Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued yet another executive order Thursday to address the coronavirus crisis. Soon after the details became public, the backlash began with the press and social media uniformly condemning her draconian and nonsensical mandates, including ones that banned the sale of gardening seeds and paint while permitting the public to continue purchasing lottery tickets.
Whitmer had issued her first mandatory stay-at-home executive order on March 23 to, as she explained, “suppress the spread of COVID-19, to prevent the state’s health care system from being overwhelmed, to allow time for the production of critical test kits, ventilators, and personal protective equipment, and to avoid needless deaths.” That order found it “reasonable and necessary to direct residents to remain at home” and “limited gatherings and travel and required workers who are not necessary to sustain or protect life to stay home.”
Last week’s executive order noted that while those measures “have been effective,” as of April 8, Michigan had reported more than 20,000 confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus and 959 COVID-19 deaths. Accordingly, Whitmer extended the stay-at-home order until April 30.
Whitmer’s Order Is Full of Micromanaging Nonsense
But the extension of the executive order isn’t what took the public aback. Rather, it was the inconsistencies and pettiness that garnered outrage.
“State residents can’t travel to their Up North cottages, but Illinois residents who own one in Michigan apparently can,” the Detroit Free Press opened its coverage of Whitmer’s latest restrictions. That is, in fact, exactly what the executive order mandates, providing that after April 10, “travel between two residences is not permitted,” but individuals may “return to a home or place of residence from outside this state” and may “leave this state for a home or residence elsewhere.”
While mayors and year-round residents of Michigan’s resort areas have expressed concern that those traveling to vacation homes may bring the coronavirus with them, Whitmer has subjected herself to ridicule by allowing out-of-state travel to continue unabated. Meanwhile, Michigan residents barred from using their own property will likely resent Whitmer’s dictate, especially with limited outlets available to families: Families with cabin fever can’t even escape to their own cabins!
Whitmer’s executive order is also being ridiculed for its hypocritical micromanaging of retail store sales. Her Thursday order requires retail outlets to close entire sections of their stores, “by cordoning them off, placing signs in aisles, posting prominent signs, removing goods from shelves, or other appropriate means.” “Classes of goods” declared off-limits by the governor include carpet or flooring, furniture, garden centers and plant nurseries, and paint. As the Detroit Free Press explained, “in-store purchases of Michigan Lottery tickets are still permitted but buying a can of paint or a bag of seeds is off limits.”
Again, since family activities are limited by stay-at-home orders, barring gardening and painting seems like an excessively punitive measure with limited, if any, health benefit. Further, making the order statewide makes no sense, given that some areas have few if any cases of COVID-19. Stores in hard-hit areas could easily implement their own standards based on staffing and safety needs.
A Whitmer spokesman did not respond to an inquiry concerning whether the governor is open to revising the strict mandates.
Whitmer Put Politics Over People
The draconian measures contained in Whitmer’s latest order represent an overreach by the inexperienced executive who was caught flat-footed in the early days of handling the pandemic, resulting in Detroit becoming a nationally known hot zone needing substantial federal assistance. As the virus spread nationwide, Whitmer hit the campaign trail on March 8 with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan to support former Vice President Joe Biden’s primary bid, attending multiple events at Detroit-area restaurants and churches.
Not long after, Detroit-area hospitals experienced an influx of coronavirus patients, leading Whitmer to publicly complain about the federal government’s response. President Donald Trump hit back, calling her “Half Whitmer” and suggesting she was out of her league in handling the pandemic. Whitmer wore Trump’s attacks as a badge of honor, and it may have served her interests in attracting Biden’s eye as he searches for a woman to complete his ticket.
Even while refusing to call out Whitmer’s incompetence, local media criticized her politicizing of the pandemic. After Whitmer appeared remotely on “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah, wearing a “that woman from Michigan” shirt — a reference to Trump’s comments about her — the Detroit News ran a critical op-ed of the governor. “Gov. Gretchen Whitmer must send an unequivocal message to her constituents that Michigan is her priority in this hour of crisis. Her running feud with President Donald Trump calls into question whether she’s acting in the best interests of this state, or on behalf of the Democratic Party,” the editorial read.
If Whitmer’s executive order from last week was her attempt to show she is acting in the best interests of the state, she has overshot her target. If anything, the governor will likely draw only the ire of a populace quickly losing patience with additional government restrictions that lack judgment and balance.
Whitmer’s latest misstep follows recent news that a special counsel in her office spread false rumors on social media that the state’s No. 2 hospital system had run out of ICU beds and ventilators and was leaving patients to die. The Whitmer administration also botched its handling of guidelines concerning the prescription of hydroxychloroquine, suggesting in a letter to physicians and pharmacists that they could lose their licenses if they prescribed or filled orders for the drug for COVID-19 patients, a policy she was forced to walk back soon after.
While many Michiganders may be in the dark about such missteps, Thursday’s executive order quickly garnered the attention and disdain of ordinary citizens, shining a spotlight on Whitmer’s poor leadership. Citizens are not liking what they are seeing beyond the cordoned-off aisles in retail stores.