Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed three new executive orders late Thursday that extended Michigan’s state of emergency and disaster declaration until May 28 after the Legislature voted against the measure. The Stay Home, Stay Safe order remains unchanged, set to expire May 15.
The executive orders, the governor said, cite data validating the existence of an emergency and disaster across the state. Although the pace of COVID-19 spread has showed signs of slowing, the virus remains aggressive and persistent, the orders read. To date, there have been 41,379 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 3,789 deaths from the disease. And while COVID-19 initially hit southeast Michigan hardest, the spread now is increasing more quickly in other parts of the state, according to the governor’s office.
“Today I signed new emergency and disaster declarations using independent sources of statutory authority to make sure our health care workers and first responders have the tools they need to save lives and protect Michiganders,” Whitmer said Thursday.
Some have questioned whether the governor moved fast enough in issuing her first stay-at-home order on March 23. According to Bridge magazine, Michigan, as with other states, could have benefited from an earlier crackdown on gatherings and social contact, said Dr. Vikas Parekh, associate chief clinical officer for the University of Michigan Medicine’s adult hospitals.
By utilizing strict adherence to social distancing guidelines, U-M researchers concluded such measures can cut hospital admissions by 65 percent.
“We know that the earlier that you implement social distancing measures in the life of an epidemic, the more rapidly you can halt the rise, and the quicker that you can get control, so that is true for Michigan as it was true for every country that has had a coronavirus,” Parekh told Bridge magazine.
The infection rate doubles every three days if no social distancing measures are in place, he added.
According to the latest COVID-19 report (May 1) in The New York Times, Michigan had the third highest number of deaths due to the virus (3,788). The state trailed New York (23,616) and New Jersey (7,228). At the same time, Michigan had the seventh-highest number of cases (41,347), trailing New York (309,696), New Jersey (118,652), Massachusetts (62,205), Illinois (52,918), California (50,470), and Pennsylvania (48,224).
Republicans in the Legislature say they recognize all of the safety measures, and with that knowledge they are trying to minimize the economic damage — which compounds daily as long as the governor’s emergency orders are in place — by pushing for a safe easing of the lockdown.
Between March 15 and April 18, Michigan had 1.2 million initial unemployment claims — amounting to nearly 24 percent of the Michigan workforce. The state has already reached its highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression.
On April 9, economists at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor forecasted that the U.S. economy will contract by 7 percent in the second quarter of this year, or roughly an annualized rate of 25 percent.
Yesterday’s orders include:
Executive Order 2020-66, which terminates the existing state of emergency and disaster declarations issued under the Emergency Management Act in Executive Order 2020-33. Visit EO 2020-66.pdf to review the executive order.
Executive Order 2020-67, which clarifies that a state of emergency remains in effect under the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945. The order is effective immediately and continues through May 28, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. The governor says she will evaluate the continuing need for this order prior to its expiration, and if she determines that an emergency no longer exists, will terminate or extend the state of emergency declared in this order. Visit EO 2020-68.pdf to review the executive order.
Executive Order 2020-68, which declares a state of emergency and a state of disaster across Michigan under the Emergency Management Act of 1976. The state of emergency and state of disaster declared by this order will be effective through May 28, 2020 at 11:59 p.m., and the governor will evaluate the continuing need for the order prior to its expiration and terminate the states of emergency and disaster if the threat or danger has passed. Visit EO 2020-67.pdf to review the executive order.
Prior to the governor’s action, the Legislature passed a bill limiting the executive branch’s emergency powers to 28 days (set to expire May 1). The same bill also required safe practices for all businesses and public places, including ensuring adherence to social distancing and mitigation measures recommended by the CDC including the use of face coverings, adopting heightened standards of facility cleaning and disinfection, providing PPE for employees, limiting shared equipment, promoting remote work when possible, and adopting policies to prevent workers from entering a facility showing signs of COVID-19.
The legislation also preserved the vast majority of executive orders necessary to continue changes to programs like unemployment insurance, distance learning for schools, and to ensure safety for health care workers.
The Republican-controlled Legislature also adopted a resolution that allows its leaders to file a lawsuit if the governor tried to extend her emergency declaration.
“We have no other choice, but to act for our constituents,” said Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), Senate majority leader on the floor of the Senate prior to the vote. “We have learned that there has to be balance between life on lock down and life lived in the presence of COVID-19. We can no longer allow one person to make decisions for 10 million people.”