Shirkey: Whitmer not wearing mask for State of State speech conveyed 'trust and hope'

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey told multiple media outlets Thursday morning that the most important part of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's State of the State address was the fact she didn't wear a mask while delivering it.

During an interview with Michigan Radio, the top Republican in the Senate, who has clashed with the Democratic governor over the state's COVID-19 response, said "symbols and gestures" matter.

"What stood out to me the most was not what she said, but what she did," Shirkey said. "What she did was she talked to us without a mask."

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey.

He added, "I think it was a great opportunity for her to help us move from this notion of fear and control into a trust and hope mode.”

Shirkey, R-Clarklake, made similar comments during an interview on "The Paul W. Smith Show" on WJR 760 AM, according to Crain's Detroit Business.

Whitmer gave a less-than-30-minute State of the State address on Wednesday night. She touted working across the aisle to combat the pandemic and investing in state infrastructure.

She spoke from her Capitol office and said there were only a few other people in the room. While the governor didn't wear a mask Wednesday, she has worn one at recent press conferences.

"To me, the most important thing about what she did last night was she took her mask off so we could see her," Shirkey told Michigan Radio on Thursday morning.

Michigan has been grappling with COVID-19 since March 10 when the first infections were reported here. As of Thursday, the state has reported 556,109 confirmed cases and 14,491 deaths linked to the virus. But 463,106 residents are considered recovered.

"Let’s end this pandemic," Whitmer said on Wednesday night. "Make your plan to get vaccinated, and keep wearing your mask until this pandemic is over. Let’s join forces to jump-start our economy."

Shirkey, who said masks can help, tested positive for COVID-19 in late December.