Gov. Whitmer addresses masks, unemployment and if another lockdown may happen in Town Hall

Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined FOX 2 for an exclusive Town Hall on COVID-19 Tuesday, hosted by Roop Raj.

The forum was held on Facebook with viewers asking questions about the state's response to the ongoing pandemic. Joining Whitmer was Dr, Joneigh Khaldun, the director for the Department of Health and Human Services and Mark Totten the chief legal counsel for the governor.

Last Friday the Michigan Supreme Court ruled against Whitmer and her emergency powers. The governor spoke about the court's decision.

"I know the actions we have taken here have saved lives, it has put us in a stronger position to reengage our economy," Whitmer said. "The past few days have not been an ideal situation where the supreme court by a party-line vote, weighed in on the emergency powers and undermined them. But we are resolute in that we will continue to keep people in our state safe."

Unemployment

Viewers had numerous questions on unemployment benefits, including whether extra money from one of her previous executive orders the court struck down, will continue to be received. Whitmer called it an important question that she was worried about.

"These executive orders that I have been signing the court said that my interpretation of the law was merited and they supported how I interpreted the law," she said. "What they determined through a lot of mental gymnastics, was that the 1945 legislature did not have the authority to create that law. None of that matters if you are unemployed and worried about putting food on the table. They just know that these orders gave them the support they needed to get through this crisis that was not of their making but which they are paying a huge price for. 

"These orders were to alleviate some of that pressure. We expanded who was eligible and how long they might be eligible. That fell with the supreme court's ruling. Now we have hundreds of thousands of people in our state who are worried. We need the legislature to get back into session, and to enact a law and get it on my desk as quickly as possible." 

Masks

Whitmer spoke about the mask mandate that the dept of health recently issued with an executive order this week - continuing earlier orders she had put out before having that power stripped by the state supreme court.

She says she is disappointed at the politicization of masks, calling it one of the most important things Michiganders can do to protect against the spread of coronavirus.

"Can you imagine if one party said that we are not going to wear seatbelts anymore ... if that became a symbol?" she said. "That would be crazy. We know seatbelts save lives. I think the politicizing of masks hurts us.

"This disease doesn't travel. People travel. By moving around and not washing hands or using masks, that is how Covid spreads. This simple act of covering our face is an act of patriotism, community and to protect our family."

Kids in school

Whitmer spoke about the importance of children being in schools and spoke about how masks must be worn by students among the precautions.

"We believe it is important for our youngest children to learn to wear masks," she said. "(This is why) we wanted to extend our rules to include our youngest learners. Every parent wants our kids back in school and educators want to stay safe as well. Masking up is important to keep our kids in the classroom."

Executive orders

Some viewers asked about past conflicting orders or if she considered the impact shuttering certain businesses would have due to pandemic restrictions. Whitmer said the pandemic has been tough for everyone, most of all for those who have lost loved ones.

"We are all feeling the pressure, the burdens that I am carrying are lighter than many of us," Whitmer said. "We have learned a lot about the virus in just the past six months. We know that masks will keep you safe. We can wear them and save lives. Our numbers were so high early on our health system was in jeopardy of being overrun.

"Every decision has weighed heavily on me. But we are in a stronger situation because we followed the science."

She added that personal responsibility and education are critical. In one instance she said that when a friend asked what to do if people are not wearing masks at her gym, what she should do. Whitmer said, walk out and tell the owner.

"While the Michigan Supreme Court ruling (against me) undermines the orders we put into place, we have to continue to take these actions for every one of our sakes," she said.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Another lockdown?

One of the questions at the top of mind was, with cold weather on the way, could another state lockdown be possible. 

"At this juncture, I would never want to speculate," she said. "We have come a long way in Michigan. We have shown we know how to keep our Covid numbers under control. Nobody wants to get this disease. I don't want to bring this home to a daughter with asthma or a father with COPD. We need to (keep doing what works) like masks and physical distancing. 

"This is the time of year I would be planning a big family get-together for the holidays and we would all be watching football. I am not doing it this year. It stinks, but it is what we have to do to keep everybody safe."

To get more answers from Gov. Whitmer, watch the entire Town Hall above or on the FOX 2 Facebook page HERE.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Dr. Joneigh Khaldoun and state attorney Mark Totten joined FOX 2 for a town hall on the state's response to the coronavirus.