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Whitmer extends state of emergency to May 28

LANSING — On April 30, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended the state of emergency in Michigan through May 28. Executive Order 2020-67 clarifies that a state of emergency remains in effect under the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945.
    The governor said she will evaluate the continuing need for this order prior to its expiration, and if she determines that an emergency no longer exists, will terminate or extend the state of emergency declared in this order.   
    The governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order remains in effect until May 15. The emergency declaration she extended is the foundation for her Stay Home, Stay Safe order.
    On May 1, Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-70, which allows the resumption of some types of work that present a very low risk of infection, including construction, real-estate activities and work that is traditionally and primarily performed outdoors.
    She also signed Executive Order 2020-69 on April 30 to extend her previous order that temporarily closes certain places of public accommodation such as theaters, bars, casinos, and more. To maintain social distancing, the order also limits restaurants to carry-out and delivery orders.
    That order is effective until May 28.
    “Although we are beginning to see the curve flatten, we are not out of the woods yet,” Whitmer said. “We must all continue to be diligent, observe social distancing and limit in-person interactions and services to slow the spread of COVID-19. Michigan now has more than 40,000 cases of COVID-19. The virus has killed more Michiganders than we lost during the Vietnam War. Extending this order is vital to the health and safety of every Michigander. If we work together and do our part, we can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.”
     This order does not restrict a place of business from offering food and beverage using delivery service, window service, walk-up service, drive-through service, or drive-up service. Places of public accommodation are encouraged to offer food and beverage service in one or more of those ways and use precautions to mitigate potential transmission of COVID-19, including social distancing and wearing face covering. Restaurants may allow five people inside at a time to pick up orders, so long as they stay 6 feet apart from each other.  
      These restrictions do not apply to the following locations: office buildings, grocery stores, markets, food pantries, pharmacies, drug stores, and providers of medical equipment and supplies, health care facilities, residential care facilities, congregate care facilities, and juvenile justice facilities, warehouse and distribution centers, and industrial and manufacturing facilities.    
      Whitmer stated in her order to extend the state of emergency that the health, economic and social harms of the COVID-19 pandemic remain widespread and severe, and they continue to constitute a statewide emergency and disasters.
    “While the virus has afflicted some regions of the state more severely than others, the extent of the virus’s spread, coupled with its elusiveness and its ease of transmission, render the virus difficult to contain and threaten the entirety of the state,” the order stated.
    Whitmer’s order also stated that until a “stable path” to recovery is underway, until the economic and fiscal harms from the pandemic have contained and until the threats posed by the COVID-19 to life and the public health, safety and welfare of the state have been neutralized, statewide and emergency conditions will exist.
      The executive orders cite extensive data validating the existence of an emergency and disaster across the state of Michigan. Specifically, although the pace of COVID-19 spread has showed signs of slowing, the virus remains aggressive and persistent: as of April 30, there have been 41,379 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 3,789 deaths from the disease—fourfold and tenfold increases, respectively, since the start of the month. And while COVID-19 initially hit Southeast Michigan hardest, the spread is now increasing more quickly in other parts of the state. For instance, cases in some counties in Western and Northern Michigan are now doubling every six days or faster.
    On April 30, the Republican-led Legislature refused to extend the state’s coronavirus emergency declaration and voted to authorize a lawsuit challenging Whitmer’s authority and actions to combat the pandemic.
    Whitmer said Senate Bill 858, the bill passed by the legislature does not comply with constitutional requirements. The bill seeks to amend the Emergency Management Act to shorten the number of days for which the governor can declare an emergency or disaster from 28 to 14, after which the legislature would each have to approve an extension.
    Whitmer said she will not sign any bills that constrain her ability to protect the people of Michigan from “this deadly virus in a timely manner.” As such, she said she intends to veto the bill when presented to her.
    According to the Associated Press, Whitmer accused GOP lawmakers of “putting their heads in the sand and putting more lives and livelihoods at risk. I’m not going to let that happen.”
    The legislative pushback came as hundreds of conservative activists, including some who were openly carrying assault rifles, returned to the Capitol to denounce her stay-home order.
    Whitmer wanted legislators to extend the emergency before it was to expire late on April 30. But at the same time, she believes she has other powers to respond to the crisis and does not need a legislatively-approved extension — which Republicans dispute and appeared poised to challenge in court.
    The House and Senate voted along party lines for the bill that would temporarily codify many of her directives but not her stay-home order.
    Republicans accused Whitmer of ignoring their input.
    “We can no longer allow one person to make decisions for 10 million people,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey of Clarklake in the AP report.
    House Speaker Lee Chatfield, of Levering, said the death toll is “terrible,” but other lives have been “negatively impacted unnecessarily because of how we have handled this pandemic. We believe we you can prioritize public health yet be reasonable in your approach to fighting COVID.”
    Democrats opposed the legislation as an unconstitutional “political stunt” and called the likely legal action a wasteful expense amid plummeting tax revenues.
    “We must ensure that our state can respond quickly and decisively to a situation that changes day by day,” said state Rep. Tyrone Carter, a Detroit Democrat who recovered from COVID-19. “That means ensuring that our governor has the emergency powers necessary to lead us in this fight.”