Republican lawmakers in Michigan this week killed a law that underpinned coronavirus restrictions issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020, wiping it from the books after the state Supreme Court declared the measure unconstitutional.
The Democrat is powerless to veto the citizen-initiated bill, which will now limit her ability to impose business closures and capacity restrictions on restaurants and other establishments.
The move to strip powers from Whitmer comes as state health officials report a doubling of the coronavirus case count in the last two weeks – fueled by the Indian Delta variant.
A conservative group that organized the ballot drive next plans to target a public health law that enabled Whitmer’s administration to keep intact capacity restrictions and mask requirements for eight additional months until voluntarily lifting them in June after infections subsided amid vaccinations.
The GOP-led House voted 60-48 to repeal the 1945 law, with four Democrats joining all Republicans in support.
It gave governors broad powers to declare an emergency and promulgate rules to ‘protect life and property or to bring the emergency situation within the affected area under control.’
Republicans in Michigan’s state legislature moved to kill emergency powers used by Governor Gretchen Whitmer (pictured above in April) to impose lockdown measures during the coronavirus pandemic
Unlock Michigan, a ballot committee with ties to Republicans, spent millions of dollars to collect hundreds of thousands of voter signatures to bring the bill to the Legislature. From left to right: Garrett Soldano, Ron Armstrong and Meshawn Maddock, co-chairs of Unlock Michigan, are seen above in Lansing in October
The move comes as Michigan public health officials are reporting an increase in the number of coronavirus cases. The image above shows Deonjay Sailor, 15, receiving his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up vaccination clinic in Detroit on Wednesday
The legislation cleared the Senate last week.
Whitmer had used the law to indefinitely issue COVID-19 rules until the court ruled against her last October.
Rep. Andrew Fink, a Republican from Hillsdale County’s Adams Township, said the ‘idea that we need the governor to do our job for us once into the outbreak of a new virus … is disturbing in its distrust of the citizens of this state.
‘I think that idea is depressing in its view of the Legislature’s capacity to conduct its work in difficult circumstances.
The ‘American Patriot Rally’, organized by Michigan United for Liberty, was staged last year in contempt for Whitmer’s statewide stay-at-home orders put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus
Protesters were demanding an end to the state’s stay-at-home order which barred bars, gyms, casinos and cinemas from opening while limiting services at restaurants to takeout and delivery only (pictured, armed demonstrators inside the capitol in Lansing)
Rifle-wielding protesters pictured inside Michigan’s capitol building demanding and end to the shut-down – hours before the state’s Democrat governor issued three new orders extending it. The image above was taken in Lansing on April 30, 2020
Demonstrators were seen arguing with officers from the Michigan State Police as they tried to enter the capitol building on April 30, 2020
‘And I think that idea is discordant with the principles of American government, which are designed to prevent a single part of the government from acting unilaterally.’
But Democratic Rep. Mari Manoogian, of Birmingham, said GOP legislators should have let the initiative go to the 2022 ballot.
She said while 460,000 people signing the petitions is ‘not a small number,’ the state has 10 million residents.
‘They will not have the opportunity to have their voice heard,’ she said.
Manoogian said the law could be clarified to better define ‘reasonable’ or ‘necessary’ regulations, but should not be voided outright.
A separate emergency powers law, from 1976, remains in place.
It lets a governor declare an emergency but it and related orders cannot last for longer than 28 days without legislative approval.
Unlock Michigan, a ballot committee with ties to Republicans, spent millions of dollars to collect hundreds of thousands of voter signatures to bring the bill to the Legislature.
Spokesman Fred Wszolek said it ends Whitmer’s ‘rule by decree.’
The group will soon begin circulating petitions to revise a 1978 law – whose origins date to the 1918 flu pandemic – to make state epidemic orders unenforceable after 28 days unless the Legislature OKs an extension.
Local health officers who impose restrictions would need the blessing of their governing body to go longer than 28 days.
Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 20,000 Michiganders have died after contracting coronavirus, according to state health data
On Friday, the state reported a 732 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 – the highest number of positive tests since May 26
Michigan on Friday reported an average of 431 new daily COVID-19 infections over three days, up 47 percent from the same period a week earlier
Michigan’s seven-day average, 332, is double what it was two weeks ago. The test positivity rate, which also has been rising, was 4.7 percent on Thursday
The state has also seen an uptick in the number of hospitalizations. Just 256 adults were hospitalized with confirmed infections, a fraction of the peak of more than 4,000 in April, when Michigan had a third surge
She has twice vetoed regular bills that would have added the 28-day provision.
Wszolek said Whitmer ‘abused’ the law ‘to destroy lives, businesses and futures.’
She has defended the rules as necessary to save lives in a state with more than 21,000 confirmed or probable deaths linked to the virus.
She also has said the executive branch must be able to act quickly and nimbly during a pandemic.
Public Health Over Politicians, a ballot committee of public health officials, doctors and nurses, was recently created to oppose the new initiative.
‘This ill-conceived plan would radically shift decision-making authority from public health experts to Lansing politicians and political appointees, resulting in needless illness, suffering and death,’ said the group’s treasurer, Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail.
On Friday, the state reported a 732 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 – the highest number of positive tests since May 26.
Michigan on Friday reported an average of 431 new daily COVID-19 infections over three days, up 47 percent from the same period a week earlier.
Cases have gone up in all but one state over the past two weeks, which health officials nationally have attributed to the fast-spreading delta variant of the coronavirus.
Michigan’s seven-day average, 332, is double what it was two weeks ago.
The test positivity rate, which also has been rising, was 4.7 percent on Thursday.
The state’s two-week case rate, however, is lower than in all but four states.
The image above shows Michigan’s vaccination drive as broken down by counties
Michigan, like most other states, has seen a substantial decrease in the number of residents being vaccinated in recent weeks
The chart above on the left shows the number of Michigan residents who have received at least one dose of the two-dose vaccination. The chart on the right shows the number of Michiganders who have received both doses
Just 256 adults were hospitalized with confirmed infections, a fraction of the peak of more than 4,000 in April, when Michigan had a third surge.
About 63 percent of residents ages 16 and older have gotten at least one vaccine dose, which ranks middle of the pack among states.
A new, multimillion-dollar state sweepstakes program has not led to much of a boost in vaccinations this month.
Oakland County in metro Detroit, the state’s second-largest county, reported getting to 70 percent vaccine coverage – meeting state and national goals. The rate remains below 50 percent in roughly a quarter of 83 counties.
‘While reaching this vaccination goal is an important moment to acknowledge, we’re not done fighting this pandemic. … With 30 percent of our population still unvaccinated, we can’t fully get back to normal,’ Oakland County Executive Dave Coulter said.
The county’s officials will next turn their attention to immunizing college students for the fall semester.
Michigan, where Whitmer lifted capacity restrictions and mask requirements in June, has reported more than 21,000 confirmed or probable COVID-19 deaths and 1 million cases.
About 871,000 people had recovered as of a week ago, meaning they were alive 30 days after the onset of their symptoms.
Indian Delta variant surge is projected to peak in mid-October and cause up to 240K infections and 4K DEATHS per day IF current vaccination rates stay the same: Experts plead with public to get their shots as US COVID cases rise 166% in two weeks
A startling new projection suggests that coronavirus cases and deaths in the US could return to levels last seen during the January peak, as the Delta variant first identified in India fuels a massive surge in infections.
As of Saturday, the seven-day rolling average of daily new cases was nearly 50,000, a 166 percent increase from two weeks ago, according to a DailyMail.com analysis of Johns Hopkins data. Meanwhile vaccination rates are plateauing, with just 57 percent of the eligible population fully vaccinated.
It’s a dangerous combination that could be leading the nation toward a new phase of disaster, according to projections released this week by the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub.
‘What’s going on in the country with the virus is matching our most pessimistic scenarios,’ Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina who helps run the modeling hub, told NPR. ‘I think it’s a big call for caution.’
The group combines 10 mathematical models from various academic teams to create an ‘ensemble’ projection, and maps out four different scenarios with variables for vaccination rates and Delta’s transmissibility.
Scenario D from the the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub is now considered the most likely. At the high end, the model projects up to 240,000 daily cases and 4,000 daily deaths by mid-October
The model combines 10 mathematical models (above) from various academic teams to create an ‘ensemble’ projection
Lesser considers ‘Scenario D’ to be the most likely. It is the worst-case scenario, projecting that vaccination rates top out at 70 percent, and that the Delta variant is at least 60 percent more contagious than the UK Alpha variant.
Scenario D projects a new peak in cases and deaths in mid-October with the most likely case showing around 60,000 cases and 850 deaths each day. At the worst-case end of Scenario D, daily cases hit 240,000 and deaths top 4,000 per day, which would be nearly as bad as the pandemic records set in January.
Meanwhile, troubling data from the CDC shows that Delta is spreading faster than prior models suggested, and now accounts for 82 percent of all new cases across the country.
‘Where we are right now is a very different place from where we were a year ago,’ Anne Rimoin, a professor of epidemiology at UCLA, told MSNBC.
‘It’s like when you are playing a video game and you get to the next level, and all of a sudden you are playing against an opponent that is much more difficult to play against,’ she said.
‘This variant, the Delta variant, is 200 times more contagious than the original variant, so when you come in contact with this variant it’s much more dangerous,’ added Rimoin.
Reached by DailyMail.com, Rimoin confirmed that she had misspoken and meant to say that Delta is 200 percent more transmissible than the strain first identified in China, which would make it three times as transmissible, not 200 times.
Even as cases surge, some states are scaling back on their reporting of new cases and deaths to once a week, making it harder to track the situation on the ground.
Florida, Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota are all now reporting once a week, and the 73,000 new cases that Florida disclosed on Friday caused the daily figure to more than double from the day before, to 118,791.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is seen in a file photo. Florida now accounts for a fifth of all new cases in the US but is only reporting new cases once a week, confounding efforts to understand how quickly the virus is spreading
Anne Rimoin, a professor of epidemiology at UCLA, claimed Delta is ‘200 times’ more contagious than the original strain, but later clarified to DailyMail.com that she meant 200%, or an increase of three times
The Delta variant, seen in dark orange above, now accounts for 82% of all new cases in the US, according to the CDC
A regional map shows the prevalence of Delta (dark orange) as a percentage of all new cases in the area
Florida now accounts for a fifth of all new cases in the US, and the lack of data for six days out of the week is confounding efforts to accurately understand how quickly the virus is spreading.
Further complicating matters as the virus surges, vaccination rates appear to be at or near a plateau, leaving a large population unprotected and allowing Delta to spread.
As of Friday, 162 million Americans were fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. That’s just under half of the US population, meaning roughly the same number are unvaccinated.
Those resistant to the vaccines often cite safety concerns, some of them rational and some illogical. But as the threat of a new surge mounts, public officials are urging people to discuss the risks and benefits of the vaccines with a trusted healthcare provider and reassess their choices.
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey had harsher words, directly blaming Americans who have refused to get vaccinated against coronavirus for rising COVID case rates.
‘Folks are supposed to have common sense. But it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It’s the unvaccinated folks that are letting us down,’ Ivey, a Republican, told reporters on Thursday.
Ivey’s state and others across the South have been hammered by new infections – with three states in the region now accounting for 40 percent of active cases nationwide.
Asked about the remarks, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday it is not the role of the administration to ‘place blame’ on the unvaccinated.
‘I don’t think our role is to place blame, but what we can do is provide accurate information to people who are not yet vaccinated about the risks they are incurring not only on themselves, but also the people around them,’ she said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday it is not the role of the administration to ‘place blame’ after the governor of Alabama Kay Ivey (right) called out Americans who have refused to get vaccinated for the rising COVID rates in the U.S.
Psaki also refused to entertain the possibility the administration would put vaccine mandates in place, as the vast majority of new cases have been reported in people who are not vaccinated.
‘That’s not the role of the federal government,’ Psaki said when asked about mandates. ‘That is the role that institutions, private sector entities and others may take.’
She did express sympathy for Governor Ivey.
‘We understand her frustration, and we understand the frustrations of leaders out there, and the public voices who are trying to say the right thing, advocate for the efficacy of the virus, save people in their communities.’
In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday urged all private employers to make vaccinations against COVID-19 compulsory, calling on them to do the ‘maximum you feel you can do’ as the nation is roiled by early signs of a resurgent pandemic.
The Democrat told WNYC radio that he wanted the private sector to do more. ‘If anyone is asking my advice, particularly large employers, move toward vaccine mandates now,’ de Blasio said.
‘I urge every employer to go to any form of mandate that you’re comfortable with.’
CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky warned that the current outbreak is becoming ‘a pandemic of the unvaccinated’ as most cases, hospitalizations and deaths are among people yet to take the shot while the nation’s vaccination rollout has stalled.
As the Indian Delta variant has taken over the U.K., its COVID cases have spiked. In New York, the Delta variant now has taken over, too. If the city follows the same path as the U.K., this chart shows the projected growth in the number of cases as of Aug. 14, when the strain looks set to comprise 100 percent of COVID cases in the city
Fears are now mounting that the worst is yet to come as America looks to the United Kingdom, which is several weeks ahead in its battle against the Delta variant and is grappling with daily infections doubling within the space of a week.
Based on the rate with which the strain became dominant in the UK, then made up 100 percent of cases and set off a dramatic spike in cases and deaths, the US may well be just weeks away from reaching a similar crisis point.
New York City, which last year was the virus epicenter of the world, could see cases accelerate six-fold and deaths multiply by seven between now and the end of August if the spread of the variant mirrors that on the other side of the pond.
Delta spread quickly throughout the UK and had become the dominant strain by May 21, when 60.6 percent of all new cases in the two weeks preceding it were identified as the B1.617.2 variant.
Just six weeks later, on the week ending July 2, 100 percent of all UK cases were the Delta variant.
New York City has a lag on the UK when it comes to the prevalence of the strain.
It became dominant by the week ending July 3, accounting for 69 percent of all new cases just as people jetted in and out of the city for the July 4 weekend.
This means if New York City follows the same pattern as the UK, the Big Apple is on track for the Delta strain to make up 100 percent of all new cases by August 14.