News Story

Will Michigan Remain In State Of Emergency Until COVID-19 Vaccine Released?

No answers from Whitmer on end date - and the law is silent too

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has not identified a specific criteria for determining when Michigan may emerge from the official state-of-emergency that subjects its people to executive orders she may unilaterally impose.

Bars and restaurants are being allowed to reopen for dine-in services at reduced capacity on Monday, a sign that the coronavirus epidemic has become less of a threat.

The MIRS news service in Lansing reported that Whitmer's response to how long before restaurants could operate at full capacity was, “It’s going to be a while."

"COVID-19 is still very present. We know that having a lot of people inside in close vicinity to one another is how COVID-19 spreads and that's what we're trying to avoid," Whitmer said, according to MIRS. "Filling a stadium again probably won't happen until we have a vaccine and that's going to be a while.”

The governor has not provided clear criteria for what it would take to life the state-of-emergency.

It is unclear how Whitmer could tell a private business they couldn’t be at full capacity without the powers authorized under the state-of-emergency.

Public Act 302 of 1945 is the law Whitmer cites in her executive orders. That law does not specify how long a state-of-emergency may remain in effect.

One question that the Governor has not answered is what criteria determines the risk threshold at which the epidemic no longer warrants keeping the entire state under a declared state-of-emergency.

In a May 26 press conference, the state’s chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun appears to have given one answer: for as long as there is any risk whatsoever.

“As we slowly reopen the economy, it will be important for us to monitor data, to make sure we are testing sufficiently and to make sure we are swiftly responding to and containing any outbreaks,” Khaldun said on May 26. “Even if cases are low in an area, it does not mean that all of the risk is gone.”

Hair salons in the Upper Peninsula remain locked down even though one county there, Schoolcraft, had just one confirmed case of COVID-19 in the 51 days from April 13 through June 3.

Is it Whitmer’s intent to keep Michigan residents under a state-of-emergency until a vaccine is available? WebMd has stated that even when a vaccine is discovered, it wouldn’t be ready for the public for another 12 to 18 months.

The Governor’s office did not respond to an email seeking comment.