1.

RELATED: WATCH: Gov. Whitmer sets goal of in-person learning options by March 1

Along with the impact on education, the loss of in-person learning has affected students' physical and mental health, as well as the economy in regard to working parents.

Schools were closed in the early days of the pandemic because the virus's spread in academic settings wasn't known then.

However, Whitmer says, medical experts and epidemiologists have followed data and come up with best practices that would allow schools to safely re-open.

As of Wednesday, more than 80% of public schools are planning in-person options, and Whitmer says 97% of schools are on track to meet the state's March 1 goal.

"Every decision around schools feels personal because it is personal when we're talking about our kids," she said.

RELATED: More than 80% of Michigan's public schools plan in-person instruction

The governor was joined by Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, as well as Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II.

Watch the news conference:

Gilchrist discussed the race data now being released on the state's COVID-19 vaccine dashboard, saying officials will use the data to take corrective action as needed in its equity efforts when distributing the vaccine.

RELATED: MDHHS adds race data to COVID-19 vaccine dashboard

"I want to ensure everyone we have a plan to vaccinate everyone in our state equitably," he said.

Whitmer says the state plans to announce more updates on "re-engagements" as coronavirus cases continue to decline.

Khaldun says Michigan is continuing to see positive overall trends in COVID-19 data.

However, she's concerned in the decline in the number of tests per day.

"Testing is the only way we are going to be able to track to spread of the virus," Khaldun said.

That's crucial for the state to continue reopening society, Khaldun said, including reopening schools.

In addition, 314 cases of the more easily transmitted B.1.1.7 variant of the virus have been detected in Michigan as of Wednesday, and more may be out there.