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Political unity should be key focus in COVID-19 decision

It was a given that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 emergency declaration would be extended. The question was: By how long?

On Tuesday, Michigan residents got their answer.

The Republican-led Michigan Legislature lengthened the Democratic governor’s declaration by 23 days — through April — instead of adopting the 70-day extension she had sought. She was expected to extend her stay-at-home order beyond Monday.

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, said in an Associated Press story that it was unnecessary to extend the emergency by 70 days into June, explaining that legislators could later decide to continue it for longer.

State Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette, issued a statement following Tuesday’s action.

While Cambensy didn’t agree with Republican leadership to limit the declaration to 23 days with COVID-19 numbers continuing to climb aggressively, she still supports the extension to allow Whitmer to continue making crucial public health decisions.

Cambensy also noted that limiting the governor’s extension could require the Michigan Legislature to be called back into session in Lansing during what she called the “height of the health crisis” in a few weeks.

We agree that this could be problematic for Upper Peninsula legislators.

“This means U.P. legislators will need to go back downstate to urban areas where COVID-19 is prevalent, only to turn around and return home where we may put others at risk,” Cambensy said.

Senators from both parties are to make recommendations to Whitmer on transitioning people back to work by April 17, according to the AP story.

We agree that people should get back to work, but perhaps not this early. It depends on how COVID-19 spreads, and that’s not something that can be easily determined now.

Again, it appears politics came to the forefront in this decision. Perhaps there could have been a way to compromise.

House Democrats’ alternative solution, Cambensy said, was to allow controlled, remove voting on emergency measures until the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order was lifted to avoid traveling. The resolution was not referred to the floor and did not pass.

Cambensy pointed out that Whitmer’s order was set to expire on Monday, with the governor indicating she would make an announcement this week about possibly extending the order. She stressed that Whitmer has that role, but would make the decision with the advice of scientists and medical experts.

“These are difficult times, and now is not the time to be divided as elected leaders,” Cambensy said. “We have all made significant adjustments to our lives to make sure we are able to protect ourselves, our families and our neighbors, and this unity needs to remain our focus.”

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