Whitmer declares state of disaster over COVID-19, Senate GOP leader opposes 70-day extension

Comes as Mich. nears 10K cases, state lawmaker died

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey at the Mackinac Policy Conference, May 30, 2019 | Andrew Roth

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer formally declared a state of disaster in Michigan on Wednesday and asked the Legislature to OK an extension on the state of emergency. 

The governor said the declaration will allow her “administration to respond more effectively to every facet” of the COVID-19 outbreak in Michigan. 

As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, the state reports there are 9,334 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by a new coronavirus, and 337 people have died. State health officials believe the actual number of cases is much higher, but there’s been a testing shortage.

This is an increase of 1,719 cases and 78 deaths since Tuesday.

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The state of emergency and the state of disaster will terminate when conditions no longer exist and appropriate programs have been implemented to recover from any effects of the statewide emergency and disaster.

In addition to Executive Order 2020-33, Whitmer sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) requesting a resolution to extend the state of disaster and the state of emergency, which the governor ordered on March 10, by 70 days.

That would allow Whitmer to further extend orders, like the “stay at home” measure she instituted on March 24.

“To meet the steep, varied, and ongoing demands created by the COVID-19 pandemic, my administration must continue to use the full range of tools available to protect the health, safety, and welfare of our state and its residents,” Whitmer wrote. “I welcome you and your colleagues’ continued partnership in fighting this pandemic.”

Michigan approaching 10K COVID-19 cases, has 300+ deaths

The Emergency Management Act, which gave Whitmer the power to declare both the state of emergency and disaster, requires the governor to terminate the state of emergency within 28 days, unless both the House and Senate approve the governor’s request to extend it.

According to House GOP spokesperson Gideon D’Assandro, “The House will be back on April 7 to legislatively extend the state of emergency.” The Senate will be back then, as well.

The House and Senate have not been in session since March 17. Since then, state Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit) was diagnosed with COVID-19 and state Rep. Isaac Robinson (D-Detroit) died Sunday after having coronavirus-like symptoms.

However, Shirkey says the “70-day extension is too long.”

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“The circumstances surrounding the outbreak of this virus in Michigan change rapidly and often.  The conditions we are experiencing today will likely be different than those we encounter next week, next month, or in 70 days,” Shirkey said. “As such, we feel a much shorter extension is logical to help protect our citizens and support our health systems.”

He added that his support for a “reasonable extension of the emergency declaration” does not equally translate to support for an extension of the governor’s current “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, which was set to remain until April 13.