Michigan needs ‘an element of herd immunity’ to recover from coronavirus, Senate leader says – MLive.com
Michigan’s top Senate Republican lawmaker says he is in favor of rolling back many of the measures put in place by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration to limit COVID-19 spread and believes “an element of herd immunity” needs to happen in the state.
In comments to MLive following a rally protesting strict COVID-19 restrictions, Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, said he feels Michigan residents understand that COVID-19 is real, contagious and requires precautions.
“I just simply don’t believe we need to continue to have the oppressive mandates that we’ve had,” he said. “There’s no business that I know of that will put their customers, their employees, their patrons, their families at risk.”
Shirkey – who is also not in favor of mask-wearing requirements – said he thinks the state has significantly delayed the spread of COVID-19 and can begin putting trust back into residents to keep themselves and their workplaces safe.
“Nobody should be misled here or of the opinion that you can keep it from spreading – it’s going to spread, so we just do the best we can,” he continued. “I’m also a big believer that there’s an element of herd immunity that needs to take place.”
Such an approach would be a departure from the state health department’s current guidance.
Herd immunity is the threshold in which enough members of a community have gained enough immunity to a virus that it can no longer spread and the chain of transmission is broken. Health experts say the process must be done slowly to prevent overwhelming local health systems and avoid preventable deaths.
The process, like with other viral infections before COVID-19, would benefit significantly from the discovery of a vaccine. For the community to reach herd immunity for coronavirus, infectious disease experts estimate that 60-80% of the population would need to gain immunity against the virus, either through infection of vaccination.
Last month, MDHHS spokesperson Lynn Sutfin told MLive the department favors reaching higher immunity levels through widespread vaccination as opposed to letting COVID-19 run through the population and is urging Michigan residents to minimize transition until a vaccine is universally available.
“Since we do not know whether immunity is long-lasting, nor do we know the long-term effects of COVID-19, Michigan does not support allowing 80% of Michiganders being infected with this novel virus,” Sutfin said at the time.
Prior to last week, Michigan’s COVID-19 pandemic response was largely in the hands of the Whitmer administration under a state of emergency declaration. But a recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling found Whitmer did not have the authority to continue the COVID-19 state of emergency past April 30, when the legislature let their approval lapse over frustrations with the state’s stay-at-home order.
That put dozens of pandemic-related executive orders in legal limbo.
On Monday, the state Department of Health and Human Services issued an emergency public health order that requires mask-wearing and limits the number of people allowed at public gatherings, mirroring many of the governor’s previous emergency orders. In a call with reporters, MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said the department aims “to preserve the status quo pending further review.”
Both Shirkey and House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Clark Lake, expressed disapproval with the department’s decision. Shirkey called it an effort by the Whitmer administration “to attempt an end-run around the Supreme Court.”
The Senate kickstarted the process of codifying some of the governor’s COVID-19 orders this week, including legislation putting temporary pandemic measures in place for Michigan unemployment system through Dec. 31, a bill giving local governments more leeway to meet virtually and another bill codifying nursing home regulations. The House is slated to take up those measures next week.
- ^ Herd immunity without a coronavirus vaccine would ‘do a lot of collateral damage’ (www.mlive.com)
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- ^ public health order (www.michigan.gov)
- ^ Without executive orders, some Michigan businesses celebrate, experts urge caution (www.mlive.com)
- ^ Could losing Michigan’s state of emergency status impact coronavirus response? Officials aren’t sure (www.mlive.com)
- ^ Read the full order that DHHS is using to replace 40+ Whitmer rules (www.mlive.com)
- ^ Lawmakers now have more say in Michigan’s coronavirus response. Can they find common ground with Whitmer? (www.mlive.com)
- ^ Michigan unemployment pitfalls following Supreme Court ruling could be fixed with Senate bill (www.mlive.com)