News Story

Governor's ‘Trying To Save Your Life’ Standard Places Few Limits On State Epidemic Orders

Telling diners they can remove their mask before they eat

On June 1, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a new executive order, one of the 114 she's had in 2020. It prescribed the steps that dine-in customers would be required to take after she declared that bars and restaurants could reopen on June 8.

Face masks are still required when entering an enclosed public place, the order stated. But it did make this allowance: “An individual may also remove a face covering to eat or drink when seated at a restaurant or bar.”

In other words, the government of the state of Michigan has instructed its nearly 10 million residents that they are allowed to remove face masks when they eat or drink in public.

The Governor has assumed extraordinary and unprecedented powers since she declared an epidemic-related state of emergency on March 10. In many cases, her executive orders have been highly detailed about what is permitted, forbidden or required. They are so detailed that a large number of frequently asked questions has been produced to accompany them.

One Frequently Asked Question addressed whether workers who were deemed "essential" had to carry with them credentials or paperwork to prove they were allowed out of their homes.

One FAQ stated:

Q: Do I need to carry credentials or any paperwork that indicates I’ve been designated a critical infrastructure employee or to travel to and from my home or residence?

A: No, there is not a requirement under Executive Order 2020-21 to carry credentials or paperwork with you under any circumstance.

Whitmer’s executive orders have limited what products residents are allowed to buy at stores, in ways that often seemed arbitrary. For example, big box stores were allowed to sell items the state had deemed “essential products,” but they had to empty or bar access to adjacent shelves that carried “non-essential” products such as carpet, paint or flowers. Customers could buy certain state-approved products on one shelf, but not other products a few aisles over.

State government engagement in everyday life has even extended to spiritual matters, as when Whitmer chose to have it join up with an organization to offer free meditation service for residents.

“To the people of Michigan: staying inside isn’t always easy, but Governor Whitmer and Headspace are here for you during these challenging times. Now more than ever, it’s important to take care of yourselves and one another while each of us stays home and stays safe,” a press release stated in announcing the partnership.

Whitmer has justified her extraordinary actions with lofty claims about their rationale.

“Whether you are Democrat or a Republican, if you live in the state of Michigan, everything I’m doing is trying to save your life, keep you and your family safe,” the governor said on May 15.

Challenges and questions about all this have not been well-received by the governor and the institutions that have supported her and her epidemic lockdown policies.

For example, the news outlet MLive has published articles and videos portraying lockdown critics as sexist.

State Sen. Winnie Brinks, a Democrat from Grand Rapids, said in a MLive video, “I think it comes to power, and I think it comes down to the fact she is a woman.”

A MLive story carried the headline: “Sexist attacks cast Michigan Gov. Whitmer as mothering tyrant of coronavirus dystopia.”

“You can conclude there is a gender facet to this,” Whitmer said in the video.

The article quoted University of Michigan professor Susan Douglas.

“This certainly stems from a fear and hatred of women; an anxiety and anger that a woman might be able to tell you what to do and have control over government policies,” Douglas said. “It violates the notion that men and only men can be decision-makers and leaders. For these guys, and they are mostly white men, I think the fact that she’s a woman makes them feel more empowered to go after her.”

In 2014, Douglas wrote a column for the website, originally titled, “It’s OK to Hate Republicans.” That headline was later changed after a backlash to read, “We Can’t All Just Get Along”.

The first three words of that Douglas column were, “I hate Republicans.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.