Lengel: Bring Back That Tough, Covid-Fighting Governor from Michigan

April 09, 2021, 8:14 AM by  Allan Lengel

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

More than a year ago, after the pandemic began to spread in Michigan, a tough Gov. Gretchen Whitmer clamped down, ordering shutdowns of restaurants, bars, schools, offices and a lot more. Sometimes she eased those restrictions, only to reimpose them when Covid numbers went back up. 

Every time the Republicans in Lansing, the business community, the name-calling guy in the White House and the gun-toting protestors at the Capitol pushed back, Whitmer stood her ground, repeating her mantra about "following the science." Michigan's Covid numbers dropped, and the majority of Michiganders approved of her job performance, far more than they did of President Donald Trump's.

In recent weeks, she loosened restrictions on bars, restaurants and school sports, all while nasty variants have spread. The daily number of new Covid cases is skyrocketing, yet that once-tough governor has declined to take action to pull back again, at least until more people get vaccinated.

Gov. Whitmer, what's going on? You need to act now! You need to reimpose some restrictions. We can't wait for everyone to be vaccinated. 

Or has it all become too daunting to stand your ground? Do you no longer have the stomach to fight the power-obssessed Republicans in Lansing? Do you worry about those crazy gun-toters who protested at the state Capitol?

The pandemic is war. The general can't abandon the battlefield as people die and get sick. 

At a 10 a.m. press conference Friday, Whitmer reminded residents that masks are mandatory in public, as is a 50-percent limit for indoor dining rooms.

She stopped short of mandatory new restrictions, asking instead that high schools suspend in-person classes for two weeks past spring break, youth sports voluntarily suspend games and practices for two weeks. She also strongly encouraged Michiganders to avoid indoor dining and gatherings with friends indoors for two weeks, but continue dining outdoors and getting carryouts.

Sorry, too many people already ignore mandatory restrictions. Asking "pretty please" to self-impose new restrictions won't work. It's a wimpy way to sidestep what needs to be done.

Some restaurants resist customer limits, as do people at social gatherings including weddings. For those who argue there's no proof restaurants are a source of Covid, just go to county health department websites and see the outbreaks of Covid among cetain staff.

Whitmer says she's urging the federal government to step up vaccination supplies for surging hotspots in the nation. That's great, but what do we in the meantime?

Even the Centers for Disease Control director this week strongly suggested Whitmer step it up. Her agency has been looking at the the Covid outbreaks in Michigan prisons and arranging for more testing of young athletes.

That official, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, "is pushing for stronger restrictions in Michigan to slow a spike in Covid-19 infections, such as a pause on indoor restaurant dining or tighter rules around youth sports," The Detroit News reports.

"I would advocate (to) decrease the community activity, ensure mask-wearing. And we're working closely with the state to try and work towards that," Walensky said about Michigan.

Walensky is just following the science. Remember that phrase, governor?

Whitmer has responded by saying the state is being smart, pushing for masks, social distancing and limiting large crowds. Following the science? Was that just a mantra to irritate Mr. Anti-Science, Donald Trump, until he left office?

Do we need to start a GoFundMe page to help find your mojo?

Let's do something. Nothing, or even too little, is unacceptable.

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