Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state’s top public health official expressed concern Wednesday about the rising trend of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations since the Michigan Supreme Court struck down dozens of executive orders earlier this month.
During a press conference in Lansing, Whitmer and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun discussed Michigan’s new height of peak daily cases that exceed numbers from April as well as rising test-positivity rates and hospitalizations.
“Our numbers are climbing. We need to take this seriously,” Whitmer said, noting that cases and hospitalizations each have risen since the Michigan Supreme Court issued a landmark opinion on Oct. 2 finding a 1945 law on which Whitmer based her executive orders was unconstitutional.
Following the court ruling, state agencies have issued emergency rules involving mask-wearing, workplace safety and capacity limitations.
However, the state Legislature’s Republican leaders have pushed back against the orders. Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey earlier this month reportedly endorsed herd immunity and “living with the virus” while also condemning Whitmer’s “oppressive mandates.” Shirkey also recently said during a TV interview that he believes wearing masks to battle COVID-19 is not as effective as social distancing and hand-washing, as Crain’s Detroit Business reported.
Public health experts have pushed back against Shirkey’s herd immunity comments and maintain that wearing a mask is one of the most effective defenses against the virus.
Meanwhile, business leaders from across the state called on the Republican-led Legislature and the Whitmer administration to resolve their differences amid the case and hospitalization spike.
A letter Wednesday signed by executives from across Michigan — including Spectrum Health, Henry Ford Health Services, the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, major universities and the Small Business Association of Michigan — called for a “sustained, unified” response to the pandemic.
“Our bottom line is this: what we need most, as we face a potential serious second wave, is complete unity of purpose and a strong collective response across our state,” according to the letter. “We call on our government leaders to foster that unity.”
The letter also calls for “clearly defined mandatory standards which govern mask usage, workplace practices, public gatherings and certain social activities,” adding that recent orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and MIOSHA are “sufficient to play this role. We should now focus on deploying them with discipline.”