The Michigan Legislature is meeting Thursday to continue debating the State of Emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer wants to extend the emergency another 28 days after it expires Thursday night at midnight. The state Legislature is slated to vote on the governor’s request before it expires.
Whitmer said she thinks it should be extended even longer than 28 days, but the letter she would send to the Legislature would ask for that amount.
The stay-at-home order, which was originally slated to end the same day the State of Emergency ends, has already been extended through May 15.
Whitmer announced the extension and loosened restrictions last week, allowing some workplaces to reopen.
“I don’t enjoy using all of these levers of this office, but I have to do this to save lives, and that is what centers every decision we’ve made,” Whitmer said.
Whitmer didn’t mince her words: She said she’s going to get a state of emergency with or without the legislature.
The Senate and House gaveled into session at 10 a.m. Wednesday and stood down for a couple of hours. But it didn’t take long for the proceedings to heat up.
Several protesters wanting the state opened more quickly caused a scene that ended in physical removal from the House gallery.
Three women entered the third-floor gallery, which had been converted for social distancing purposes for representatives to sit on the east and west sides and the media to sit in the back. When they entered the media section, the House sergeant at arms bodily removed them.
A public gallery had been set up in the speaker’s library with a video feed, but they wanted into the media section.
Whitmer nixed negotiations on two one-week extensions in exchange for quicker reopening of the state, which leadership offered.
“The Republicans in the legislature want to negotiate opening up sectors of our economy,” Whitmer said. “They’re acting as though we’re in the midst of a political problem. This is not a political problem that we have. This is a public health crisis.”
House Speaker Lee Chatfield said Whitmer’s no-negotiations policy is political and wrong.
“We need to do all we can to prioritize public health, but we also need to be reasonable in our approach, and I don’t think we’ve done that here in the state of Michigan,” Chatfield said.
He said he’s willing to make one last try at a negotiation.
“We’re doing our best to be a partner with her so we can be the voice for thousands of Michigan families who are hurting unnecessarily around our state, and her one-size-fits-all approach is the wrong call,” Chatfield said.
The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Michigan has risen to 40,399 as of Wednesday, including 3,670 deaths, state officials report.
Wednesday’s update included 1,137 new cases and 103 additional deaths. Tuesday’s total was 39,262 confirmed cases and 3,567 deaths.
State officials say the rate of growth is continuing to slow, while testing rates continue to rise. Last week, officials noted a 15 percent decrease in virus hospitalizations over the previous 10 days.
MORE: COVID-19 data section