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GOP U.S. House members: Whitmer's new stay-home order 'far too restrictive'

Craig Mauger Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan's six Republican U.S. House members are urging Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to amend her latest stay-at-home order, which they label "far too restrictive."

In a letter released Tuesday, the six lawmakers say the Democratic governor's order includes provisions "that seem arbitrary and internally inconsistent."

"Instead of needlessly shutting down large sectors of the economy and further restricting the lives of residents, we believe amending Executive Order 2020-42 can achieve our shared goal of protecting public health while also beginning the slow process of resuscitating our economy," the letter concludes.

U.S. Reps Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, left, and Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland

U.S. Reps. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, John Moolenaar, R-Midland, Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph and Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, all signed on to the letter.

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, I-Cascade Township, a former Republican, has separately criticized the order on social media. That means half of Michigan's 14 U.S. House members have problems with the order.

In response to the letter, the governor's office noted 1,602 people have died from the virus. 

"The governor is doing everything she can to protect public health and safety," said Whitmer's spokeswoman Tiffany Brown. "We’re going to get through this, but the best thing we can do right now is stay home and stay safe to save lives.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, defended Whitmer in a separate campaign email headlined "Humanity and Compassion" and said the governor's decisions were "tough, but necessary" to flatten the curve.

"Hospitals in Southeast Michigan are able to stay caught up or even ahead of the crisis, with many hospitals reporting that they currently have enough beds and ventilators for those who need them," Dingell said. "We are also protecting rural communities from outbreaks, where health care systems are not equipped for major outbreaks."

In their letter, the six Republicans say Whitmer was right to issue her initial executive order on March 23 to slow the spread of COVID-19.

But her latest order, which is in effect until the end of the month and was issued on Thursday, expanded on the initial restrictions by further limiting people's travel between residences and by requiring large stores to cordon off their garden, furniture and paint sections.

Whitmer's new order also didn't adopt the latest federal guidance on who qualifies as "critical infrastructure workers." The new federal guidance expanded who can go to work during the COVID-19 crisis to include people like landscapers and those involved in home construction.

The governors of Ohio and Indiana included the new guidance when they issued their extended stay-at-home orders. Twenty of the 26 states used the most recent federal guidance when extending their stay-home orders, Republican Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield of Levering tweeted Friday.

During a Thursday press conference, Whitmer said the state needed to "double down" to save lives. More than 1,600 people in the state have already died with COVID-19. Michigan has the fourth most cases of the virus nationally.

"While we can come up with all sorts of scenarios where we can make an argument that someone is safe in whatever activity it is they want to do, every single exception to a Stay Home, Stay Safe order makes this more porous and makes it less likely to work," Whitmer said Thursday.

However, The Republicans said under Whitmer's new order, some entire sections of stores are closed while "while customers can still access other areas of the same building."

"Some prohibited activities that never require close contact with other individuals during normal operations are now prohibited entirely," the letter adds.

Upton

The lawmakers say the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has "issued clear guidance to mitigate the transmission of the virus."

"By following this guidance businesses can ensure people remain six feet apart, properly sanitize, set up sneeze guards and protective barriers, promote proper handwashing and cleaning techniques for their employees, while also protecting customers with similar guidelines," the lawmakers said. "Individuals can practice proper social distancing and mitigation techniques while avoiding activities that jeopardize the health of themselves or others."

More than 216,000 people have signed a petition calling for Whitmer’s recall to protest the first-term Democratic governor’s closing and banning of non-essential businesses and activities. The petition created about three weeks ago gained more than 100,000 signatures in the past few days.

“She has lied since day one with her #Fixthedamnroads which she has failed to do anything in this regards,” the change.org petition said. “The response to #PFAS was negligence and completely removing funding for #PureMichigan clearly shows her lack of anything positive for the State of Michigan.”

John Powell, who started the petition, declined a Tuesday interview request. 

However, he did share this statement with The Detroit News:

“Ask Whitmer why is that I can buy weed, liquor and lottery tickets but can’t plan vegetables or go fishing to feed my family,” Powell wrote. “Where should I go to get food?”

cmauger@detroitnews.com

eleblanc@detroitnews.com