LANSING, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday extended Michigan’s coronavirus emergency through Sept. 4, enabling her to keep in place restrictions designed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The governor, whose administration earlier this week said new cases had recently plateaued, noted that they still remain higher than nearly two months ago and that many students will return to in-person instruction over the next month.
The seven-day statewide average is up six-fold since June 10, to about 700 cases per day, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. The rate of tests coming back positive also has trended higher since early June.
“I will continue to use every tool at my disposal to protect Michiganders from the spread of this virus,” Whitmer said in a statement.
The Democratic governor has used the emergency — first declared in March — to issue orders to close certain businesses, limit gathering sizes, and require masks in enclosed public spaces and crowded outdoor places. The Republican-led Legislature challenged Whitmer’s ability to unilaterally lengthen the emergency but lost in the state Court of Claims. The Michigan Court of Appeals heard arguments on Tuesday. Separately, a federal judge asked the state Supreme Court to consider whether the governor has the authority to issue or renew her orders and whether laws giving her emergency powers are constitutional. The high court will hear arguments in September.
762 MORE CASES CONFIRMED; DEATH TOTAL UNCHANGED
According to data released by the state Friday afternoon, Michigan on Thursday confirmed 762 additional cases of the virus. That brought the total number of cases to 86,191 since the outbreak began in March.
An updated estimate on how many of those patients have recovered should be released Saturday. Hospitalizations remain low.
The state did not add any more deaths linked to the virus to its tally, so the total figure stands at 6,247.
However, despite a net change of zero, some counties reported additional deaths or revised down their totals. This is not unusual as cases are double-checked and sometimes moved to another jurisdiction. The number of deaths in Kalamazoo was revised down by one in both Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties for totals of 81 and nine, respectively. Muskegon and Macomb counties each added one death for totals of 59 and 906, respectively.
Kent County confirmed 52 new cases for a total of 6,772 since the outbreak began. It has had 154 deaths.
An additional 62 cases were confirmed within the Michigan Department of Corrections, bringing its total to 4,381 since the start of the outbreak. Nearly all of the newest cases were at the Muskegon Correctional Facility, which is dealing with an outbreak that has now infected 215 inmates and two staff members.
Wayne County, which has been hit hardest by the virus, confirmed 114 more cases for a total of 26,323 since the outbreak began. It has had 2,691 deaths. Also in southeast Michigan, Oakland County has had 12,027 cases (114 more than the day previous) and 1,087 deaths. Macomb County has had 9,840 cases (161 more) and 906 deaths.
WHITMER EXTENDS WORKER PROTECTIONS, EXTRA FEDERAL JOBLESS BENEFITS EXPIRE
Whitmer on Friday also reissued an order prohibiting employers from discharging, disciplining or retaliating against workers who stay home when they or their close contacts are sick. The latest measure reflects updated federal guidance on on how long to self-quarantine and an updated definition of the disease’s primary symptoms.
The governor said people will feel more pressure to work now that the federal government’s extra $600 a week in unemployment benefits has lapsed.
Meanwhile, unemployed workers women decried the expiration of the supplemental payment. Talks on extending it are on the brink of collapse in Washington, D.C.
“The 600, in addition to the (state) unemployment payments, pretty much put me right where I needed to be to cover my current financial obligations,” Lindsey Katerberg told the Associated Press on Friday from her home in Grandville, outside Grand Rapids.
Katerberg is a 38-year-old single mother of a high school senior and she lost her job as a stagehand in March.
A jobs report released Friday showed that 16.3 million people were unemployed in July — nearly triple the 5.9 million who were out of work before the pandemic. The loss of the $600 check has shrunk weekly jobless aid payments by one-half to three-quarters, causing hardship for many.
“It’s compensation. It is not a bonus, Katerberg said. ”It is compensating us for putting us in a position where we cannot work and it’s no fault of our own.”
Though the national unemployment rate fell last month from 11.1% to 10.2%, that level still exceeds the highest rate during the 2008-2009 Great Recession.
“I know that a lot of people are really, really struggling right now. I became an adult, I guess, I turned 18 during the (Great) Recession, so I guess it didn’t really click what was happening,” Kyleigh Wegener said. “And now that I’m going through this, it’s like, ‘Wow, I can totally see how people lost their homes,’ because, like I said, we’re barely getting by now to pay rent.”
Wegener, 30, is between jobs and has started taking on food delivery assignments to help make ends meet. She lives in Kalamazoo with her husband, who is a high school teacher, and their two young children.
“I understand that Unemployment is doing their best with, I mean, these are like record numbers that we have,” she said. “But people can’t go without pay for 10 weeks. So, it’s getting frustrating. But I am trying to be understanding that people are doing the best they can.”
Householder reported from Canton Township.