Michigan lawmakers move to scrap A-F school grade system

Whitmer extends stay-at-home order through June 12

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Fresh from a legal victory that backs her power, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended her controversial stay-at-home order Friday evening until June 12, pushing back against critics who have called for a quicker loosening of restrictions during the pandemic.

The order, which has been in place since late March and extended multiple times, was due to expire on May 28.

The measure also extends the closure of some places of public accommodation, such as theaters, gyms and casinos.

Whitmer also signed an executive order to extend through June 19 a state of emergency declaration enacted during the pandemic and which was upheld by a judge Thursday.

The governor's office said her measures to control the spread of coronavirus were working but cited COVID-19 cases in some counties in western and mid-Michigan doubling about every 10 days as reasons for the extension.

“While the data shows that we are making progress, we are not out of the woods yet. If we’re going to lower the chance of a second wave and continue to protect our neighbors and loved ones from the spread of this virus, we must continue to do our part by staying safer at home,” Whitmer said in a statement.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

“If we open too soon, thousands more could die and our hospitals will get overwhelmed. While we finally have more protective equipment like masks, we can’t run the risk of running low again. We owe it to the real heroes on the front lines of this crisis — our first responders, health care workers and critical workers putting their lives on the line every day — to do what we can ourselves to stop the spread of the virus.” 

The decision drew quick criticism from Republicans.

"Not only is Gretchen Whitmer going around the state Legislature, but now she is sneaking around the people of Michigan by announcing an extension to her stay at home order after regular business hours on a holiday weekend," said Laura Cox, who chairs the Michigan Republican Party, in a statement. "The only thing she is trying to keep safe is her political career.”

Whitmer's announcement followed a legal victory after weeks of legislators challenging her powers during the COVID-19 crisis.

On Thursday, a Court of Claims judge ruled Whitmer had the legal authority to extend Michigan's state of emergency under the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945.

The ruling overrides the argument from the Republican-led House and Senate that Whitmer had no authority to extend the coronavirus state of emergency, which she issued March 10, past April without legislative approval.

Representatives of Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, who along with other GOP leaders promised to appeal the ruling, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday on Whitmer's extensions.

Meanwhile, as health officials reported declining rates of COVID-19 cases, Whitmer has relaxed some restrictions in the state associated with her original orders, which have sparked protests and lawsuits. 

She has signed an executive order to reopen retail businesses and auto dealerships by appointment statewide on Tuesday. And effective May 29, Whitmer lifted the requirement that health care providers delay some nonessential medical, dental and veterinary procedures statewide.

The governor has also authorized small gatherings of 10 people or less as long as participants practice social distancing. 

As part of her plans to gradually reopen the state, restaurants and retail stores reopened Friday in parts of Northern Michigan as well as the entire Upper Peninsula. 

“All of us know the importance of getting people back to work and the economy moving again,” Whitmer said Friday. “We’ve already loosened some restrictions on construction, manufacturing, landscaping, retail and more. But the worst thing we can do is open up in a way that causes a second wave of infections and death, puts health care workers at further risk and wipes out all the progress we've made.” 

Michigan reported 29 additional deaths tied to the novel coronavirus on Friday, bringing the total of 5,158 fatalities statewide. It was also the eighth consecutive day the state confirmed fewer than 800 new cases, adding 403 for a total of 53,913, according to data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The state has continued to rank seventh in the nation for its number of COVID-19 cases and fourth for deaths — behind New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University and Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.