Detroit Metro Times

Sen. Shirkey lies about COVID-19 science, defends Texas’ decision to fully reopen

Steve Neavling Mar 5, 2021 10:44 AM
Michigan Senate Photo Wire
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey.

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey on Thursday falsely claimed there’s no evidence that COVID-19 restrictions are effective and defended Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to allow businesses to fully open and lift the state's face mask mandate.

In a radio interview on WKHM, the Clarklake Republican said if he were the governor of Michigan, he’d embrace “something similar, not exactly the same, to what Gov. Abbott has done in Texas.”

The radio host pushed back, saying, “You’re not hitching your wagon to Texas are you? Come on, Mike.”

Health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have cautioned states against lifting restrictions prematurely because of new virus variants and the continuing spread of COVID-19. They also strongly recommend people wear masks, pointing to studies that have repeatedly shown face coverings are effective.

“Please hear me clearly,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Monday. “At this level of cases, with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained. These variants are a very real threat to our people and our progress. Now is not the time to relax the critical safeguards that we know can stop the spread of covid-19 in our communities, not when we are so close. We have the ability to stop a potential fourth surge of cases in this country. Please stay strong in your conviction. Continue wearing your well-fitted mask and taking the other public health prevention actions that we know work.”

Infectious-disease expert and President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser Anthony S. Fauci on Thursday criticized Texas, calling the decision to roll back restrictions “inexplicable.”

“I don’t know why they’re doing it but it’s certainly, from a public health standpoint, ill-advised,” Fauci told CNN.

In January, a University of Michigan study estimated that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions saved 2,800 lives.

Nevertheless, Shirkey insisted “there’s really no data and no science that we can discern behind” Michigan’s restrictions.

“To me, it’s evidence that there is still this remnant of wanting to have control versus following data and science and then informing and inspiring and encouraging and trusting people to do the right thing like they’re doing across the country frankly,” Shirkey said.

Businesses should decide when to open, Shirkey said.

“Let businesses and organizations start determining … when it’s safe for them to start opening up to full capacity."

Sam Newton, deputy communications director for the Democratic Governors Association, said Shirkey's remarks are dangerous and detached from reality.

“Mike Shirkey wants to hitch his wagon to the failed response to COVID-19 in Texas,” Newton said in a statement. “Shirkey is showing once again that Michigan Republicans are incredibly out of touch with the needs of their constituents, and have zero good ideas on how to govern the state in a way that would make life better for working families.”

Over the past month, Shirkey has come under fire for making other false claims. At a diner with Hillsdale County Republican Party leaders, all of whom weren’t wearing masks, Shirkey insisted the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol was a “hoax” and “staged” by opponents of former President Donald Trump.

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