Detroit issues COVID-19 restrictions to replace Whitmer's nullified orders

Oct 9, 2020 at 2:39 pm
click to enlarge People wearing masks to protect against COVID-19 in downtown Detroit. - City of Detroit
City of Detroit
People wearing masks to protect against COVID-19 in downtown Detroit.

Detroit’s top health official issued an order Friday requiring masks and limiting gatherings after the Michigan Supreme Court struck down Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers last week.

The order imposes the same restrictions that were in place statewide.

“We’re going to follow the governor’s orders” and “keep the same procedures in place,” Denise Fair, the city’s public health officer, declared at a news conference Friday afternoon.

Mayor Mike Duggan says state law clearly allows local governments to impose restrictions during a health emergency.

“We can’t afford to operate in this legal chaos,” Duggan said. “The governor has been outstanding, but there is nothing she can do given the legal mess.”

In early April, at the peak of the pandemic in Michigan, Detroit had the highest infection rate outside of New York. Hospital were overwhelmed, nearly a quarter of city’s police force was quarantined, and dozens of Detroiters were dying a day.

Whitmer's stay-at-home order was credited with plummeting infection and death rates. Now, Detroit’s infection rate is half of Michigan’s.

“We have to remain vigilant,” Fair said.

Taking a jab at President Donald Trump, who continues to downplay the coronavirus even after he has been infected, Duggan said Detroiters don’t have the same resources as the president.

“If someone in Detroit gets COVID-19, there is no helicopter to take them to Walter Reed (National Military Medical Center) for the latest experimental treatment,” Duggan said.

The city’s order restricts businesses to no more than 20 people per 1,000 square feet indoors, with a maximum of 400 people, and 30 people per 1,000 square feet at outside gatherings. Casinos cannot exceed 15% capacity.

People must also wear masks in public, including on buses and inside businesses.

On Thursday, Wayne County also issued an emergency order requiring residents to wear masks outside their homes.

“We are keeping the COVID-19 rules and regulations in place from before the Michigan Supreme Court ruled on the governor’s authority to issue them,” County Executive Warren Evans said in a statement.

Over the weekend, Oakland County officials also imposed a mask mandate. Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel told Metro Times on Monday that counties do not have the legal authority to impose restrictions, but he agreed that cities and townships do.

Last week, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that Whitmer does not have the authority to impose COVID-19 restrictions without the approval of the Republican-controlled state Legislature, which opposes mask mandates.

Stay on top of Detroit news and views. Sign up for our weekly issue newsletter delivered each Wednesday.