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Gov. Whitmer condemns protesters; vows to listen to public health officials in Friday briefing

gretchen whitmer sitting at table
State of Michigan

After extending the state of emergency through late May without legislative approval, Governor Gretchen Whitmer condemned actions by lawmakers and protesters on Thursday.

Gov. Whitmer called Thursday’s protest, which drew hundreds to the capitol, political theater.

She castigated actions by Republicans lawmakers, calling them “incredibly reckless.”

After facing pressure to end the stay-at-home order sooner, and reopen more of the economy Whitmer vowed to listen to public health officials, not protesters

“More people have died in Michigan from COVID-19 than died during the whole Vietnam conflict [from Michigan]," she said. "The fact of the matter is, we have to listen to not to pollsters and not to people with political agendas, but listen to epidemiologists.”

The governor also announced activities like real estate will beallowed to resume before May 15 when the stay-at-home order ends.

The state’s top medical official says a slower rate of increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Michigan is cause for cautious optimism.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun says while the rate of increase in cases is going down in some parts of the state, it’s going up in others.

“And to be clear we are still in the early months of this outbreak. The threat of having an additional surge if we do not move forward carefully is still a concern.”

Areas in West Michigan are seeing a spike in cases including Kent, Muskegon, and Ottawa Counties.

Khaldun says that’s partially because of outbreaks at food processing facilities in the region that are now spreading to the communities.

After Republicans in the state legislature didn’t extend the Governor’s emergency declaration and authorized legal action against her on Thursday, the Governor defended her authority in a Friday briefing.

“The fact that they chose not to extend the state of emergency is something altogether different. So, no one should be rushing the gun and playing fast and loose and starting to restart sectors of the economy that haven’t been deemed low enough risk yet.”

She says the stay-at-home order rests on her authority under a 1945 statute, that the legislature can’t touch.
Republicans passed legislation that would limit the Governor’s emergency powers this week.

The governor is expected to veto those bills.

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

Abigail Censky is the Politics & Government reporter at WKAR. She started in December 2018.
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