Whitmer worries that Biden's vaccine mandate would lead to exodus of state workers

Dec 8, 2021 at 10:14 am
click to enlarge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. - State of Michigan
State of Michigan
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Story updated at 12:20 p.m.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday that she's worried about public and private workers walking off the job if President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate goes into effect.

Whitmer made the statements to business leaders in Montcalm County, delivering her first comments about the mandate, which applies to federal contractors and businesses with more than 100 employees.

"We’re an employer too, the state of Michigan is," Whitmer told business leaders, The Daily News in Greenville reports. "I know if that mandate happens, we’re going to lose state employees. That’s why I haven’t proposed a mandate at the state level. Some states have. We have not, we’re waiting to see what happens in court."

Whitmer's office tells Metro Times that the governor is not opposed to the mandate and would enforce it if it survives court challenges.

Judges have temporarily halted enforcement of the mandate amid lawsuits challenging Biden’s executive order.

On Nov. 23, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said he has no plans to institute the vaccine mandate for city employees.

“There [are] absolutely no conversations about vaccines for union or civil service employees,” Duggan said. “I made an absolute promise to the union leaders in this city for the last year and a half that anything that we did we would do together sitting down and talking, and there has been no conservation about that at all and no plan for it.”

There are disagreements about whether state and local employees are required to follow the mandate. But the Labor Department told USA Today that Biden’s executive order will “apply to public sector state and local government workers in 26 states, including Michigan, because of a decades-old law.

State and local leaders are in a tough position. Michigan has led the country in new COVID-19 cases, and hospitals are reaching or exceeding capacity at an alarming rate.

The latest available state data show that vaccines are effective at reducing the spread and severity of COVID-19. Between Oct. 21 and Nov. 19, the last 30 days of complete data, people who were not fully vaccinated accounted for 71% of the new COVID-19 infections, 72% of the hospitalizations, and 76% of the deaths, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

“We continue to monitor the state’s COVID-19 numbers very closely and we are continually reassessing our statewide response to the pandemic,” MDHHS spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin tells Metro Times. “There are several factors contributing to current case rates. However, those who are not immunized contribute disproportionately to hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 in Michigan.”

Stay connected with Detroit Metro Times. Subscribe to our newsletters, and follow us on Google News, Apple News, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or Reddit.