If you want to go to Michigan’s top political conference, you’ll need to be vaccinated

    Grand Hotel, Mackinac Island| Susan J. Demas

    COVID-19 quashed last year’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference and pushed this year’s event back from May to September. On Thursday, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the nationally known event that features speeches from governors, legislative leaders and national political figures, will require COVID vaccinations.

    “The Chamber believes the quickest way to ‘return to normal’ is through COVID-19 vaccination. To further stress the importance of getting the public vaccinated, and best ensure the health and safety of Conference participants and Mackinac Island residents and workers, the Chamber will require full COVID-19 vaccination for all Conference participants,” the Detroit Chamber noted in an email.

    A popup ad from the Detroit Regional Chamber encouraging COVID-19 vaccinations appeared May 20, 2021 on the Mackinac Policy Conference website

    This comes as Republican lawmakers have sponsored bills barring employers from requiring vaccinations and banning vaccine passports, even though they don’t exist in Michigan. Few Republican lawmakers have publicly stated that they have been vaccinated.

    The conference is scheduled for Sept. 20 to 23 and costs between $2,200 and $3,100 per person.

    The annual confab is regularly attended by business leaders, lobbyists and politicians of all stripes, with many sponsoring parties at various Mackinac Island venues.

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    The Detroit Chamber said the vaccine requirement includes on-site vendors and chamber staff supporting the Conference. Staff at the Grand Hotel, where the conference is located, are currently fully vaccinated, the group said.

    “The Chamber is exploring utilizing a third-party technology partner to assist with verifying vaccination status,” the email reads.

    In light of the pandemic, the event will be limited to 1,300 attendees, or 30% capacity. Masks will not be required because of the vaccination mandate and reduced capacity measures, although the Detroit Chamber “will ask that all attendees still carry masks with them,” as they may be required at other venues. The group notes that policies may change “as public health conditions and official guidance evolve.”

    The 2019 conference, the last one held, featured speeches from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich and voting rights leader Stacey Abrams.

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    Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.