GOP lawmakers don't like proposed regional map for reopening Michigan's economy

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Republican lawmakers say Gov. Gretchen Whitmer should change the regional map proposed Monday for making decisions on reopening parts of Michigan's economy.

The four House members say St. Clair and Lapeer counties, which they help represent and have fewer than 500 COVID-19 cases combined, shouldn't be placed in the same recovery region as counties with thousands of cases of the virus.

"It’s ridiculous that St. Clair County — with a few hundred confirmed COVID-19 cases — would be placed in the same region as Wayne County, with several thousand COVID-19 cases,” Rep. Shane Hernandez, R-Port Huron, said in a statement. "The governor needs a new map."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Michigan Economic Recovery Council detailed these potential regions for making decisions on reopening the state's economy on Monday, April 27, 2020.

Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties are home to 73% of Michigan's 38,210 COVID-19 cases.

Hernandez and Reps. Pamela Hornberger, R-Chesterfield Township, Gary Eisen, R-St. Clair Township, and Gary Howell, R-North Branch, issued a press release on the proposed regions Tuesday.

The proposed map for making reopening decisions debuted during a press conference Monday. Whitmer's Michigan Economic Recovery Council created it as part of recommendations for how to gradually reopen the state's economy after efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19 generally shut it down in March.

The council proposed other policies for deciding how high risk different workplace types are and for best practices to minimize risks once businesses restart.

The map in question featured eight regions. The regions were divided up based on labor sheds — how people travel to work and then back home again — the status of the epidemic and the geography of health care systems — which hospitals systems serve which areas, said Gerry Anderson, who co-chaired the recovery council and is executive chairman of DTE Energy.

"It turns out that geography is really important," Anderson said Monday. "This disease and how it presents varies across the state."

It's unclear exactly how Whitmer, a Democrat, will use the council's recommendations. Anderson said the group's goal was to provide input for the governor.

But Whitmer also mentioned a potential regional approach to reopening the state's economy on Monday.

Wayne County has been the hardest-hit county in the state with 15,872 cases as of Monday. That's 41% of the statewide total.

The proposed regional map featured a Detroit region, a Grand Rapids region, a Kalamazoo region, a Saginaw region, a Lansing region, a Traverse City region, a Jackson region and an Upper Peninsula region.

The Detroit region features nine counties and 52% of the state's population, according to the council.