News Story

Michigan Op-Ed Writer’s Defense Of Whitmer COVID Orders Confuses Cause With Effect

Her over-the-top Washington Post protests further politicize the epidemic

Michigan resident Amanda Uhle wrote an op-ed appearing in the June 8 Washington Post. In it, she makes inaccurate and suspect claims about the state Supreme Court’s Oct. 2 ruling that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders in response to the pandemic were based on an unconstitutional law and therefore unenforceable.

Uhle claimed, “In what felt like the consequences of misplaced rebellion, cases and deaths here spiked wildly beginning in October, just after the Michigan Supreme Court stripped the governor’s executive powers to issue emergency orders, the infrastructure that had been keeping masks on and big crowds prohibited.”

The Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling was released on a Friday afternoon and brought some confusion. Whitmer claimed her executive orders remained in effect until Oct. 30, regardless of the ruling.

It all appeared moot the following Monday, when the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reinstated the substance of virtually all of Whitmer’s executive orders. The department cited authority granted to it under a law enacted by the Legislature in 1978.

So to be related to the Supreme Court decision, the sharp increase in Michigan COVID cases that occurred in October and peaked on Nov. 15 would all have had to be contracted over the two-day window that was the weekend of Oct. 3-4. This was the only time period that fell between the Supreme Court’s Friday ruling and the state health department’s reissuance of the orders under a different authority. Moreover, it was not clear at the time whether Whitmer’s orders were still effective.

That was not the only dubious claim made by Uhle in her Washington Post op-ed. A second was related to her attendance at an October Trump rally.

She wrote, “Later in October, I put on a mask and joined one of those recently permitted crowds at a 15,000-person rally for President Donald Trump in Muskegon, hoping to better understand how our thinking became this divided.”

Uhle states that the rally had been “recently permitted,” which appeared to link it to the state Supreme Court ruling.

But Whitmer’s coronavirus executive orders beginning in March of 2020 had hinted that political rallies were protected speech and could not be restricted.

Her earliest executive orders carried the disclaimer: “This prohibition does not abridge protections guaranteed by the state or federal constitution under these emergency circumstances.”

At a Sept. 16 press conference, weeks before the state Supreme Court decision, Whitmer confirmed concerns that executive orders restricting public gatherings became constitutionally troublesome when those gatherings came in the form of political rallies.

“We know that there are First Amendment rights here that are at issue,” Whitmer said at that press conference when asked about Trump rallies. “We also know that the practicalities of going in and enforcing this on candidates probably doesn’t make a lot of sense so that’s a concern.”

NBC News reported a day later, “Whitmer: No enforcement of virus rules at Trump rallies”

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.