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Whitmer announces state of emergency extension, plans to reopen K-12 schools

June 19, 2020
<p>Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during her second State of the State address at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on Jan. 29, 2020.</p>

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during her second State of the State address at the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing on Jan. 29, 2020.

Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

This week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced an extension of Michigan’s state of emergency and plans regarding the opening of K-12 schools in the fall. 

The state of emergency order, which was set to expire on June 19, is now extended until July 16. 

While being in a state of emergency allows the governor to issue the executive orders she has throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the recent extension does not mean the rescinded orders — such as the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order — will be reinstated.

“Being in this (state of emergency) is what gives us the ability to continue to protect people,” Whitmer said. “All 50 states are in some form or another of state of emergency because of that precise issue, and we’ll have to be, as well.”

According to Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, or MDHHS, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state has recorded 60,189 total cases of COVID-19 and 5,790 deaths, as of June 16.

Most of the state is in the medium-to-low risk range, Khaldun said.

The extension of the state of emergency follows the release of new data from the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team that shows Whitmer's aggressive actions and executive orders issued during the ongoing pandemic have significantly lowered the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the state.

According to Whitmer, new data shows the average Michigander spread the coronavirus to three other people prior to the public health measures. Due to the governor’s orders and the adherence to them, the rate of infection decreased to 0.8 people, meaning the average person with the virus infected less than one person.

Additionally, one map from COVID ActNow shows Michigan is one of three states currently on track to contain COVID-19, as of June 19. 

“Orders are important, but it’s what the people do that makes a difference, and the people here in Michigan have taken this seriously,” Whitmer said.

As the summer persists, many K-12 parents and students are concerned about safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall. Whitmer, however, is hopeful students can return to school given the state’s flattening of the curve. 

“With the entire state of Michigan in Phase 4 of the MI Safe Start Plan, we are optimistic that schools will be able to conduct in-person instruction while also complying with strict safety measures,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer has announced the Return to Learn advisory council, a group of experts created to identify the issues that have to be addressed before students return to schools.

According to the governor, the council is currently working on a back-to-school plan aligned closely with the MI Safe Start Plan.

Michigan’s Return to School Road Map, a document providing information on what will be required and recommended for schools, is expected to be released on June 30.

“The road map will set minimum health and safety requirements, although districts may choose to enact more aggressive ones in consultation with their local, public health officials,” Whitmer said.

Minimum requirements will apply to all K-12 schools. 

As different sectors of the state continue to reengage, Whitmer said she is hopeful the entire state will be able to move to Phase 5 of the MI Safe Start Plan before July 4.

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