By Tom Travis
Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley Monday urged residents and businesses “to continue following all recommended precautions against the spread of COVID-19,” following a ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court to overturn Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s actions to attempt to control COVID-19.
Whitmer’s executive order powers were slashed by the highest court in the State on Friday. The Michigan Supreme Court, which leans Republican, wrote in its remarks in the ruling “We conclude that, the Governor lacked the authority to declare a “state of emergency” or a “state of disaster” under the EMA [Emergency Management Act] after April 30, 2020, on the basis of the COVID-19 pandemic.” [The entire 107 page ruling can be viewed at the bottom of this article.]
Since the decision was handed down, Michigan residents have been scrambling to decipher what this means for the nearly 200 executive orders Gov Whitmer has signed into action since March 2020.
There have been 4,156 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Genesee County — 1,445 of them in Flint (34.8 percent) as of Oct. 5, according to the Genesee County Health Department. Countywide, 281 people have died, according to the health department.
“We must remain steadfastly focused on protecting the safety and wellbeing of our family, friends, customers and community,” Neeley said in a press release issued by the City.
He added, “It remains critically important for all residents of Flint and the State of Michigan to continue wearing masks, adhering to capacity limits, and maintaining social distancing regardless of the status of Gov. Whitmer’s executive orders, said Dr. Lawrence Reynolds, a medical doctor serving as Public Health Advisor to the City of Flint.
“This isn’t about legal requirements; This is about being safe and staying healthy. We must remain steadfastly focused on protecting the safety and wellbeing of our family, friends, customers and community,” Mayor Neeley said. “I ask all Flint residents and businesses for their continued cooperation as we work with the Genesee County Health Department and the state Department of Health and Human Services to determine next steps.”
The press release further stated the State of Michigan has asked the Supreme Court to clarify when the executive orders would be rescinded and asked for a 28-day transition period, which would extend the executive orders to Oct. 30,
Whitmer indicated many regulations will remain in effect because the Department of Health and Human Services also ordered mask use, limits on event sizes, and workplace protections.
The Michigan Supreme Court is made up of seven justices, four of which have connections with Republicans and three that have ties to the Democratic party. The legal battle over the coronavirus ruling centered around two laws, one from 1945 and another from 1976.
The non-profit media outlet Michigan Bridge reported a 1976 law requires legislative approval to extend an emergency beyond 28 days, but Whitmer’s attorneys argue a separate 1945 law gives her broad authority to continue the state of emergency given the coronavirus pandemic.
A Michigan Court of Claims judge and a Court of Appeals panel have so far agreed with the governor’s position, ruling for her in a separate lawsuit filed by the GOP-led Legislature.
The Detroit News Opinion columnist Michael Van Beek reported that in the end all seven Justices agreed that Gov Whitmer acted illegally by continuing a state of emergency without legislative approval.
Medical advisor to the City of Flint, Dr. Lawrence Reynolds, offers advice and guidance
“This is a pandemic. A Supreme Court decision will not protect you. You need to protect yourself and your loved ones by wearing a mask, washing your hands and keeping your distance,” Reynolds said. “All local establishments should continue following the common sense guidelines outlined in these executive orders because these recommendations are in the best interest of their customers and our community — anything less would be unconscionable.”
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org