LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Republicans who control the Michigan Legislature said they will meet Friday to pass bills to rein in the emergency powers of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and create a committee to oversee the state’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, a dramatic strike against the Democrat amid the health crisis.
A spokeswoman for Whitmer promised a veto and said Republicans were “playing dangerous partisan games” while the governor is focused on saving lives and controlling the spread of the virus.
Republicans are unhappy with the breadth of Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, though polling shows the public believes she made the right calls. She is expected to extend it past April 30 but with modifications.
“Lives have unfortunately been lost in our state. Many people are suffering. Livelihoods have been destroyed, and many freedoms are gone. Frankly, we deserve better,” House Speaker Lee Chatfield of Levering said on social media.
The flap could explode into a legal fight next week because one state law gives the governor broad authority to unilaterally declare an emergency or disaster, while another one requires input from the Legislature to extend the emergency or disaster. In issuing her stay-home orders, Whitmer has cited both laws.
The governor “will not sign a bill that would diminish her ability to protect citizens of this state from a deadly disease that has already killed thousands of people in Michigan,” Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said.
Democratic lawmakers criticized the decision to convene. One legislator has died from his family suspects was COVID-19, while two others have been infected.
“The session was called for a tone-deaf resolution that ignores that we are still very much in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and pushes forward a false narrative of distrust in our governor’s response that will ultimately cost more lives,” House Minority Leader Christine Greig of Farmington Hills said in a statement.
The number of confirmed cases in Michigan rose 4% to nearly 35,300. Deaths rose by 164 to 2,977, although 55 reported Thursday could have occurred days or weeks ago.
The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.
Henry Ford Health System in southeastern Michigan said the number of COVID-19 patients had dropped below 500 this week for the first time in nearly a month. It had 752 at the peak on April 7.
Beaumont Health, which has eight hospitals, said it had 703 COVID-19 patients, down 42% since the peak.
Michigan had 134,000 new filings for unemployment aid last week, raising the number of initial claims to nearly 1.2 million over five weeks. It’s the equivalent of 25% unemployment, although not everyone will qualify for benefits.
More than $1.3 billion has been paid to 820,000 people so far, the state said.
The Michigan Supreme Court suspended all jury trials in the state until June 22. It also told the state court administrator to explore ways to hold remote trials.
“To our knowledge, no judge in the country has ever presided over a remote jury trial, and these pilots will help us define what ‘remote jury trial’ means in practice,” administrator Tom Boyd said in a memo.
A Canadian nurse allowed to cross the border to work in Michigan was busted with 153 pounds (69 kilograms) of marijuana in the trunk of her car, authorities said.
Terri Maxwell, 48, was arrested Wednesday at the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit. The U.S.-Canada border is restricted to health care workers, commercial trucks and travelers deemed essential during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Smuggling in marijuana simply isn’t essential,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said.
Maxwell remains in custody until a detention hearing Friday. No attorney was listed in the court record.
Additional Coronavirus information and resources:
Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.
View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.
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