State health dept. issues new orders following Whitmer's revoked powers

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. -- The Michigan Supreme Court’s decision to revoke Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s use of certain emergency powers throughout the pandemic has caused confusion for residents on what rules still stand.

Back in March, Gov. Whitmer used executive authority to issue a state of emergency for Michigan and as the basis for her nearly 150 executive orders.

Republican legislators then sued and the Court found their argument to be valid Friday, ruling the Governor’s use of those powers unconstitutional.

Gov. Whitmer responded to the news via video Monday.

“As a result of the Court and the legislature’s action, our COVID-19 cases will very likely go up. There will be uncertainty, disruption, and possibly greater risk to our economy, more people quarantined, and more deaths,” said Gov. Whitmer.

The Court throwing out the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act as it grants powers meant for the legislature to the executive branch. Additionally, according to a 1976 law, Gov. Whitmer did not have authority to issue a state of emergency past 28 days without legislative approval, which she did after her first order expired April 30.

But, a new order now issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says the requirements for masks, social distancing and capacity limits - plus the criminal penalties - still stand.

“While they are emergency orders under a state department, they still have the same weight and same legal ramifications that the executive orders issued by the Governor do,” said Gillian Conrad, Communications Manager at the Berrien County Health Department.

As for other protocols required under the Governor’s previous orders, the Court’s ruling leaves some of them now up for debate.

“The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services emergency orders do not have as robust instructions for what businesses or workplaces need to do for all circumstances; what is clear is businesses must be requiring masks for patrons and customers, as well as staff who are inside their premises,” said Conrad.

Gov. Whitmer has asked the Court to set a date for when their ruling becomes effective.

As for the Department of Health and Human Service’s order, it lasts until Oct. 30.

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