Republican leaders in both the Michigan House and Senate have said they will not reauthorize the stay-at-home order that Gov. Whitmer used as a key tool to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
LANSING, MI — Republican lawmakers will jump head-first into reopening the Michigan economy regardless of the state of public health, legislative leadership said.
The orders to stay home have slowed the spread of the coronavirus pandemic which has infected millions globally and killed thousands of Michiganders. But these mandates will end April 30 and the Republican-led legislature intends to block any extension of that order.
The “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order was expanded and extended in early April and has drawn sharp criticism from Republicans, which inspired President Trump to tweet “liberate Michigan” on Sunday and saw the rise of a flurry of protests that flew in the face of social distancing measures the orders attempted to encourage. But health experts say the order has produced results.
Last week, Michigan fell out of the top three states for infections and the overall trend has in the state been toward a “flattened curve” — the slowing in growth of new cases of the virus.
“Your expansion of the stay-at-home order, without adopting many of our recommendations, has made Michigan a national outlier with it’s COVID-19 response,” Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) wrote in a scathing letter to the governor. “This decision has put additional people out of work and hindered the basic freedoms and liberties of citizens more than the data justifies.”
Chatfield pointed to federal guidelines the Trump administration authored to get Americans back to work, and asked Whitmer to amend her policies to allow more employees to be considered essential and to allow rural areas of Michigan more leeway than urban areas when it comes to enforcement of the social distancing orders.
However, polling The ‘Gander previously reported on shows the president’s actions on the coronavirus crisis have not been popular among Michiganders, while Whitmer’s leadership has been seen favorably by a decisive majority.
Michigan Radio reports that Chatfield also called for access to things like lawncare and gardening supplies, a key complaint among the conservative protesters who have taken to the Lansing streets.
“House Republicans have been listening to the people of this state and working with them to address the challenges they face from this crisis,” Chatfield wrote. “We will soon send you a larger, more comprehensive plan with a new approach for managing our state’s recovery.”
Though at the state and national level Republican lawmakers have argued that re-engaging the economy is a top priority for Americans, national polling suggests the opposite. As Vox reported, two-thirds of Americans are concerned that the so-called “lockdowns” many states have implemented will be lifted too early. This in spite of record-breaking rises in the unemployment rate over the past month.
Chatfield’s claim that rural areas are not combatting the pandemic at the same level as Oakland, Macomb, Wayne, and Genesee counties also overlooks the fact that some of the fastest spread reported Monday was in smaller communities in southwest Michigan like Allegan County.
Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clark Lake) has also said extending the stay-at-home order is dead-on-arrival in the legislature. MLive reports Shirkey admitting that it isn’t clear if the legislature even needs to authorize Whitmer’s order, though the way the current “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order is written it requires approval from the legislature to extend beyond April 30.
What form a post-April order would even take if it was presented to the legislature is unclear. In a Monday press conference, Whitmer said it would depend on the state of the pandemic on April 30 and if the current trajectory of the flattening curve continues. But Whitmer has made capacity to test a cornerstone of any plan to phase out the order and at present Michigan still struggles to get access to tests, The ‘Gander reported.
Officials have warned that there are hazards with reopening the economic valves too soon, most notably a second round of infections as the disease is given new chances to spread to those who have been effectively isolating up to that point.