Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extends Michigan's state of emergency through Oct. 1

Craig Mauger Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday extended Michigan's state of emergency through Oct. 1, saying COVID-19 is widespread and easily transmitted.

The emergency declaration is what gives the Democratic governor the ability to make unilateral actions to combat the virus, such as closing businesses or penalizing those who don't wear masks. Whitmer first declared an emergency because of COVID-19 on March 10, when the state confirmed its first cases.

Oct. 1 will come 205 days after the initial declaration.

"By extending the state of emergency, we can continue the crucial work needed to save lives," Whitmer said. "Since March, I have been committed to using every tool at my disposal to protect families, front-line workers, and our economy from the threat of COVID-19. I urge Michiganders to do their part by wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing and staying safe and smart."

The state of emergency was set to expire Sept. 4, five days prior to when the Michigan Supreme Court is set to hold a hearing on the legitimacy of the governor's emergency powers when they lack legislative approval.

The extension comes as the state last Friday surpassed 100,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

As of Thursday, Michigan reported 104,395 overall confirmed cases and 6,519 overall deaths linked it. However, the state considers 76,151 Michigan residents "recovered" from COVID-19, and hospitalizations remain relatively low compared with the peak of the virus in the spring.

The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld on Aug. 21 Whitmer's use of state laws that allow her declare emergencies and take unilateral actions under them, denying the legal challenge brought by the GOP-led state Legislature. 

The appellate panel ruled 2-1 that the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act gave Whitmer the ability to declare emergencies and take actions without the Legislature's approval. 

Republicans have argued that Whitmer is improperly violating the separation of powers in government by declaring emergencies and keeping them in place.

On Wednesday, Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, a Democrat, endorsed a petition effort to repeal the 1945 law. There's no longer a need for the statewide declaration of emergency, but there's a need for the governor to work with the Legislature on COVID-19 being in communities, he contended.

"We've flattened the curve. There is no surge in the hospitals," Hackel said.