Coronavirus in Michigan: Day 44

Republicans target Whitmer’s authority ahead of lockdown extension

Three more dead in Greater Lansing


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THURSDAY, April 23 — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to extend at least portions of the state’s “Stay Safe, Stay Home” executive order past April 30 tomorrow, while possibly rolling out preliminary plans that could gradually reopen certain sectors of Michigan’s struggling economy.  

Whitmer plans to speak live tomorrow afternoon. A live stream will be available on Facebook. 

According to reports from MIRS, Whitmer is expected to allow residents to return to golfing and boating as long as proper social distancing measures are followed and other safety precautions are made. Gardening, paint and home improvement sections of large stores could also reopen. 

Meanwhile, Michigan’s Legislature also has a special session scheduled tomorrow to consider a pair of bills that would potentially strip Whitmer of her authority to declare another state of emergency and create an oversight committee to examine the governor’s pandemic response.  

The extraordinary move, at a time when Whitmer is looking to extend her stay-at-home order into May and encouraging residents to stay home, is a sign of an escalating rift with Republicans in the Legislature eager to reopen the economy, reports the Detroit Free Press. 

Whitmer has promised to veto any legislation that would water down her emergency powers. 

The current order — which limits travel and prohibits many nonessential businesses from opening — formally expires a week from today. Many Republicans, including some moderates and other far-right extremists, have called for sectors of the economy to reopen immediately.  

MIRS also reports that legislators are also specifically pushing Whitmer to allow more retail operations to open if they agree to operate like take-out restaurants with call-ahead orders.  

That disdain was again on partial display in front of the governor’s residence off Moores River Drive in Lansing this afternoon. A large trailer — the same that clogged up downtown Lansing last week during “Operation Gridlock” — was parked near Whitmer’s home, playing loud music.  

Some of the protesters have taken to calling Whitmer the “Wolverine Queen,” reports WILX 

Progress Michigan has since announced that it may pursue legal action against Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey if they continue to force legislators to come to Lansing “without proper safety precautions,” a spokesman said today. 

In early April, at least 30 state representatives refused to attend session out of concern for their health, officials said. Rep. Isaac Robinson died and at least two others have tested positive for COVID-19. Progress Michigan insists that remote meetings would be a much smarter choice. 

“Across the state, businesses and local governments have been able to meet and function through Zoom calls and virtual meeting places, all of which can be open for the public to view. Why can’t the legislature? Lee Chatfield and Mike Shirkey are not dictators, and they do not hold all the power of how our democracy should function—despite what they might believe,” Progress Michigan Executive Director Lonnie Scott said in a recent press release.  

It’s unclear what legal mechanism Progress Michigan is exploring to halt the physical session planned for tomorrow, but officials there said they are exploring several options at their disposal. 

More than 134,000 people filed for unemployment last week in Michigan and nearly a quarter of the state’s workforce now without a job, according to reports in the Detroit News. And about 88 percent of Michigan restaurant operators have laid off or furloughed staff, MLive reported today. 

At least 820,000 unemployed workers have received at least $1.37 billion in benefits to date. 

As a result, another protest of the statewide lockdown is being organized on the Capitol lawn on Thursday to coincide with the current expiration date of Whitmer’s executive lockdown order as well as another upcoming meeting of the Legislature, according to recent reports from MLive 

A statewide conservative group is also asking a judge to strike down Michigan’s temporary ban on motorboats, claiming Whitmer’s order is unconstitutional, reports the Lansing State Journal 

Michigan tracked a 15% reduction in virus-related hospitalizations over the last 10 days, but aggressive measures still need to be taken to prevent a second wave of cases across the state, Whitmer explained. Only a limited array of businesses is expected to reopen quickly.  

Whitmer is expected to provide more details tomorrow afternoon, but she spoke briefly this week about plans to implement new requirements based on access to protective gear, whether the work is indoors or outdoors and how those operations interface with the general public.  

“Now is an appropriate time to reassess the breadth of the current stay-at-home order and assess the scope of what the next one might look like,” Whitmer said yesterday afternoon.  

Bars, tattoo shops, gyms, bowling alleys and barbershops will be among the last to open, according to reports in the Detroit Free Press. And they won’t open without strict guidelines.  

On the front lines... 

The Office and Professional Employees International Union, Local 459 called for salaries at McLaren’s corporate offices to be capped at $1 million yesterday while its lower-tier, frontline employees continue to face furloughs and the potential for more widespread layoffs on the horizon. The union represents at least 1,100 health-care workers in the Lansing area.  

The call for change arrived as hospital systems across southeast Michigan and throughout the state furlough and layoff their employees amid a national reduction in non-essential procedures.  

According to reports in the Detroit Free Press, Henry Ford Health System temporarily furloughed about 2,800 employees across the Detroit-based, six-hospital medical system. Henry Ford logged a $43 million net loss in March and a 50% reduction in patient services revenue. 

The CEO of Beaumont Health System took a 70% pay cut and other executives will take 45% salary reductions as the health system lays off about 2,475 workers and cuts about 450 jobs. The Free Press also reports salary and staffing reductions at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids. 

Local union officials told City Pulse that at least 78 McLaren employees in Greater Lansing have been furloughed in recent weeks. Others have been asked to take voluntary time off. Sparrow Hospital in Lansing also reportedly has launched voluntary furloughs for its staff.  

Hospital officials in Greater Lansing, however, haven’t been nearly as forthcoming as larger systems across the state. The impact of staffing adjustments at McLaren and Sparrow are unclear; Corporate officials haven’t returned multiple requests for comment and further details. 

The Lansing State Journal reports that about 850 leadership-level employees are forgoing a week of pay this month across McLaren Health System — including 85-100 employees at McLaren Greater Lansing. Temporary leaves and furloughs are available for other staff. 

Still, at least six McLaren employees made over $1 million in 2018, including spokesman Kevin Tompkins with $1.01 million, a Lansing State Journal analysis found. For context, only one Sparrow employee, CEO Dennis Swan, makes more than $1 million, according to the reports.  

In other news... 

Whitmer also announced that thousands of employees across all sectors of state government will be temporarily laid off for at least 10 days. The Detroit News reports that layoff notices were sent to a total of more than 2,900 employees in hopes of saving the state about $5 million.  

Those personnel will retain their insurance benefits and be automatically enrolled in the state’s unemployment system. But the state will still need to do some more budgetary maneuvering in the wake of a $3 billion shortfall because of the virus-induced shutdown.  

Additionally, Whitmer took a 10% pay cut through the end of the fiscal year and encouraged her senior-level staff to take at least a 5% pay cut during the pandemic. Attorney General Dana Nessel has since laid off about 25% of her staff and also slashed her own paycheck.  

An executive order signed yesterday expands unemployment benefits, allowing those with active claims to receive up to 39 weeks of benefits. It also further suspends requirements for employment search waivers and expands cost-sharing with employers to reduce layoffs. 

Whitmer also partnered with more than 200 financial institutions to provide residents with a 90-day grace period for all mortgage payments, relief from mortgage-related fees and charges for 90 days and a suspension of new foreclosures for 60 days, among other new protections.  

MLive reports that General Motors will allow some skilled trades and management employees to return to work next week to help prepare for a restart in production. Only parts plants — like those in Burton and Warren but not Lansing — have continued to operate during the pandemic. 

The Detroit Free Press reports that UAW President Rory Gamble and the labor union don’t support sending factory workers back into the plants in early May, as some automakers have suggested. 

Two cats in New York are the first pets in the U.S. to test positive for COVID-19, MLive reports 

A Lansing Community College economics professor, Jim Luke, has gone viral in recent weeks for his recent blog post titled “Toilet Paper in a Pandemic.” The post — which examines the economics of toilet paper — has been featured in more than 150 news segments to date.  

“As my career approaches its later stages, I can be smug in the knowledge that literally millions of people have heard my name and they associate it with toilet paper,” he said in a statement. 

And Sparty has a new face mask to raise PPE awareness, reports the Lansing State Journal 

How to get tested... 

Whitmer is also calling on residents to get tested for COVID-19 in order to help the state better understand the scope of the pandemic in Michigan. She urges anyone who has flu-like symptoms — like fever, cough, and shortness of breath — to be tested immediately.  

Under expanded state guidelines, those with symptoms can be tested without doctor’s orders. All critical infrastructure workers, including first responders and health care personnel, are also encouraged to get tested for the coronavirus as soon as possible.  

In Greater Lansing, at least three testing sites are available:   

  • Michigan State University Health Care — 804 Service Rd. in East Lansing   

(855) 958-2678   

MSU Health Care is testing in Parking Lot 100, east of the Radiology Building at the Clinical Center and requires a driver’s license and a doctor’s order. Residents do not need to call ahead for an appointment. No payment or insurance coverage is necessary.   

  • Forest Community Health Center — 2316 S. Cedar St. in Lansing  

(517) 887-4516   

Testing is available on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3:40 p.m. Those seeking a COVID-19 test must first be screened by calling the Ingham Community Health Center hotline.    

  • Sparrow St. Lawrence Campus — 1210 W. Saginaw St. in Lansing   

(877) 205-1300   

Patients with flu-like symptoms can call Sparrow Health System at (877) 205-1300 to set up an appointment for a COVID-19 test. Call 517-364-1000 for general questions   

Click here to search for another testing site in Michigan.  

And the numbers …  

A ninth coronavirus-related death reported in Ingham County today and two more in Clinton County edged up Greater Lansing’s regional death toll to at least 23 with at least 586 cases of COVID-19 now reported throughout Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties in the last few weeks.   

Statewide, another 1,300 confirmed cases and 164 deaths reported today edged the total number of cases in Michigan past 35,000 with nearly 3,000 coronavirus-related deaths to date.  

Here are the latest statistics for Greater Lansing, Michigan and the country:            

Ingham County                      

Cases — 370 

Recoveries — 108           

Recovery Rate — 29.2%       

Deaths — 9 

Fatality Rate — 2.4%             

At least 71-75 cases are in southwest Lansing in zip code 48911. Much of the rest of south Lansing, Mason, East Lansing, Meridian and Bath townships each tally 36-45 cases in zip codes 48910, 48823 and 48854. Zip codes 48864 and 48906 each track 26-30 cases. Zip codes 48842, 48912 and 48915 each track 11-25 cases. Zip codes 48840, 48895, 48917, 48819, 48827, 48892, 48909, 48933, 49251, 49624 and 4925 each track 10 cases or less.   

Eaton County                      

Cases — 111 

Recoveries — 61          

Recovery Rate — 55%        

Deaths — 5               

Fatality Rate — 4.5%           

Clinton County                      

Cases — 105       

Deaths — 9 

Fatality Rate — 8.6%                      

Officials at the Mid-Michigan County Health Department do not report recovery statistics.          


Cases — 35,291 (+3.9%) 

Recoveries — 3,237 (as of 4/17/20)        

Recovery Rate — 9.2%      

Deaths — 2,977 (+5.8%)   

Fatality Rate — 8.4%        

State reports show about 75% of cases (and about 82% of deaths) are from Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, including Detroit. Other hotspots include Genesee County with 3.9% of cases, Washtenaw County with 2.7% of cases, Kent County with 2.3% of cases and Saginaw County with 1.4% of cases reported statewide. At least 2.1% of cases, or 759 cases (and 28 deaths) have also been reported among inmates at the Michigan Department of Corrections.  

Caucasians account for 31% of cases and 44% of deaths statewide. Despite accounting for a smaller segment of the population, African Americans account for 33% of cases and 40% of deaths in Michigan. Those of an unknown race accounted for 23% of cases and 10% of deaths.        


Cases — 856,209 

Deaths — 47,272   

Fatality Rate — 5.5%       

Source: CNN               

As of earlier this afternoon, Michigan has reported the seventh most cases in the country, behind New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Michigan also ranks third in most virus-related deaths, behind only New York and New Jersey. 


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