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White House health advisor calls protests at Michigan capitol last week “troubling”

protestors in front of the capitol building in lansing, michigan
Abigail Censky

Governor Gretchen Whitmer says protests at the state Capitol where demonstrators displayed Confederate flags and swastikas don’t represent most Michiganders. She defended the state and her efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 on national television.

Polls suggest there’s wide support for Whitmer’s handling of the health crisis in the face of protests at the Capitol where some people waved Confederate flags, displayed nooses and swastikas, and many did not follow social distancing rules.

Whitmer said on CNN’s State of the Union that protests won’t alter her plans for addressing the health crisis and re-opening segments of the economy.

“We’re in a global pandemic. This isn’t something we just negotiate ourselves out of as if it’s a political matter.”

On Thursday, the governor extended a state of emergency through May 28th. A separate stay-at-home order is in place through May 15th.

Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Kahldun says the rate of increase is flattening in metro Detroit. But she says that’s not the case across the entire state.

“We are still seeing, for example, on the western side of the state we are seeing increases in the rate of rise of cases. We have several outbreaks there. We also know, again, in some of our rural areas the number of hospital beds is not where it should be,” Khaldun said Sunday on NBC’s Meet The Press.

Dr. Khaldun says many rural hospitals are already at capacity.

One of President Donald Trump’s top health advisors says a mass protest last week at the state Capitol was dangerous and could help spread COVID-19. Dr. Deborah Birx told Fox News Sunday the event is troubling because many of the protesters were not maintaining safe distancing or wearing face coverings

“It’s devastatingly worrisome to me personally because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a co-morbid condition and they have a serious or unfortunate outcome they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives,” Birx said.

Speaking on Michigan Radio Friday, state Senate Republican Leader Mike Shirkey condemned the demonstrators for not following safety protocols. Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield are considering legal action after the governor extended the state of emergency through May 28th

Michigan Radio listeners, readers, and reporters are rising to the challenge every day. If you can, please support essential journalism during this crisis.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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