Advance Notice: Briefs

Whitmer: State of Michigan has ‘concerns’ over federal COVID vax mandate, awaiting court action

By: - December 7, 2021 9:59 am

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives the keynote address at the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference, Sept. 22, 2021 | Laina G. Stebbins

Updated, 1:17 pm., 12/7/21, with comments from Whitmer’s office

In a meeting with business owners in Howard City Monday afternoon, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer criticized President Joe Biden’s federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which the 5th U.S. Circuit Appeals Court has blocked for now.

Howard City is located north of Grand Rapids in Montcalm County, which went 68% for former President Donald Trump over 30% for President Joe Biden in 2020. Business owners told Whitmer that workers will quit over the mandate. However, companies and governments that have imposed mandates have seen a very small percentage of their workforce leave over mandates.

Whitmer said that a federal mandate would impact the state of Michigan workforce.

“We’re an employer, too, the state of Michigan is. I know if that mandate happens, we’re going to lose state employees,” Whitmer said, as reported by the Daily News. “That’s why I haven’t proposed a mandate at the state level. Some states have. We have not, we’re waiting to see what happens in court.

“But we have a lot of the same concerns that you just voiced and it’s going to be a problem for all of us,” Whitmer added.

Michigan’s vaccination rate continues to lag, with 62% of residents getting at least one dose, or roughly 6.2 million people. Health experts have told the Advance they’d like to see vaccination rates in the 90% range because of the faster-spreading delta variant. Health experts also have stressed that the new wave of cases, hospitalizations and deaths is largely being driven by the unvaccinated.

The state is in its fourth surge and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reported Monday that a total of 1,353,156 Michiganders have tested positive for COVID-19 and 24,494 have died from the virus — an additional 16,590 cases and 127 deaths since Friday.

When asked to comment further, Whitmer spokesperson Bobby Leddy told the Advance that “our top priority remains slowing the spread of COVID-19 so that businesses can keep their doors open, schools can keep students in classrooms, and the state can continue our strong economic progress.

“While the federal government’s vaccine rule is currently halted, Governor Whitmer continues to urge Michiganders to receive one of the safe and effective vaccines because this is the best way for Michiganders to protect themselves and keep our economy growing.”

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Susan J. Demas

Susan J. Demas is a 21-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 4,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 70 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.