Whitmer strengthens enforcement of COVID-19 orders to prevent Michigan from going ‘backwards’

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives an update on COVID-19 | Gov. Whitmer office photo

    Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed executive directive 2020-08 this week directing state departments and agencies to ensure that businesses are prioritizing the enforcement of COVID-19-related laws.

    “Ensuring these executive orders are enforced across the state will protect Michigan families, small businesses, and the first responders on the front lines of this crisis,” said Whitmer on Tuesday. “This fight is not over yet. During the month of July, we saw an increase in positive COVID-19 cases in every region of the state. By allocating the appropriate and needed resources, we can continue to save lives and ensure we don’t have to move backward.”

    Without effective enforcement, Whitmer said, Michigan will move “backwards, causing individuals, businesses, and the economy to suffer.” The measure requires state departments and agencies to ensure that enforcement of COVID-19-related laws receive appropriate priority. 

    Coronavirus spread at businesses has been a concern for several months. A June outbreak of COVID-19 swept the premises of Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub located in East Lansing near Michigan State University. It directly sickened 144 patrons and 43 people secondhand and raised questions about its sanitary practices. 

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    The Whitmer directive requires departments to consider violations of law when determining eligibility for licensing. It includes any violation of relevant COVID-19 executive orders or epidemic orders. If a state department or agency becomes aware of non-compliance under the law they must consider it to be presumptive evidence of a “public health hazard” or “imminent and substantial hazard to the public health” and take appropriate steps to mitigate any risk to public health and safety. It includes, but is not limited to, suspension of a license or cessation of operation of a food establishment. 

    The Michigan State Police will enforce violations of these COVID-19-related laws, such as executive orders and DHHS pandemic orders, in the same manner as any other violation of law, applying their discretion as appropriate. Departments and agencies that become aware of a violation must share that information with relevant licensing authorities, and collaborate on enforcement to ensure efficiency and effectiveness.  

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.