Four Michigan sheriffs who are refusing to enforce Whitmer's stay-at-home orders.  Photo via Michigan Sheriff's Association.
Four Michigan sheriffs who are refusing to enforce Whitmer's stay-at-home orders. Photo via Michigan Sheriff's Association.

Four sheriffs in northern Michigan released a statement standing defiant against the stay-at-home order that’s drawn sharp criticism from conservatives despite its effectiveness.

NORTHERN MICHIGAN — Four sheriffs in northern Michigan counties have declared their intention to defy elements of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders.

Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich, Benzie County Sheriff Ted Schendel, Manistee County Sheriff Ken Falk and Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole said they will not strictly enforce the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” orders that have helped Michigan flatten the curve, MLive reports

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The four counties have been able to control the spread of coronavirus undoubtedly through social distancing, including that recommended in Gov. Whitmer’s “Stay Safe, Stay Home” plan. 

Data shown at Wednesday’s press conference suggested not only have stay-at-home and social distancing efforts been working to slow the spread of the disease, but the easing of those restrictions carries the risk of a second wave of infections.  Dr. Marisa Eisenberg from the University of Michigan Department of Epidemiology encouraged easing those restrictions in stages to manage those risks. 

Though their counties haven’t picked up new cases this week according to data provided by the state, the same cannot be said for all rural counties. While the rates of disease spread slow in the Detroit area, they’ve picked up in southwest Michigan counties like Allegan County. That move of viral hotspots could easily happen to northern Michigan as well.

“We believe that we are the last line of defense in protecting your civil liberties,” the sheriffs’ statement said. “Together, as a community, we will overcome this pandemic, and as Americans, we will persevere and come out stronger than before. As sheriffs of your community we want you to know we have your back and will continue to serve the people who have entrusted us with your protection.”

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Despite protests that garnered national attention, Gov. Whitmer’s handling of the crisis has been largely popular with Michiganders, The ‘Gander reports. And the form the stay-at-home orders take is likely to change in response to its April successes as the pandemic moves into May. Whitmer is expected to announce the first details of the new order Friday. 

But even rural Michigan doctors remain concerned about ending executive actions that are slowing the spread of the pandemic too quickly. 

“My concern is that we open up before we do adequate testing to know the true numbers, and if certain at risk populations get exposed, we could very quickly become overwhelmed,” emergency medicine doctor Rob Davidson told The ‘Gander.  “We are a resource limited critical access hospital.”

And Davidson was concerned that protesters attending the rallies against the social distancing policies in Lansing might contract the virus and bring it back to their communities. If the constituents these northern sheriffs represent attended the “Operation Lockdown” protest last week, Davidson says, they likely won’t realize it for some weeks and could spread the coronavirus in the meantime. 

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“While we understand her desire to protect the public, we question some restrictions that she has imposed as overstepping her executive authority,” the sheriffs wrote. “She has created a vague framework of emergency laws that only confuse Michigan citizens.”

Rebooting state economies too quickly or too recklessly is a major concern of many Americans, and experts warn against rapid action out of concern for a possible resurgence of the virus. And, as The ‘Gander reports, new studies suggest the coronavirus can spread even farther through air than previously thought. 

The most recent data reports 33,966 cases and 2,813 deaths as a result of the novel coronavirus, including cases in all four counties represented by these sheriffs.