Michigan Supreme Court ruling has dangerous implications for spread of COVID-19

Lanthorn Editorial Board

Friday, Oct. 2, was a busy day in news regarding leaders in government and their response to the coronavirus.

Not only did President Trump reveal to the public that he tested positive for COVID-19, but the Michigan Supreme Court also issued a historic ruling against Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

In a 4-3 vote, the highest court in Michigan ruled that Whitmer’s attempt to continue a state of emergency after Thursday, April 30, was considered unconstitutional because the continuation lacked legislative approval.

In a statement released Friday, Whitmer made it clear that she is vehemently opposed to the court’s decision, citing the constant spread of the virus as a reason for the swift decision. 

“This virus has now killed more Michiganders than World War I,” Whitmer said in the statement. “It is a novel virus for which there is no cure, and which has infected the President of the United States, members of the United States Congress, and Legislators across our state. This virus continues to take the lives of Americans every single day, and without a cure or approved vaccine, that will continue for the foreseeable future.

While Whitmer did not have legislative support when making the decision to go into a state of emergency, it’s clear that she was acting out of an abundance of caution and putting the lives of Michiganders first.

It’s important to note that even though the mandatory mask mandate that coincides with Whitmer’s state of emergency proclamation expires in 21 days. Many Michigan businesses, like Short’s Brewery Company in Grand Rapids, have publicly said that they will continue to require masks in their establishments. 

On Saturday, Oct. 3, Michigan reported it’s highest total of new cases in one day (1,158) since May. This type of spread is what Whitmer was trying to prevent when she declared a state of emergency, and judging by how this virus continues to spread, maybe a state of emergency needs to be reinstated.

“Right now, every state and the federal government have some form of declared emergency,” Whitmer said in her order. “With this decision, Michigan will become the sole outlier at a time when the Upper Peninsula is experiencing rates of COVID infection not seen in our state since April.”

In Kent county, there have been 9,664 total cases, 130 new cases and 166 deaths as of Oct. 3. In Ottawa county, there have been 3,472 cases and 62 deaths. Of all zip codes, the large majority of cases have come out of east Grand Rapids (area code 49507), with 1,057 cases. 

As Grand Valley State University finally seems to have tackled its early breakout of COVID-19 on campus, students look out on a state where cases are growing and Whitmer’s attempts to keep Michigander masks on are being swatted. 

This decision sets a dangerous tone that makes individual steps to stay masked important, but ultimately, we need to see further legislative action to curb the resurgence in cases before it gets worse.