Whitmer wants 70-day extension to COVID-19 emergency

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has asked the Legislature to extend Michigan’s state of emergency linked to the coronavirus for another 70 days, but some lawmakers have suggested a shorter period.

“We have an open dialogue,” Whitmer told News 8 Friday when asked if the two sides were negotiating. “We work really quite well together during this emergency and I am grateful for their leadership.”

She said expanding the emergency for 70 days would do several things, notably protecting liability for front-line health care workers.

“Going piecemeal and doing a renewal for every couple of weeks, I think, unnecessarily keeps bringing the Legislature into town to a place where they have to congregate, puts them back on the road and the gas stations outside the home,” Whitmer said. “It flies in direct contravention of what all of the scientists and best medical counsel is giving us, which is we need to limit that. That’s precisely why we have the stay-at-home order.”

It’s worth noting that the length of the state of emergency will be almost certainly longer that the stay-at-home order because it will also be dealing with the fallout of the virus well after the peak in cases.

The governor also talked about the dramatic surge of unemployment claims that has overwhelmed the system. She said she is aware of the problem but the numbers are the numbers.

“Our system is not built to handle a 4,000% increase, which is what it is. That’s just a fact, and so it’s not an excuse. It’s a fact and that’s why I want to share it with folks so they understand precisely what some of the struggles are that we’re confronting,” she said. “You can go online and  file an unemployment claim. I’ve made it easier than ever for people to do that. We don’t require the paperwork that used to be required. We don’t have the same short timeline that used to be applicable because we recognize this is going to be hard for everyone to check in so to make it a little bit easier to lift the burden on people we did that.

“So my message to people is to be patient,” she continued. “Know that your claim will get filled, that you will not be penalized for timelines or paperwork. Just be patient, go online. There is a queuing system that you can get your claim in and just grit your teeth. We’re going to get through this together.”

She noted that the length of time you can collect unemployment has been extended from 20 to 39 weeks.

>>New schedule for unemployment apps

On Thursday, the state announced that people who violate the stay-at-home order could face a $1,000 civil penalty, which could levied in addition to a $500 criminal penalty.

“Michiganders are by and large taking this very seriously and that is a good thing,” Whitmer said. “If you look at the New York Times, I think it was yesterday, they have a map of where travel has really been cut the most. Michigan is one of the best states on the map, to be honest. Since I introduced the stay-at-home order, people have by and large followed it. Now does it mean that everyone is doing what they should be doing? No, it doesn’t. Unfortunately that’s the case and that’s precisely why businesses that are not doing the right thing, or individuals who are not, will face some consequences.

“This is not a suggestion, this is an order,” she added. “This is about the health care system. This is about the health of everyone in the state.”

The goal of the state-mandated social distancing measures is to keep the number of severe coronavirus cases low enough that hospitals can cope. In some places, like Italy and Spain, action was taken too late and hospitals were overrun. New York City is reaching that point, too. Metro Detroit is preparing for it.

You can the full News 8 political reporter Rick Albin’s full interview with Whitmer at 10 a.m. Sunday on “To The Point.”


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