One word keeps recurring in online discussions of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s latest orders to fight the state’s raging COVID-19 outbreak: “insanity.” Last week, the first-term Democrat issued an order extending the state’s stay-at-home policy, which had been set to expire April 15, until May 1. Michigan has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases of any state in America, and certainly strong measures are required to get the pandemic under control. But the devil is in the details, and Whitmer’s new order instantly provoked a firestorm of outrage.
Among the complaints was that Whitmer had prohibited sale of seeds and other garden supplies at a time when vegetable gardens need to be planted. Executive Order 2020-42 is titled, “Temporary requirement to suspend activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life,” and it is quite specific about which activities are and are “not necessary.” Stores with “more than 50,000 square feet” (e.g., Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot) are ordered to close areas of the store “by cordoning them off, placing signs in aisles, posting prominent signs, removing goods from shelves, or other appropriate means” that sell carpet or flooring, furniture, and “garden centers and plant nurseries.” So if grandma went to Walmart for groceries and hoped to pick up some tomato plants or cucumber seeds while she was there — sorry, grandma! You could get a thousand-dollar fine and 90 days in jail for disobeying Whitmer’s orders.
Posting photos from a Walmart in Grand Rapids showing the now-banned seeds cordoned off with yellow tape, one Twitter user declared, “@GovWhitmer has banned us from growing our own food. This is [bleeping] insane.” Another user posted a photo indicating that it’s now apparently forbidden to sell American flags in Michigan. Barbecue grills, lawn chairs — anything in the garden section is now streng verboten in Michigan. References to Whitmer as a “dictator” proliferated on social media over the weekend as Michigan residents came to grips with the consequences of the governor’s draconian order.
Whitmer imposed a strict prohibition on “not necessary” travel, which means that Michiganders are forbidden even to visit their own private vacation cabins in the “Up North” part of the state. This prohibition includes exceptions, however, that expose the arbitrary nature of Whitmer’s policy. My friend Ray Patnaude remarked on Facebook, “If you live in Chicago you can visit your Michigan Lake house. If you live in Michigan, nope. Unless you drove to another state first and come back in. Insane.”
Patnaude lives in St. Joseph County, on Michigan’s southern border with Indiana. With a population of more than 60,000, the county has yet to record a single death from COVID-19, and 26 other counties in Michigan likewise have zero deaths from the Chinese virus. The state’s pandemic is largely confined to metropolitan Detroit, with the city, surrounding Wayne County, and the suburbs of Oakland and Macomb counties accounting for 19,333 of known cases as of Sunday. That’s about 78 percent of all coronavirus cases in Michigan. And the same jurisdictions had reported 1,250 deaths from COVID-19, which was 87 percent of the statewide total of 1,487 deaths. The rest of Michigan has been relatively unaffected by the disease, but Whitmer’s statewide order takes no account of regional differences.
Nor does the governor’s detailed list of what is and is not “necessary” make any sense from a disease-prevention perspective. Why is the garden section closed at Walmart, and yet Michigan residents can still buy lottery tickets? Why, as one perplexed resident complained online, is her dentist’s office closed, but abortion clinics are still open? The arbitrary and harmful nature of Executive Order 2020-42 was pointed out by state Rep. Lee Chatfield, speaker of Michigan’s House of Representatives. On Twitter, Chatfield wrote,
The governor’s extended Stay-at-Home order is the wrong call and is bad for Michigan families. We had a chance today to protect public health and take a positive step towards recovery. Unfortunately, rather than focus on what’s safe, the governor decided again who is “essential.”
People in our state are hurting. Family-owned businesses have been run to the ground & hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs because of it. Unemployment is skyrocketing & our government has not been there to answer the call. We deserve better! This is unacceptable.
Chatfield added that protecting public health and economic recovery are “not mutually exclusive,” urging that, “Instead of essential vs non-essential, we should think safe vs unsafe.” This would seem reasonable, but Whitmer refused to heed the criticism. “Every single exception you make to a stay home, stay safe order makes this more porous and makes it less likely to work,” Whitmer told Detroit’s WDIV-TV. “It means more people are gonna get sick, more people are gonna die, and our economy is going to suffer for longer.” There’s your headline: Selling garden supplies will kill people, governor declares.
“Insanity” — the word keeps cropping up in discussions of Whitmer’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last month, the governor actually threatened the licenses of medical professionals who prescribed the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) for coronavirus patients. A week later, however, Whitmer was trying to secure supplies of HCQ from the federal strategic stockpile. Erratic, arbitrary, deaf to criticism — she has thoroughly botched Michigan’s response to this crisis, and yet, despite her blatant failure, there is talk that Whitmer is on the list of potential running mates for presumed Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Such a choice would almost certainly destroy whatever hope Democrats still have of winning Michigan in November. A petition to recall Whitmer had nearly 150,000 signatures Sunday, and a Facebook group, “Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine,” signed up a quarter-million members in a matter of days.
If Democrats would consider naming such a lightning rod as Whitmer to their ticket, it just shows how badly Trump Derangement Syndrome has warped their judgment. Insanity is everywhere nowadays, and Michigan residents are cursed to be ruled by the Madwoman of Lansing.