Gov. Whitmer extends Michigan COVID-19 state of emergency through Sept. 4

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has extended her emergency order five times since it was first announced in mid-March. To date, more than 6,000 people in Michigan are confirmed to have died from the new coronavirus. (Courtesy photo)

August 21: Whitmer wins another round over executive powers. On to the Supreme Court

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended Michigan’s state of emergency through Sept. 4, citing growing case numbers and the looming challenge of children returning to school in the fall. 

It’s the fifth time Whitmer has extended the state of emergency since it was first declared on March 10, shortly after the first two cases of the new coronavirus were discovered in Michigan. The latest extension was set to expire Tuesday. 

The state of emergency gives the governor the power to issue executive orders intended to protect against the disease, such as the requirement for people to wear masks in public and, earlier this year, the requirement to stay at home unless absolutely necessary. She has issued 163 executive orders since the first declaration of emergency in March. 

“We are in a crucial time in our fight against COVID-19, and we must do everything we can to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and the brave men and women on the front lines of this crisis from a second wave,” Whitmer said in a statement announcing the extension Friday. 

“I will continue to use every tool at my disposal to protect Michiganders from the spread of this virus. I want to remind everyone in Michigan to wear a mask, practice safe physical distancing, and do everything in your power to fight COVID-19.” 

Whitmer noted in the statement that every region in Michigan has seen increases in cases over the last several weeks. While the statewide average number of cases has declined in the last week, cases have been largely rising in Michigan since mid-June, when the stay-at-home order ended and many businesses were allowed to reopen. 

Whitmer also cited an increased positive test rate from a low of 2 percent in June to 3.6 percent on Friday. That number is still low — the nationwide positivity rate is 9 percent and the World Health Organization advised rate is lower than 5 percent. As of Friday, 86,191 Michiganders have been diagnosed with coronavirus and 6,247 people are confirmed to have died from it. 

“Though local health departments have some limited capacity to respond to cases as they arise within their jurisdictions, state emergency operations are necessary to bring this pandemic under control in Michigan and to build and maintain infrastructure to stop the spread of COVID-19, trace infections, and quickly direct additional resources to hot-spots as they emerge,” the governor’s office said in a statement. 

If Whitmer’s order remains in place through Sept. 4, that would mark nearly 26 weeks under a state of emergency. The vast majority of that time has been without the consent of the Republican-led state Legislature, which is challenging Whitmer’s legal ability to unilaterally extend her powers without lawmakers’ input. 

Under a 1976 law, Whitmer is required to seek legislative approval to extend an emergency declaration past 28 days. But when the Legislature rejected her request for a second extension in May, Whitmer extended the emergency anyway under a 1945 law that does not require lawmakers’ sign-off. 

The Legislature then sued Whitmer in a case that remains unresolved and promises to have a sweeping impact on the state government and its handling of the pandemic. A Court of Claims judge sided with Whitmer in May, but the decision has been appealed. Lawyers argued the case before the Court of Appeals on Tuesday and a decision is expected by the end of the month. It is likely to go to the state Supreme Court. 

Amber McCann, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, told Bridge via email Friday that he has not had any further conversations with the governor about her extensions of emergency declarations. “He awaits a ruling from the courts,” she said. 

Meanwhile, a petition circulated by a group called Unlock Michigan seeks to repeal the 1945 law that’s the basis of Whitmer’s powers. It’s backed by Republican leaders including Shirkey and is already gaining steam: A spokesperson for the group told Bridge it collected more than 100,000 valid signatures in the first three weeks of circulating petitions. 

The odds of gathering enough support for a vote on repeal seem to be in their favor. 

A new statewide poll conducted by EPIC-MRA for Bridge Michigan indicates that 43 percent of Michiganders support repealing the law. While most people surveyed are against repeal (that is, they support the current emergency powers held by Whitmer), the level of dissent suggests the group may obtain valid signatures from the roughly 8 percent of voters needed. 

The group must collect 340,047 valid signatures to send the question to the Legislature, which would then have 40 days to approve or send it to the ballot to go before voters. Because both legislative chambers are in Republican hands, there is a credible chance GOP lawmakers will be able to narrow the governor’s emergency powers, despite statewide sentiment against such an action. 

Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield wrote on Facebook in July that he is “supportive of any effort to curtail further abuses of power. And so if the initiative is presented to the Legislature, I will support it.”

Despite support from GOP leadership, it’s unclear how many lawmakers up for re-election would approve it during a competitive election season.

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Jamie McGee
Fri, 08/07/2020 - 5:46pm

She keeps moving the goal. First it was flatten the curve so we don't overload the hospitals with the sick and dying. Has anybody noticed; almost nobody is dying anymore. Treatments have improved dramatically, and theraputics as well, and likely vaccines will be added to our medical arsenal within the year. Get a real job Gretchen. We neither want, nor need an incompetent "helicopter mom!" :) Just "go away". Thx.

John Connor
Sat, 08/08/2020 - 4:10pm

Sorry, Stretchin' Gretchen - We've been done with you since 2 weeks after this started. Business has been open since then, no masks required and you won't be stopping us. We have the highest power (the Sheriff) behind us on this.
You can put masks on our dead bodies after we live long full lives, with or without CoronaHoax(tm)
-We The People

Tue, 08/11/2020 - 8:04am

Right.... it's a hoax that nearly every country in the world is in on. To what end? Israel tried to reopen schools too early and effectively wiped out all of the progress they made to slow the spread. Italy was hit hard very early on and literally had people dying in hospital hallways. Sweden decided not to close down which got them the highest death rate of all the Scandinavian countries and they still saw their economy shrink at the same rate as neighboring Norway (so no benefit to staying open).

Sat, 08/08/2020 - 9:54pm

I really hate to say this but.... we really need to shut down its getting worse especially in Detroit. We're not taking this coronoavirus serious. I'm scared.

Sun, 08/09/2020 - 4:11am

Michigan Covid rate is at 3.6% (if we can BELIEVE these numbers, which I'm sure it's much lower) but the WHO advises anything ABOVE 5% should be LOCKED IN, I mean shut in, I mean keep your distance. So if we are LOWER than the suggested rate then why are you locking in my fellow Michiganders Whitmer-Schlumpf? I say fellow because I DO NOT CONSENT TO TYRANNY. You may have your little time right now but trust me, it won't last for long. People are waking up to the lies and deceit and nastiness you people on the left are committing on the public. Oh, and by the way, Biden the pedo will not win so there wont be any switching of the players on THAT ticket.

Not your business
Sun, 08/09/2020 - 7:20am

Funny how I over heard a phone conversation of my neighbors yesterday. She was calling because she had pain due to kidney stones. The "nurse" or whomever was on the other end of this converstaion kept saying over AND over...."well it sounds like your exhibiting symptoms of covid 19." Never once asked the lady about her pain or anything else....just kept telling her she should get tested for covid. Excuse me...... they really want us all to have it or get it, don't they? Stop believing the lies folks!!! I'm still trying to figure out what kidney stones have to do with covid 19???

Tue, 08/11/2020 - 3:12pm

You expect people to believe your "neighbor" had a phone conversation with a medical provider and you were able to overhear both sides of it? How do you know what she was calling for or what symptoms she was experiencing ? How do you know she was talking to an actual medical provider and not a scammer?

Karen Carlson
Sun, 08/09/2020 - 5:36pm

As usual abusing her powers. Idiocy say that racism is a health crisis. Yet she went in a private jet for meeting with biden, plus was in a group gathering of at least 700 people. Rules dont apply to her and begging for money again that michiganders wont see. She needs a mental health assessment she is not fit to run this state. As a healthcare worker of 21 years part of it in mental health you can see that she needs serious help!

Kayla dufresne
Mon, 08/10/2020 - 1:39am

It is awesome that the governor is looking out for our state we greatly appreciate all she has done it's just too bad that my unemployment has not been approved since May I have spoke to everybody I can and nothing has happened my husband is trying to support the family with a delivery pizza job at a local pizza place here in Saginaw Michigan but it is tough would be awesome if I could have some help collecting my unemployment

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 6:00am

I have been doing research into the Swine Flu and have told many of my findings, First, both Swine and Corvid19 are Viruses that go airborne and can infect a person just by coughing or sneezing, also both may have a vaccine although no cures, Next why did we not wear a mask when Swine Flu appeared infecting millions and killing many including children?? Why did not the then president close businesses and tell us to stay six feet apart, why did the government allow school to continue till May instead of closing in the beginning of April??? This could have saved many, why was the public not informed when The Swine Flu first showed up?? There is more comparisons and all is true, I have informed at least 100 who will do the same, since n.pelosi calls this one the trump virus we are calling the one in 2008-2009 the obama swine. Since he did such a great job handling it,NOT!!!

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 4:48pm

Your research is flawed. There is no current vaccine for COVID-19, although several candidates are in clinical trials. Most people who try to claim there is a vaccine normally link to a patent for "avian coronavirus infectious bronchitis" which (if the first word didn't clue you in) is actually for the prevention of bronchitis in ....chickens.

Here's an interesting stat for you, a comparison of the first 86 days from first infection:
Swine Flu
- April 15th 2009 - first infection detected
- July 10, 2009 (86 days later) - 37,246 cases, 211 deaths

- Jan 20, 2020 - first infection detected
- April 15, 2020 (86 days later) - 654,425 cases, 32,900 deaths

Source for my figures which includes links to sources from the CDC and elsewhere:

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 8:45am

The United States has now reported more than 5 million cases of Covid-19. To put that in perspective, it took the country 99 days to reach 1 million cases, but it only took 17 days for cases to rise from 4 million to 5 million. And that's not the only dire statistic. More than 97,000 children tested positive for coronavirus in the last two weeks of July, according to a new medical report. That's a 40% increase in child cases across the states and cities that were studied. Meanwhile, Brazil has logged at least 3 million cases and has passed 100,000 coronavirus deaths, and Mexico is inching toward 500,000 cases.

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 4:49pm

These numbers you are quoting are not relevant.
The only relevant metric is the *percentage* of *positive* tests, and the trend of *percentage of positive tests* going up or down. No one seems to be reporting on this. It's as if they all forgot basic statistics, this is high school level stuff.
If you test more people, you will get more positives, but that does not indicate spread nor growth of infection rate. The only relevant metric is percentage of positive tests and the media is ignoring this metric because this metric indicates that this is NOT a pandemic.

Mon, 08/10/2020 - 8:51am

"Because both legislative chambers are in Republican hands, there is a credible chance GOP lawmakers will be able to narrow the governor’s emergency powers, despite statewide sentiment against such an action."

THAT is just WRONG! GOP gerrymandering will haunt us for generations, be it voting rights, corporate influence (the SWAMP), or supreme court promoting authoritarian presidency.

Kevin Paquette
Mon, 08/10/2020 - 1:03pm

I am truly grateful for the amazing work this Governor and her administration continue to do each and every day to keep Michigan safe, Thank you so much!