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Saturday, October 03, 2020

Statement from Governor Whitmer on Michigan Supreme Court ruling on emergency powers

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. (Photo courtesy

LANSING -- On Friday, October 2, 2020, the Michigan Supreme Court conservative majority ruled 4-3 that Governor Gretchen Whitmer's executive orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic are illegal without consent from the Legislature.* The Governor's orders remain in effect for at least 21 days; thereafter, many public health and other rules will continue under alternative authorities. This is the Governor's response to the ruling:

"Since the beginning of this crisis, I have done everything in my power to protect our seniors, small businesses, and first responders from the worst public health emergency in over a century. Thanks to the hard work of millions of Michiganders who sacrificed and did the right thing, we have saved thousands of lives and laid the foundation for a strong economic recovery. But COVID-19 still poses a clear and present danger to the people of Michigan, our economy, and our way of life.

"This virus has now killed more Michiganders than World War I. It is a novel virus for which there is no cure, and which has infected the President of the United States, members of the United States Congress, and Legislators across our state. This virus continues to take the lives of Americans every single day, and without a cure or approved vaccine, that will continue for the foreseeable future.

"Today’s [Oct. 2] Supreme Court ruling, handed down by a narrow majority of Republican justices, is deeply disappointing, and I vehemently disagree with the court’s interpretation of the Michigan Constitution. Right now, every state and the federal government have some form of declared emergency. With this decision, Michigan will become the sole outlier at a time when the Upper Peninsula is experiencing rates of COVID infection not seen in our state since April.

"It is important to note that this ruling does not take effect for at least 21 days, and until then, my emergency declaration and orders retain the force of law. Furthermore, after 21 days, many of the responsive measures I have put in place to control the spread of the virus will continue under alternative sources of authority that were not at issue in today’s ruling.

"I know this is hard. We all want this crisis to be over, and we all want life to return to as soon as possible. But the only way we will get through this is by pulling together as Americans and working as one nation to defeat this virus. That means wearing a mask, washing your hands frequently, and maintaining six feet of physical distancing. Michiganders have grit, and there is no challenge we can’t meet.

"I want the people of Michigan to know that no matter what happens, I will never stop fighting to keep you and your families safe from this deadly virus."

* See this Oct. 2, 2020, Bridge Michigan article: "Michigan Supreme Court rules Whitmer lacks COVID-19 emergency powers."

Friday, October 02, 2020

After surge in COVID-19 cases, Governor Whitmer moves Upper Peninsula to Phase 4 of MI Safe Start Plan to Protect Families, Save Lives

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. (Photo courtesy

LANSING -- After a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the Upper Peninsula, or MERC Region 8, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-192 moving the region back to phase 4 of the MI Safe Start Plan. The executive order will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, October 9, although given the surge in cases everyone should make this transition as swiftly as possible. The move to Phase 4 will require people who can perform work remotely to do so, require schools to enforce mask requirements with limited exceptions, and place limits on social gatherings and stores that match those in place in most of the state, among other changes.

"After seeing the increase in cases in the U.P. region over the past several weeks and consulting with medical experts, I have decided to take action to protect U.P. families and move the region back a phase. I know this is hard. I know it will be an adjustment. But we can’t let our guard down," said Governor Whitmer. "COVID-19 is still a very real threat to our families, frontline workers, and small businesses. Everyone should implement these changes as swiftly as possible. This virus doesn't care if you're rich or poor, a Republican or a Democrat, young or old. No one is immune. Right now the most effective weapon we have is pretty simple: it's wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth. It's washing your hands with soap and water. And maintaining six feet of physical distance from one another. Let’s all be smart and stay safe."

Although the Upper Peninsula had very low numbers from March through most of June, the region’s numbers began rising in late June, persisted at an elevated level through mid-September, and then began sharply increasing at that time, giving it right now the most concerning numbers in the state. The most recent case rate, adjusting for lag, has the region with 283 absolute cases per million and 5.1 percent positivity.*

"The governor is taking necessary action today to protect families, frontline workers, and vulnerable populations in the U.P. region," said Chief Medical Executive and MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. "We will continue to monitor the spread and work together to fight this virus. With the 2020-2021 flu season fast approaching, we must also stay laser-focused on protecting ourselves and our loved ones. Get your flu vaccine, wear a mask, and maintain six feet of physical distancing. We will get through this together."

The governor’s order will implement the following changes in the Upper Peninsula:

  • People who can perform their work remotely will be required to do so; 
  • Social gatherings and organized events will be subject to the new Phase 4 limits in Executive Order 2020-183: indoor residential -- 10 people or less; indoor non-residential may allow more, depending on the size of the facility and subject to formulas in the order.
  • Stores of less than 50,000 square feet must limit number of people in store, including employees, to 25 percent of total occupancy limits. Stores of 50,000 square feet or more must limit customers to no more than 20 people per 1,000 square feet of customer floor space, and allow 2 hours of week dedicating shopping time for vulnerable populations.
  • Schools must require face coverings at certain times, including in the classroom, among other requirements.

"I along with other community members were given the opportunity to meet with governor Whitmer and share our challenges during this pandemic," said George Stockero, Copper Country ISD Superintendent. "Now, it’s on all of us to do our part to protect each other. Let’s get our numbers down by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing our hands frequently. Yoopers are tough, and we will beat this virus together."

*Editor's Note As of Oct. 1, 2020, Houghton County has 7.6 percent positivity. See Copper Country Strong update in our right-hand column.

Click here to view Executive Order 2020-192.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Hero City, Documentary Photography Exhibit, part of D80 Conference, opens in Rozsa Gallery

Ulaanbaatar, capital city of Mongolia, by Meghan Kirkwood. (Photo courtesy Michigan Technological University)

HOUGHTON -- Michigan Tech's Department of Visual and Performing Arts, the Rozsa Center, and Pavlis Honors College are excited to announce the fall gallery exhibition, Hero City: Documentary Photography by Meghan Kirkwood. The exhibit features a collection of silver gelatin and inkjet photographs of modern Mongolia.

The images capture the unique and storied history of Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar, its transition through economic and cultural change -- and the rich and thriving culture that animates this young Asian nation. This exhibit is presented in collaboration with Michigan Tech’s Pavlis Honors College and the D80 Conference, where Kirkwood will give the keynote address.

The title, "Hero City," refers to the chosen name for this urban center before pressure from soviet activists led to its renaming, Ulaanbaatar (city of the Red Hero). Mongolia’s history is long and complex, and most recently marked by its transition from communism to democracy following the fall of the Soviet Union. This transition was guided by international agencies such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Fund, but the nation’s swift entry into a market economy has brought many challenges for its citizens, in spite of optimism from outside economists who view the country as a "global growth generating" nation. Mongolia offers a prescient look at the disconnect between prescriptive policies and the cultural and political realities that limit their success. Kirkwood’s images seek to capture these tensions, and to draw attention to Mongolia’s vibrant culture. 

Photographer Meghan Kirkwood. (Photo courtesy Michigan Technological University)

Meghan Kirkwood is an Assistant Professor at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. Her photography has been exhibited throughout the United States, Europe, and South Africa. She holds an MFA in Photography from Tulane University, and a PhD in Art History from the University of Kansas.* 

The exhibit opened Monday, Sept. 28, and continues through Saturday, Nov. 14. Works of art are also hung in several campus buildings and can be seen through a self-guided walking tour. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. and Saturdays 1 p.m. - 8 p.m. Walking tour hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Kirkwood will give her online D80 keynote address at noon on Friday, Oct. 2, and online gallery talk at 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 3. Tour map, Zoom links, and more details to all related Hero City and D80 Conference events can be found on the Rozsa Center website here.

This program is partially funded/sponsored by the Visiting Professor Program which is funded by a grant to the Office of the Provost from the State of Michigan's King- Chavez-Parks Initiative.

* Learn more about Meghan Kirkwood and see some of her work on her Web site,