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THURSDAY May 14 — Michigan’s Republican-led Legislature is attempting to “build a constitutional crisis atop a public health crisis” by challenging Whitmer’s emergency authority during the coronavirus pandemic, her attorneys said Tuesday in a court filing, according to recent reports from Bridge Magazine.
Whitmer is asking Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens to reject a lawsuit from the Legislature, which alleges Whitmer violated state law and the state Constitution by issuing new emergency declarations after the GOP majority had refused to extend the declared emergency.
Legislative leaders are asking the court to declare Whitmer’s executive orders, including her stay-at-home and business closure mandates, “invalid and unenforceable,” Bridge reports.
At the heart of the legal battle are two significantly different interpretations of two dated state statutes. Republicans believe Whitmer needs an extension to continue wielding unilateral powers because state law requires legislative action after 28 days, reports The Detroit News.
Others have argued — including many Democrats — that another state law allows Whitmer to extend the emergency declaration on her own accord, leaving an opportunity for more emergency action, like Michigan’s extended lockdown order, until the governor says otherwise.
The matter will begin in the Court of Claims tomorrow morning, but it likely will eventually find its way to the state Supreme Court. Meanwhile, state law enforcement officials are being asked to enforce the executive orders as valid law, though they haven’t always followed that request.
In a statement issued yesterda, the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan acknowledged the looming legal challenge to Whitmer’s authority but clarified that all of her orders issued to date “are still in force” until a judge rules otherwise in a courtroom.
Attorneys for Whitmer have argued that the recent lawsuit is nothing more than a “power grab cloaked in the fineries of unfounded legal reasoning,” reports Bridge Magazine. The governor acted within her authority to curb the virus’ spread and to save “countless lives,” attorneys said.
Oral arguments will be heard in the Michigan House of Representatives at 10 a.m. tomorrow. Check back with City Pulse for continued coverage.
In Greater Lansing…
A rain-soaked rally at the State Capitol garnered a much smaller crowd than at recent protests today as a fringe group and their supporters pushed back against executive orders in Michigan.
Today’s rally saw nearly as many police officers and news reporters as demonstrators, but local and state officials for weeks had still braced for potential violence and other chaos downtown. Organizers had previously billed the underwhelming show as “Judgement Day” in Michigan.
Neither chamber of the Legislature met this morning. Still, some speakers shouted at the closed Capitol, calling for Whitmer to come out from the mostly empty building
The Detroit News reports that a brief skirmish occurred when some protesters objected to another demonstrator’s display of a doll with a noose around its neck, along with an American flag. Eventually, the rain continued to pick up and many left the scene without further incident.
McLaren Health Care has been awarded $626,328 in funding for expanded telehealth services from the Federal Communications Commission’s COVID-19 telehealth program. McLaren was one of 30 health care providers nationwide to receive the special funding allocation this week.
The program provides immediate support to eligible health care providers responding to the pandemic by fully funding their telehealth platform services and equipment necessary to provide critical connected care services. As a result, 12 of McLaren’s hospitals — including the one in downtown Lansing — will further enhance their telehealth efforts between doctors and patients.
Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail is warning local residents that blood tests designed to look for antibodies to the coronavirus are not yet reliable or practical for the general public — despite their increasing availability at clinics and other facilities across the state.
Vail said the general lack of testing reliability and uncertainty regarding the immunity response to COVID-19 make it likely that the tests will give a false impression of vulnerability to the virus.
“It would be tremendous if we could all know for sure if we were at risk for or safe from COVID-19, but the truth is that we cannot definitively give people this information,” Vail said. “There needs to be more research before we can truly interpret the results of these tests.”
Retail and pet grooming businesses could be among those that are able to reopen by the end of the month, Whitmer said during a video interview earlier today with MLive. She also explained to MLive that she hopes to be able to again allow for small gatherings by the end of the month.
Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services issued a bulletin today strongly encouraging financial institutions to protect customers’ COVID-19 economic impact payments from overdrafts and fees. Many financial institutions have already joined a program to ensure that no one experiencing financial stress will lose their home in the crisis.
Michigan families hit hard by the financial and health-related impacts of COVID-19 will benefit from a $450,000 Consumers Energy Foundation grant to eight community action agencies working to meet the emergency needs of low- and moderate-income residents in 43 counties.
The grant will support agencies trying to keep up with assistance requests amid the pandemic.
Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a consumer alert today to ensure residents who are unemployed due to COVID-19 and qualify for the Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program are aware of a simplified application process. Low-income subscribers can apply for discounts on monthly telephone, broadband internet and other bundled utility services.
Several colleges in Michigan, like Eastern Michigan University, plan to resume usual operations in the fall, including classroom instruction, housing, dining and other campus services. MLive reports Calvin College will test students for COVID-19 before classes can resume. Hillsdale College, Central Michigan and Grand Valley State universities also plan to resume classes.
The Detroit News reports that more than 110,000 lower-income residents have enrolled in Michigan’s Medicaid health program over the last two months, adding pressure to a state budget that is expected to be short by $1 billion to $3 billion in the current fiscal year.
Michigan’s general fund is expected to face a $2.7 billion shortfall during the current fiscal year because of the economic shutdown attributed to the pandemic, the Detroit Free Press reports. The latest forecast also shows a $1.1 billion deficit in the school aid fund, which could put pressure on lawmakers to make cuts to the per-pupil base spending level for each student.
In the numbers…
At least 22 cases of COVID-19 across Greater Lansing and one virus-related death in Ingham County were reported by state officials today. The regional death toll stands at 35 with at least 909 confirmed cases reported across Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties in recent months.
Michigan tracked at least another 1,191 coronavirus statewide cases this afternoon with another 73 virus-related deaths, edging up the case count to nearly 50,000 with almost 4,800 deaths.
Today’s statewide case count was significantly higher than daily reports in recent weeks, partially due to an increase in backlogged results being reported into Michigan’s tracking system and increased amount of COVID-19 testing at correctional facilities across the state.
Officials said cases reported from commercial labs working in state prisons and in corporate settings were entered manually, which led to a backlog now being reported electronically. At least 35 deaths were also identified in a vital records review of backlogged death certificates.
Cases — 619 (+14)
Recoveries — 250
Recovery Rate — 40.4%
Deaths — 19 (+1)
Fatality Rate — 3.1%
As of Tuesday, zip code 48911 tracked at least 171-180 cases. Zip code 48910 tracked 71-80 cases. Zip code 48823 tracked 51-60 cases. Zip codes 48906, 48854 and 48864 each tracked 41-50 cases. Zip codes 48842 and 48912 each tracked 31-40 cases. Zip code 48915 tracked 21-30 cases. Zip code 48917 and 48895 each tracked 11-20 cases. Zip codes 48840, 48285, 48819, 48827, 48892, 48909, 48933, 49251, 49264 and 49285 each tracked 1-10 cases.
Cases — 161 (+6)
Recoveries — 128
Recovery Rate — 79.5%
Deaths — 6 (No change)
Fatality Rate — 3.7%
Cases — 129 (+2)
Deaths — 10 (No change)
Fatality Rate — 7.8%
The Mid-Michigan County Health Department does not report recovery statistics.
Cases — 49,582 (+1,191)
Recoveries — 22,686 (as of 5/8/20)
Recovery Rate — 45.8%
Deaths — 4,787 (+73)
Fatality Rate — 9.7%
State reports show that about 66% of cases (and 79% of deaths) are reported from Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, including the city of Detroit. Other hotspots include Kent County with 5.3% of cases, Genesee County with 3.7% of cases, Washtenaw County with 2.5% of cases, Saginaw County with 1.7% of cases, Kalamazoo with 1.3% of cases and Ingham County with 1.2% of cases statewide. Additionally, about 4.4% of cases, or 2,171 cases (and 56 deaths) have also been reported among state prisoners at the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Caucasians account for 35% of cases and 50% of deaths reported in Michigan. Despite accounting for a substantially smaller segment of the statewide population, African Americans account for 32% of cases and 41% of coronavirus-related deaths reported across Michigan.
Cases — 1,405,961
Deaths — 85,194
Fatality Rate — 6.1%
Michigan reports the seventh most cases of any state in the country, behind only New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, California, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Michigan ranks fourth in the country in virus-related deaths, behind only New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts.
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