This column originally appeared in The Detroit News.
Don’t look now, but high-profile members of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration are hinting that they’re considering sweeping new restrictions and more unilateral COVID orders here in Michigan. Just don’t expect Whitmer to offer any actual science or data if they come.
Trust is easy to forfeit and tough to regain. That’s a lesson Whitmer seems to be learning the hard way, as voters, parents and families stand up and speak out in greater numbers against onerous and sweeping new mandates that might spill out of the executive office.
A big part of the problem is Whitmer’s unshakeable unwillingness to be transparent with the public about the specific data and metrics behind her decisions. For Whitmer, it seems like it's always been about the polling, the focus groups and her personal schedule.
There remains no more brazen example of Whitmer’s decidedly unscientific approach with COVID orders than her decision to intentionally import COVID-19 patients into the state’s nursing homes.
The experts screamed from the rooftops that seniors and medically fragile residents were the most at-risk of serious complications and death from the coronavirus. There were other options. Whitmer imported patients with the virus anyway and found herself the target of a transparency lawsuit from a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.
We still don’t know the science or the data she used to make the decision to ignore the experts.
Remember early in the pandemic when she issued executive orders making it illegal to purchase vegetable seeds? She forced stores to arbitrarily tape off entire “non-essential” aisles and told people they might get COVID from pumping gas.
At the same time, she refused to shut down Michigan lottery counters at gas stations and convenience stores. What made gardening a high-risk activity, but playing the lotto safe and sound? Whitmer never produced a single shred of evidence.
Michigan families noticed.
She banned small fishing boats, but couldn’t offer a lick of science or data as to why. Then her husband asked to get her boat into the water before others.
Michigan families noticed.
She told people not to go to Florida, then she got caught secretly taking a private plane to Florida. She refused at first to talk about the trip, finally admitted it, then changed her story about how she traveled and who paid for it.
Whitmer told people it was too dangerous to dine out together in groups of more than six. Then she was caught partying with roughly a dozen. She couldn’t provide the science or the data or the studies or the metrics that proved eating a meal with close friends is more dangerous when the tables are pushed together than when they’re separated by three feet.
The state’s chief medical officer told the press that she’s pushing the governor and Hertel to mandate masks for students, despite evidence that the virus poses almost no risk at all to those children.
The last few months have made it clearer than ever that only one kind of science guides this governor’s decisions — the political kind. Michigan families get it now, and they’re speaking out.
They’re telling anyone who’ll listen: No new restrictions.
Tori Sachs is executive director of the Michigan Freedom Fund.