Derisively called “that woman from Michigan” by President Trump for voicing concerns about inadequate federal action, she has worn the slur as a badge of honor but has not needlessly inflamed the situation. She did, however, appear to slap down Trump adviser Jared Kushner this week, who had called his father-in-law’s handling of the pandemic a “success”:
In Michigan, nearly 3,800 people have died of the virus, with more than 41,000 confirmed cases.“We remain in a state of emergency. That is a fact,” Whitmer said during a Thursday night virtual town hall hosted by local news stations. “For anyone to declare mission accomplished means they’re turning a blind eye to the fact that over 600 people have died in the last 72 hours.”
Whitmer’s order allows for a gradual resumption of activities based on scientific data and expert opinion. (“Specifically, although the pace of COVID-19 spread has showed signs of slowing, the virus remains aggressive and persistent: to date, there have been 41,379 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 3,789 deaths from the disease — fourfold and tenfold increases, respectively, since the start of this month,” she said in a written statement. “And while COVID-19 initially hit Southeast Michigan hardest, the spread is now increasing more quickly in other parts of the state. For instance, cases in some counties in Western and Northern Michigan are now doubling every 6 days or faster.”)
Whitmer will reopen residential and commercial construction on May 7 and plans to gradually open more businesses as testing increases and new coronavirus cases subside. She also announced a bold, forward-looking initiative, the Future for Frontliners, “inspired by the GI bill after World War II, which would give people like sanitation workers, grocery store employees, and workers who make Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).” The program that gives free tuition for professional certification or associate’s and bachelor’s degrees to everyone from health-care workers to grocery store clerks who have been soldiering on during the crisis. This is precisely the sort of smart policy idea — rewarding essential workers and educating the workforce — that other governors should seek to emulate.
Whitmer has consistently displayed her toughness, courage and level-headedness in navigating the pandemic. Her state is among the hardest hit, but she has neither panicked nor let transient public opinion push her one way or another. She has put health and safety first, relied on experts, clearly communicated her plans and rationale to the public and exhibited remarkable restraint in dealing with angry, thoughtless protesters who put others at risk. (Perhaps she should have responded even more forcefully at the statehouse, but to her credit, she avoided a dangerous escalation between police and agitators.)
For showing poise under fire, fidelity to science and organizational prowess, we can say, well done, Gov. Whitmer.