CDC Reverses Course on Indoor Masks in Some Parts of US

The Detroit News
July 27, 2021
Mike Stobbe, Associated Press

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed course Tuesday on some masking guidelines, recommending that even vaccinated people return to wearing masks indoors in parts of the U.S. where the delta variant of the coronavirus is fueling infection surges.

Citing new information about the variant’s ability to spread among vaccinated people, the CDC also recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors at schools nationwide, regardless of vaccination status.

MORECDC change on masks brings U.S. back in line with WHO and foreign governments

In other developments, President Joe Biden said his administration was considering requiring all federal workers to get vaccinated. His comments came a day after the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agency to require its health care workers receive the vaccine.

Biden dismissed concerns that the new masking guidance from the CDC could invite confusion, saying Americans who remain unvaccinated are the ones who are “sowing enormous confusion.”

“The more we learn about this virus and the delta variation, the more we have to be worried and concerned. And there’s only one thing we know for sure – if those other 100 million people got vaccinated, we’d be in a very different world,” he said.

The White House quickly pivoted on its own masking guidance, asking all staff and reporters to wear masks indoors because the latest CDC data show that Washington faces a substantial level of coronavirus transmission.

In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday it’s a good idea to mask up indoors, but she has no intention to bring back the mask mandates imposed earlier in the pandemic.

“I am going to be very thoughtful of how I utilize the mask. It still remains a very good tool to keep people safe, (but) not everyone can get vaccinated,” Gov. Whitmer said at a Tuesday press conference in Detroit. “So wearing a mask is an act of care for others who can’t get vaccinated.

“I do not anticipate another pandemic order not in the near future and maybe not ever,” Gov. Whitmer added. “The fact of the matter is we now know a lot more about this virus. We have vaccines.”

About 53.8% of Michigan’s adults 16 years and older are fully vaccinated, according to the state health department’s website.

The Governor required masks under a 1945 emergency powers law that was later ruled unconstitutional and has since been eliminated under a petition initiative approved by the Michigan Legislature. But the state health department has the ability to require masks wearing under epidemic orders.

Michigan’s Chief Medical Executive Joneigh Khaldun backed the CDC’s measure without indicating if the state would follow suit.

“I am supportive of today’s @CDCgov guidance,” Khaldun tweeted Tuesday. “Universal masking in schools and masks indoors in public spaces even if vaccinated when transmission is high is what we need to do right now to get ahead of this Delta variant. And please, most importantly, #GetVaccinated ASAP.”

Michigan State University Epidemiology Professor Dr. Nigel Paneth said there is a small subset of people who are vaccinated who may not have sufficient antibodies to ward off COVID-19 infection. Given the current increase in cases, it’s wise to resume wearing masks indoors, he said.

“I’ve started wearing a mask too, when I go into a store or a market,” Paneth said. “There are still people getting infected, and there are still people dying.”

The CDC’s new mask policy follows recent decisions in Los Angeles and St. Louis to revert to indoor mask mandates amid a spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations that have been especially bad in the South. The nation is averaging more than 57,000 cases a day and 24,000 COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The guidance on masks in indoor public places applies in parts of the U.S. with at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the last week. That includes 60% of U.S. counties, officials said.

Most new infections in the U.S. continue to be among unvaccinated people. So-called breakthrough infections, which generally cause milder illness, can occur in vaccinated people. When earlier strains of the virus predominated, infected vaccinated people were found to have low levels of virus and were deemed unlikely to spread the virus much, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said.

But with the delta variant, the level of virus in infected vaccinated people is “indistinguishable” from the level of virus in the noses and throats of unvaccinated people, Walensky said.

The data emerged over the last couple of days from over 100 samples from several states and one other country. It is unpublished, and the CDC has not released it. But “it is concerning enough that we feel like we have to act,” Walensky said.

Vaccinated people “have the potential to spread that virus to others,” she said.

For much of the pandemic, the CDC advised Americans to wear masks outdoors if they were within six feet of one another.

Then in April, as vaccination rates rose sharply, the agency eased its guidelines on the wearing of masks outdoors, saying that fully vaccinated Americans no longer needed to cover their faces unless they were in a big crowd of strangers. In May, the guidance was eased further for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.

The guidance still called for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings, like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons, and homeless shelters, but it cleared the way for reopening workplaces and other venues.

Subsequent CDC guidance said fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear masks at schools either.

For months COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations were falling steadily, but those trends began to change at the beginning of the summer as the delta variant, a mutated and more transmissible version of the virus, began to spread widely, especially in areas with lower vaccination rates.

Some public health experts said they thought the earlier CDC decision was based on good science. But those experts were also critical, noting that there was no call for Americans to document their vaccination status, which created an honor system. Unvaccinated people who did not want to wear masks in the first place saw it as an opportunity to do what they wanted, they said.

“If all the unvaccinated people were responsible and wore masks indoors, we would not be seeing this surge,” said Dr. Ali Khan, a former CDC disease investigator who now is dean of the University of Nebraska’s College of Public Health.

Lawrence Gostin, a public health law professor at Georgetown University, drew a similar conclusion.

“It was completely foreseeable that when they (the CDC) made their announcement, masking would no longer be the norm, and that’s exactly what’s happened,” Gostin said.

The CDC may be seen as “flip-flopping,” he said, because there’s been no widely recognized change in the science, he said. Furthermore, it’s not likely to change the behavior of the people who most need to wear masks.

“I don’t think you can effectively walk that back,” he said.

The changes were sure to renew mask debates in school districts across the country.

In South Florida, the Broward County school board postponed a meeting Tuesday about whether students should wear masks in the classroom this fall after about 20 anti-mask protestors refused to don them.

The delay angered the protestors, who called on Gov. Ron DeSantis, a strong mask mandate opponent, and the state government to override any mandates imposed by school districts.

“We need a special session of the state Legislature to ban this kind of crap right now,” said Chris Nelson, 38, founder of an anti-mask group called Reopen South Florida. He threatened to go to board members’ homes to confront them directly.

“If we can’t be heard in public areas, and peacefully, we will go to where they are, and we will let them know how we feel about this, because we will not stand for children being masked for another year,” he said.

Walensky said she is aware of the criticisms and concerns, and she acknowledged that many Americans are weary of the pandemic and do not want to return to prevention measures. But she said new scientific information forced the decision to change the guidance again.

“This is not something that I took lightly,” she said.

Ken Thigpen, a retired respiratory therapist who now works for a medical device manufacturer, is fully vaccinated and stopped wearing his mask in public after the CDC changed its guidance in May. But he started to reconsider in the last week after his job took him to hospitals in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida, where he witnessed medical centers getting inundated with COVID-19 patients.

“That delta variant is intense. It is so transmissible that we have to do something to tamp it down,” he said.

“I loved it when I could call the hospitals and they said, ‘We actually closed our COVID ward today or we are down to two COVID patients,’” he recalled. “And now we are opening the wards back up, and the numbers are going nuts.”

View the original article.

Detroit Regional Chamber Political Action Committee Announces Endorsements for Detroit City Council Primaries

DETROIT (July 28, 2021) – The Detroit Regional Chamber Political Action Committee (PAC) today announced its endorsement of Detroit City Council candidates in advance of the Aug. 3 primary elections.

“Collaborative and thoughtful leadership on the City Council that works closely with Mayor Duggan will be critical in addressing the challenges that Detroit faces,” said Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber. “In a crowded primary field, the Chamber PAC believes that these candidates embody the energetic and pragmatic approach to governance necessary to position the city for sustainable and equitable economic growth.”

The endorsed City Council candidates are:

At Large
Councilmember Janeé Ayers
Coleman Young II
District 1
Councilmember James Tate
District 2
Councilmember Roy McCalister Jr.
District 3
Councilmember Scott Benson
District 4
Toson Knight
District 5
Council President Pro Tem
Mary Sheffield
District 6
Hector Santiago
District 7
Frederick Durhal III

The Chamber PAC Board of Directors regularly meets to identify and support pro-business candidates and policies that support the Chamber’s public policy priorities. After careful consideration, the Board made the endorsements based on responses to a Chamber PAC survey, input from PAC members and individual interactions. The Chamber PAC Board is comprised of business leaders representing bipartisan views and reflecting diversity in industry, business size, and location. The Chamber PAC historically makes bipartisan endorsements based on alignment with the Chamber’s legislative policy priorities.

About the Detroit Regional Chamber
Serving the business community for more than 100 years, the Detroit Regional Chamber is one of the oldest, largest, and most respected chambers of commerce in the country. As the voice for business in the 11-county Southeast Michigan region, the Chamber’s mission is carried out by creating a business-friendly climate and providing value for members. The Chamber also executes the statewide automotive and mobility cluster association, MICHauto, and hosts the nationally recognized Mackinac Policy Conference. Additionally, the Chamber leads the most comprehensive education and talent strategy in the state.

UHY hosts American Junior Golf Association tournament at Forest Lake Country Club

UHY LLP Certified Public Accountants is proud to partner with the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) to host the UHY Detroit Junior at Forest Lake August 3-5.

Headlining this year’s boys’ field is PJ Maybank, a rising high school junior from Cheboygan, Michigan. Maybank recently won the AJGA Coca Cola Junior Championship at Boyne Highlands shooting 4-under par over three rounds. Maybank, currently ranked 156 in the country on the Junior Golf Scoreboard, is also the 2020 Michigan Junior State Amateur champion and a past winner of the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship at Augusta National. Other top-ranked boys competing include Sam Dossey from Austin Texas, Jason Gordon from Northbrook, Illinois, and Andrew Petruzzelli from Dallas, Texas.

Leading the girls’ field is Jacqueline Nguyen from Houston, Texas, who is currently ranked 101 in the country on the Junior Golf Scoreboard. Nguyen, who will start her collegiate golf career at Houston Baptist this fall, is a past champion of the AJGA Junior at Kingwood. Other top-ranked girls competing include China’s Flora Zhang, Erica Lee from Arcadia, California who was recently runner-up at the AJGA Thunderbird Junior All Star, and Lauren Sung from Palo Alto, California.

Local boys competing include Villanova commit Vimal Alokam from Ypsilanti, Drexel commit Brockton English from Shelby Township and Grand Valley State commit Braden Falk from Portage. Local girls competing are led by Kate Brody from Grand Blanc, Allison Cui from Okemos, and Bridget Boczar from Canton.

Juniors earning spots in the field as a result of top finishes at the UHY Prep Series – Detroit held in April at Oakland University’s Katke-Cousins course include Sam Havey from Mason, Drew Wallace from Crestwood, Kentucky, Adie Maki from Canton, and Megha Vallabhaneni from Northville.

“Detroit recently hosted the Rocket Mortgage Classic and now we are hosting aspiring professional golfers,” said Tom Callan, regional managing partner of UHY in the Great Lakes. “The AJGA partnership has been great in that it serves to grow the game of golf and grow the talent pool of young accountants through our internship at the AJGA.”

The UHY Detroit Junior will feature 78 of the country’s best juniors from 12 states stretching from California to Florida in addition to international players from China, Taiwan and Thailand.

The AJGA has been conducting tournaments for more than 40 years to aid the growth and development of young men and women who aspire to earn college golf scholarships through competitive junior golf. To learn more about AJGA, visit

Joint Statement from Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce (WERCC), Detroit Regional Chamber (DRC), and Canada-U.S. Business Association (CUSBA)

DETROIT (July 26, 2021) – Detroit Regional Chamber President and Chief Executive Officer Sandy K. Baruah joined Rakesh Naidu, president and chief executive officer of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Mark High president of the Canada-United States Business Association, in a joint statement urging the United States government to reopen the border to Canadian residents safely.

It has been a challenging 16 months since the U.S.-Canada border was closed to non-essential travel, creating uncertainty and frustration on both sides. Travel restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the virus are estimated to have cost Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) $27.9 billion to $37.1 billion and the loss of 400,000 to 500,000 jobs in 2020¹. The U.S. Travel Association estimates that each month the border is closed costs the U.S. economy $1.5 billion in potential travel exports. While more work on vaccination rates is needed and diligence is still necessary, our organizations representing business interests on both sides of the U.S.-Canada border are united in calling for business, social, and family-related travel to resume between our nations with appropriate safeguards in place.

The announcement earlier this week that the Canadian border would re-open for fully vaccinated American citizens and permanent residents starting on August 9 is welcomed by businesses and individuals on both sides of the border. Prior to the pandemic and border closure, annual U.S. travel spending by Canadians averaged over $16 billion². In 2019, Canadian residents made more than 20 million trips to the U.S., but Statistics Canada reports that in 2020 travel plummeted to 4.2 million trips³. Allowing for safe travel across the U.S.-Canada border will accelerate the economic recovery in both nations.

The Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Detroit Regional Chamber, and the Canada-US Business Association call on the United States government to reciprocate the actions of the Canadian government and ease border restrictions. Our respective nations’ social and business fabric are inextricably intertwined – especially in the automotive, mobility, technology and health care sectors. Safely easing border restrictions will aid North American competitiveness in the global marketplace as well as the economic well-being of individuals and businesses in both Canada and the United States.

Rakesh Naidu
President and Chief Executive Officer, Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce
Sandy K. Baruah
President and Chief Executive Officer, Detroit Regional Chamber
Mark High
President, Canada-United States Business Association
1. Statistics Canada. The Economic Impact of Travel restrictions on the Canadian Economy due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Liu, 2020
2. US Travel Association, National Association of realtors and US Homeland Security, 2021
3. Statistics Canada. Table 24-10-0045-01 Travel by Canadian residents in Canada and abroad by trip purpose (x 1,000)


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The Child Tax Credit Could Help Small Businesses Throughout Metro Detroit

July 22, 2021
WXYZ Detroit
View original article.

It’s been one week since families started receiving the first advance payment of the child tax credit. That money will help families make ends meet and help parents care for their children.

That money will have a much bigger impact. There are more than 2 million children in Michigan, and the monthly credit will mean hundreds of millions of dollars pouring into the state’s economy.

When those families spend the money, the positive impacts will ripple through the economy and even help Michiganders without kids.

Cheikh Diop is the owner of African Nubian Hair Braiding on Detroit’s Avenue of Fashion. He said business is picking up with back-to-school right around the corner, and parents having extra cash from the child tax credit could mean big business for small businesses like his.

“The child tax credit is a good impact because right now, I got a lot of people bringing children to come in to get their hair braided,” Diop said.

Dr. Eric Scorsone, a professor of economics at Michigan State University, said when families spend the money, the gains ripple through and benefit businesses of all sizes.

“It’s certainly a benefit for businesses who can keep, you know, either keep hiring people or retaining people,” he said.

For people without children asking how this benefits them, Scorsone says a stronger, more stable economy will improve their prospects too.

“Some of them work probably for employers that were pretty hard hit during the pandemic. So if they can count on better demand for their products and services, then they’re going to hopefully be more stable,” he said.

Which businesses will see the biggest gains? Sandy Baruah, the president & CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said businesses like grocery stores and retail will have huge gains.

“Any dollar that you give a working mom, she’s going to spend it on something for her kids,” he said. “Especially when you think about like back to school retail.”

Some of the money from Michigan families will leave the state when it’s spent at big retailers like Walmart, Target or Amazon.

But out-of-state money will flow into Michigan when the credit helps American families buy a new car, buy appliances or a vacation to taste Pure Michigan.

Scorsone says the implications for the state’s economy could go well beyond this year. Lower-income families can use monthly credit to stabilize their housing. That could mean no longer moving around and disrupting school.

“These kids do suffer when they have to move so much and they’re not only socially, but just educationally So I think there’s a real benefit,” he said.

For Diop, business is rebounding, and he hopes to credit will be extended – for families in the community and for businesses like his own.

Some families will save the tax credit to pay off debt or build up savings. That’s a real benefit too, since those families will be more resilient the next time the economy takes a downturn.

The expanded child tax credit was for this year only as part of the American Rescue Plan. Congress must act to make the expanded child tax credit permanent.

There are calls for that to happen in Washington but with the push for the Infrastructure Bill, the focus on Voting Rights and the 2022 campaign season picking up, Congress may not have room on their agenda

View original article.


July 23 | This Week in Government: 1945 Emergency Law Repealed In 2022 With House Action, Feds Decline To Investigate State On Nursing Homes

Each week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Government Relations team, in partnership with Gongwer, will provide members with a collection of timely updates from both local and state governments. Stay in the know on the latest legislation, policy priorities, and more.

  1. Discussion Of UI Deal Falters As Whitmer Vetoes Moot Bill
  2. 1945 Emergency Law Officially Repealed In 2022 With House Action
  3. Feds Decline To Investigate State On Nursing Homes
  4. State: ELCRA Initiative Still Lacks Signatures; Campaign Disagrees
  5. Alternatives To MI Shot Sweepstakes Being Eyed To Increase Vax Uptake

Discussion Of UI Deal Falters As Whitmer Vetoes Moot Bill

Supplemental federal unemployment benefits to aid people unemployed during the COVID-19 pandemic will keep coming to Michiganders after Governor Gretchen Whitmer vetoed a somewhat toothless bill Tuesday that would have opted the state out of the program’s $300 weekly benefit for those who lost their job during the pandemic.

In a letter sent to the House, Ms. Whitmer explained that the federal compensation is scheduled to end September 4 and to enact HB 4434 would “violate federal law by ending payment of these enhanced UI benefits without the required 30 days’ notice.”

About 25 states have already set early termination dates to the extended federal unemployment benefits, per the House Fiscal Agency.

“In addition, the bill lacks immediate effect and would therefore not even take effect until 2022, by which time it will be moot,” Ms. Whitmer wrote. “For those reasons, I am vetoing it. Moreover, ending these enhanced UI benefits on July 31, as proposed by HB 4434, would drain $1.5 billion from our economy – money that will instead flow into our local economies and support small businesses.”

Initially, there were conversations regarding Ms. Whitmer agreeing to an end to the federal unemployment in exchange for raising the state’s weekly unemployment and child unemployment benefit. Under these discussions, the weekly unemployment rate would have been raised to $422 – bringing it more in line with other state unemployment payments in the Midwest – and the unemployment bonus for children would have gone up from $6 to $20.

In exchange, a deposit of $425 million would be made into the Michigan’s UI Trust Fund.

Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth) said that a good faith negotiation between the Legislature, governor and various chambers of commerce did occur, but that “time and tools” were the major issues. Due to the bill being transmitted to the governor, there was not a vehicle for these unemployment agreements to be placed into and there was not enough time to draw up a bill to run through committee before the end of session in June.

Because of this, talks didn’t fall apart so much as hit the buzzer. Mr. Horn said he anticipates these conversations to resume, but that due to the governor choosing to veto an end to the $300 extended benefit means “the price tag just went up on that deposit” into the Trust Fund.

“Just me … without (an end to) the $300, my number is $1 billion. The trust fund should be sitting at $2.5 billion,” Mr. Horn told Gongwer News Service. “Businesses didn’t shut themselves down and people didn’t lay themselves off; this is the governor’s response from COVID. We need a significant deposit into the trust fund and then we will start talking about the weekly and child unemployment benefits. This will be win-win-win for the state, employers and employees.”

He added that the governor still has the power to end the $300 benefits as a “sign of good faith, an olive branch” but until then it will fall back on businesses to bear the brunt of side-effects from not ending extended federal unemployment payments.

“Had we begun this conversation earlier and worked through this process better … I think we could have solved this problem, but we came up short this time,” said Brad Williams, vice president of government relations with the Detroit Regional Chamber, who was part of negotiations.

Ms. Whitmer’s veto letter does mention shoring up the state’s weekly unemployment payments, making them “comparable to that of our neighbors” but does not list the amount she wants. She only noted that once the federal benefits end in September, Michigan’s unemployment benefits will revert to a maximum of $362 a week, or less than $19,000 a year – far below the federal poverty level for a family of four. That figure has not changed in almost 20 years.

“Across the entire country, employers are struggling to find workers to meet their needs. With our economy growing quickly, many workers are leaving for higher-paying jobs, leaving staffing challenges in their wake,” she wrote. “And many workers who could have filled those open positions have understandable reservations – about leaving their kids without adequate care during a nationwide childcare shortage, and about the risk of working in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Following the announcement of her veto, conservatives immediately issued statements of criticism, which painted the move as an assault on small businesses specifically.

“After unilaterally shuttering Michigan’s economy over the past year and destroying the livelihoods of countless small business owners and entrepreneurs, Governor Whitmer continues to kick them while they’re down,” MIGOP Chairman Ron Weiser said in a statement. “Paying people to stay home and not work while running around the state touting her commitment to small businesses is the height of hypocrisy.”

Likewise, Michigan Freedom Fund Executive Director Tori Sachs characterized the veto as an assault on small businesses, saying in a statement Michigan was “never going to help struggling local businesses until we stop spending extra tax dollars to keep people out of the workforce.”

However, had Ms. Whitmer signed the bill, it would not have taken effect until March 2022 because Senate Democrats denied the bill immediate effect. With the program scheduled to end in September, that means Ms. Whitmer’s signing decision was more about sending a message than policy impact.

1945 Emergency Law Officially Repealed In 2022 With House Action

After months of legal challenges and stalled votes to certify, the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945 will be repealed effective in 2022 with the passage of the Unlock Michigan initiated law brought before the Legislature after the group collected more than 400,000 signatures.

IL 1 passed 60-48. It will take effect 91 days after the Legislature adjourns for the year in December.

Democrats on the House floor mostly opposed the measure, saying it should go to the ballot for a vote rather than being enacted by the Legislature. Under the Constitution, while the process Unlock Michigan used could have put the proposal before voters in 2022, it also allows the Legislature to pass with a simple majority vote and bypass a governor’s veto pen.

Four Democrats joined all Republicans in voting yes: Rep. Sara Cambensy of Marquette, Rep. Tim Sneller of Burton, Rep. Richard Steenland of Roseville and Rep. Karen Whitsett of Detroit.

The 1945 law is the one used by Governor Gretchen Whitmer from May through early October 2020 to keep the state under an emergency declaration due to the coronavirus pandemic. It allowed her to suspend laws and issue various orders related to the virus and associated restrictions.

In October 2020, the Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional, so it has been unusable for the administration. Still, supporters and Republicans have pushed for the law to be repealed outright.

A majority of the court said the 1945 law was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative powers to the executive.

Ms. Cambensy said she has previously voted no on similar repeals of the law because she thinks there should be a replacement that provides more clarity on how the Legislature and Executive Office should work during a pandemic.

On Wednesday’s vote, Ms. Cambensy said the Supreme Court’s ruling should be respected.

“Some members in this chamber may already think we have a law that clearly defines the emergency powers we have in our state,” she said. “(But) it would behoove us to go back and talk about our differences during this pandemic and make sure we have a law that avoids vagueness and misinterpretation.”

Republicans blasted Ms. Whitmer’s use of the law before the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional and said the people had spoken through signing the Unlock Michigan petition and putting it before the Legislature.

However, the roughly 460,000 signatures submitted by the group that were deemed valid represent a fraction of the 8 million registered voters in the state.

“Michigan families faced incredible hardship during this pandemic, and far too much of it came from their own government leaders. Hundreds of thousands of our families, friends and neighbors changed Michigan forever when they decided they had enough and stood up to make a difference,” House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Farwell) said in a statement. “They took strong action to protect their families, their children’s education and their ability to make ends meet, and we can never thank them enough. They deserve a state government that is willing to do the same. They’ve earned that much. That’s why we had their back today and put this petition into law.”

House Minority Leader Donna Lasinski (D-Scio Township) called the vote on the House floor Wednesday “political theater.”

“Let’s be very frank, there was no conditions put on legislative power by the governor in this chamber. The governor never once vetoed any bill that was put on her desk as a solution or a way to help Michiganders through the pandemic that came out of the House. The reason she never vetoed anything is because nothing was ever put on her desk,” Ms. Lasinski said. “The only thing that was ever put on the governor’s desk that was brought up for a vote in this chamber, were items that limited the governor’s power to address the pandemic.”

She also said her members who voted yes on the bill were representing their constituents, and the Democratic Caucus includes a variety of opinions.

Fred Wszolek, spokesperson for Unlock Michigan, praised the action from the Legislature. The Senate passed the initiative last week.

“Our Unlock Michigan citizen army collected over 540,000 signatures in just 80 days. Now, 292 days later, we’ll complete our mission with a final vote in the Legislature to end Governor Whitmer’s rule by decree,” he said.

Unlock Michigan plans to pursue a second initiative petition to place a 28-day limit on public health orders issued by the state and local governments. That is how Ms. Whitmer issued pandemic orders following the Supreme Court ruling. Under the new initiative petition, only with the agreement of the Legislature could an order from the Department of Health and Human Services go beyond 28 days. Approval of local governing boards also would be required to extend orders from local health officers beyond 28 days.

Keep Michigan Safe, the group formed to oppose Unlock Michigan, said the Legislature has repealed an important tool for officials dealing with health emergencies.

“From day one, Unlock Michigan has been a brazen political power grab designed to hamper the abilities of those in government to act quickly and decisively during public health emergencies,” Mark Fisk, the group’s spokesperson, said in a statement. “Today, House Republicans voted to eradicate an important tool for elected leaders trying to save lives and stop the spread of deadly, infectious diseases like COVID-19, Legionnaires’, tuberculosis and anthrax.”

The National Federation Of Independent Business also praised the passage, saying it supports checks and balances between the Legislature and the executive.

“No governor, regardless of party affiliation, should have the unchecked and absolute authority to shut down entire sectors of the economy and state without oversight by the duly elected members of the state Legislature,” NFIB Michigan State Director Charlie Owens said in a statement. “This should be a non-partisan issue and we are disappointed that only a few Democrats in the House voted to assert their rights as lawmakers to provide a check and balance to the executive branch.”

Feds Decline To Investigate State On Nursing Homes

The U.S. Department of Justice has determined it will not open a civil rights investigation into any public nursing facility within Michigan.

Eleven months ago, the department – then under the direction of former President Donald Trump’s attorney general, Bill Barr – sent a letter to Governor Gretchen Whitmer requesting a considerable amount of state data related to its handling of COVID-19 in nursing facilities (See Gongwer Michigan Report, August 26, 2020). A similar letter went out to the governors of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

At the time, the governors receiving the letter – all Democrats – slammed the request as political.

In a letter to Ms. Whitmer’s chief legal counsel, Mark Totten, Steven Rosenbaum, chief of the Justice Department’s special litigation section, said after reviewing the information provided, “we have decided not to open a CRIPA investigation of any public nursing facility within Michigan at this time.”

CRIPA is the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.

The Justice Department is now under the authority of an appointee of President Joe Biden. Mr. Rosenbaum, however, is a career employee of the Justice Department.

And the change in administrations did not stop the Justice Department from opening an investigation in February into the administration of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s handing of COVID-19 and nursing homes in that state.

Republicans have attacked Ms. Whitmer on COVID-19 in nursing homes, citing a short-lived executive order she issued early in the pandemic requiring COVID-19 positive patients not requiring hospitalization to be housed in sectioned off areas of nursing homes if it could be done so safely. Ms. Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services have said repeatedly the order was never implemented as written and quickly changed.

There is no data to suggest that Michigan saw more nursing home patients contract COVID-19 than other states without similar policies though that data is now the subject of a study by the Office of the Auditor General.

The Michigan Republican Party, in a tweet, attributed the decision to the “Biden DOJ” helping out their political ally Ms. Whitmer. However, again, the Department of Justice – weeks after Mr. Biden took office – decided there were grounds to investigate the Cuomo administration in New York. There has been some evidence that New York state deliberately manipulated its COVID-19 statistics to soften them but no such evidence in Michigan, and Thursday’s decision will only put greater distance between attempts to liken Michigan to New York.

Whitmer Press Secretary Bobby Leddy called on Republicans to stop the baseless attacks against the administration on nursing homes.

“Throughout the pandemic, our administration took swift action, following the best data and science from the CDC, to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect Michiganders, including vulnerable residents in long-term-care facilities,” he said. “I want to be clear: at no point were nursing homes ever forced to take COVID-positive patients. Instead, we made the smart decision to require that residents who contracted this deadly disease be kept as far away from others as possible to prevent more people from getting sick. It’s deeply disturbing that Republicans sought to politicize the worst public health crisis in 100 years, especially when their own proposals would have contributed to even greater spread and loss of life – and, at every step of the way, they opposed the very actions the governor took that saved thousands of lives. With both the United States Department of Justice and Michigan attorney general rejecting these baseless attacks, it’s time to end the political games and work together to get things done for Michiganders.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel earlier this year declined to open a state investigation, saying nothing had been brought forward to suggest state law had been violated.

State: ELCRA Initiative Still Lacks Signatures; Campaign Disagrees

A petition initiative looking to add protections for LGBT Michiganders to the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act does not have the necessary signatures for certification after a second combing of documents submitted, the Bureau of Elections announced in a staff report late Wednesday.

Fair and Equal Michigan, sponsors of the initiative, are adamant that the bureau’s review of its signatures remains deeply flawed.

Previously, the bureau recommended the Board of State Canvassers not certify the petition on the grounds of it containing insufficient signatures. The board, however, pushed the decision back following its July 13 meeting after determining that enough last minute submission of materials had occurred that they wanted to assess everything prior to deciding (See Gongwer Michigan Report, July 13, 2021).

The latest staff report indicates the petition contains fewer valid signatures than the initial random, writing that of the sample taken only 297 valid signatures existed in that universe of 502 sampled signatures. Anything less than 369 signatures was grounds for denial of certification.

In the earlier staff report, that sample universe noted 337 valid signatures – still not enough to certify (See Gongwer Michigan Report, July 8, 2021).

“Based on the result of the random sample, the petition is projected to contain an estimated 263,460 valid signatures (at a confidence level of 100 percent), 76,587 signatures fewer than the minimum number required by Article II, Section 9 of the Michigan Constitution (340,047),” the report says. “The random sample result also indicates that the petition sponsor is 73 sampled signatures short of the minimum number required to draw a second sample.”

This time around, the bureau indicated there to be a 59.2 percent validity rate in the petition and lowered their projected number of valid signatures submitted in the entire filing to 263,460 signatures, down from the initially cited 298,943 signatures.

As a result, it readjusted its projected signature deficit from 41,104 to 76,587 signatures.

The Fair and Equal Michigan campaign has pushed back on the original staff report from the bureau and continues to do so. It also believes the state should accept the electronic signatures it has collected.

“Fair and Equal Michigan is confident in its analysis that the Bureau of Elections staff report is extremely flawed,” Josh Hovey, the campaign’s spokesperson, said in a statement Wednesday. “The documentation our campaign filed to the Board of Canvassers makes clear that we have more than enough signatures for our campaign to move forward and finally secure equal rights for LGBTQ people in this state.”

The group, the staff report says, tried to rehabilitate 184 sampled signatures. Staff rejected 139, 38 overlapped determinations from staff and seven were rehabilitated.

In the staff report, it does not address the electronic signature issue other than to say staff did not include them in the sample and compared signatures on petitions to signatures on the Qualified Voter File.

Fair and Equal Michigan, in a letter to the Board of State Canvassers, sought to rehabilitate 53 signatures of 97 deemed invalid due to the signer’s registration status. The bureau in its staff report said six of those were successfully rehabilitated.

In the letter, the group also pushes back on the bureau’s assertions of date errors and errors on the location of voter registration.

In total, the group says the bureau improperly invalidated 97 signatures in the sample. The 97 signatures would bring the total valid in the sample to 394 based on the second staff report, which would prompt the pulling of a second sample.

However, the first sample found 337 valid signatures and the 97 additional signatures would mean the effort did collect a sufficient number.

The number of valid signatures within the sample was reduced after challenges to the signatures deemed valid originally were confirmed to be duplicates, the report says.

The total filing by Fair and Equal Michigan, the group heading the ballot initiative, was 86,608 sheets containing 468,830 signatures. The state is excluding 19,697 sheets containing 23,520 signatures.

The Board of State Canvassers is scheduled to meet Monday, July 26, to vote on the petition.

Alternatives To MI Shot Sweepstakes Being Eyed To Increase Vax Uptake

Michigan is “evaluating ideas for what we can do to increase vaccination rates” every day, Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II said Wednesday, and the MI Shot to Win sweepstakes may not be the last effort by the state to incentivize individuals to get inoculated against COVID-19.

While he didn’t go into specifics of what those programs could look like, Mr. Gilchrist did say that the ideas would come from discussions during the last year through coalitions like the Racial Disparities Taskforce and could target younger individuals and people of color.

“We also are going to continue to work with key voices across communities to engage them on their ideas and also ask them to speak out about the importance of getting vaccinated,” he told reporters, later adding that things like mobile units were helping to increase vaccination outreach efforts in communities of color or for those who are homebound.

Mr. Gilchrist’s comments came during a virtual press conference where two names were drawn for the $50,000 prizes as part of the sweepstakes – Sterling Heights resident Jenna Basaj and Rockford resident Paul Bareno – and one name, LaTonda Anderson of Grand Blanc, was drawn to win the $1 million prize.

Following the drawing, both he and Protect Michigan Commission Director Kerry Ebersole Singh were asked about Michigan’s slow vaccine uptake since the announcement of the sweepstakes, as the program was initially pitched as a way for the state to bolster its numbers.

Ms. Singh said that MI Shot was only “one strategy that we’ve deployed” and pointed to the summer months as historically being a slow uptake period for any vaccine, not just for COVID.

“Any public health expert would mention that – that this strategy was deployed at a time that we wanted to sustain and help create urgency,” she said. “This is just one thing. This work did not start July 1. We have been doing what we can … across communications channels, on education materials, outreach, community outreach, working with nonprofits. … But, if you hear of interesting ideas that you think would be helpful in our efforts, send them my way. We’re all ears.”

When the program kicked off, Michigan had a roughly 62 percent vaccination rate, comprising people who had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly three weeks later, that number now sits at a little more than 63 percent.

This comes as COVID cases are again creeping upwards in Michigan, hitting above 3 percent Monday, a threshold which the state considers a key marker of the level of the virus’ spread (See Gongwer Michigan Report, July 20, 2021).

And while Mr. Gilchrist noted that 2 million individuals had entered the sweepstakes as of Wednesday, the vaccination of least 5.6 million Michigan residents would be needed to hit the state’s 70 percent inoculation goal.

Michigan’s Senate Fiscal Agency is projecting the state will hit 70 percent by December 5, a date that has held steady since last week.

“Every day and every moment when a person makes a choice to get vaccinated, it is a step in the right direction for the state of Michigan,” Mr. Gilchrist said. “We’re doing everything we can, including tactics like the MI Shot to Win sweepstakes to encourage, and maybe have that be the extra piece that people need to make the choice to get vaccinated. … We’re going to continue to pull all the stops. It is a key priority for the state of Michigan to do everything, every single day, to get folks vaccinated.”

Henry Grix Recognized in Chambers 2021 High Net Worth Guide

TROY, Mich., – Dickinson Wright PLLC is pleased to announce that Henry Grix (Member, Troy) is listed as a “Leaders in their Fields” by Chambers 2021 High Net Worth (HNW) Guide.

London-based Chambers & Partners, publisher of the world’s leading guides to the legal profession, conducts research into the strengths and reputations of U.S. law firms by state, through in-depth interviews with peers and competing firm attorneys, in-house counsel and significant purchasers of legal services.

Below is a list of Dickinson Wright attorneys who are listed in Chambers 2021 HNW Guide:

Private Wealth Law
Henry M. Grix, Troy

About Dickinson Wright PLLC
Dickinson Wright PLLC is a general practice business law firm with more than 475 attorneys among more than 40 practice areas and 16 industry groups. The firm has 19 offices, including six in Michigan (Detroit, Troy, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Saginaw) and 12 other domestic offices in Austin and El Paso, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Columbus, Ohio; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Lexington, Ky.; Nashville, Tenn.; Las Vegas and Reno, Nev.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Silicon Valley, Calif.; and Washington, D.C. The firm’s Canadian office is located in Toronto.

Dickinson Wright offers our clients a distinctive combination of superb client service, exceptional quality, value for fees, industry expertise, and business acumen. As one of the few law firms with ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certification and one of the only firms with ISO/IEC 27701:2019 certification, Dickinson Wright has built state-of-the-art, independently-verified risk management procedures, security controls and privacy processes for our commercial transactions. Dickinson Wright lawyers are known for delivering commercially-oriented advice on sophisticated transactions and have a remarkable record of wins in high-stakes litigation. Dickinson Wright lawyers are regularly cited for their expertise and experience by Chambers, Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, and other leading independent law firm evaluating organizations.

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Two Dickinson Wright Attorneys Recognized in Benchmark Litigation’s 2021 “40 and Under Hot List”

TROY, Mich. – Dickinson Wright PLLC is pleased to announce that two attorneys within the firm have been recognized in Benchmark Litigation’s 2021 “40 and Under Hot List”.

Benchmark Litigation’s 2021 “40 and Under Hot List” includes practitioners, all aged 40 or younger, that have been deemed the most promising emerging talent in their respective litigation communities in the U.S. by peers and clients. To view the complete list, please visit

Dickinson Wright attorneys in Benchmark Litigation’s 2021 “40 and Under Hot List” include:

Brandon Hubbard, Lansing
Scott A. Petz, Troy

About Dickinson Wright PLLC
Dickinson Wright PLLC is a general practice business law firm with more than 475 attorneys among more than 40 practice areas and 16 industry groups. The firm has 19 offices, including six in Michigan (Detroit, Troy, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Saginaw) and 12 other domestic offices in Austin and El Paso, Texas; Chicago, Illinois; Columbus, Ohio; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Lexington, Ky.; Nashville, Tenn.; Las Vegas and Reno, Nev.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Silicon Valley, Calif.; and Washington, D.C. The firm’s Canadian office is located in Toronto.

Dickinson Wright offers our clients a distinctive combination of superb client service, exceptional quality, value for fees, industry expertise, and business acumen. As one of the few law firms with ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certification and one of the only firms with ISO/IEC 27701:2019 certification, Dickinson Wright has built state-of-the-art, independently-verified risk management procedures, security controls and privacy processes for our commercial transactions. Dickinson Wright lawyers are known for delivering commercially-oriented advice on sophisticated transactions and have a remarkable record of wins in high-stakes litigation. Dickinson Wright lawyers are regularly cited for their expertise and experience by Chambers, Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, and other leading independent law firm evaluating organizations.

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Lowe’s Brings Back Pitch Competition to Support Minority-Owned Small Businesses

Making It…With Lowe’s, a pitch competition for small businesses, is back as part of Lowe’s continued effort to carve out space for minority-owned, woman-owned, veteran-owned, and other diverse-owned small businesses in the home improvement industry.

The competition has three phases.

Phase 1: Lowe’s will select up to 375 applicants to potentially sell their products on Of those 375, Lowe’s will invite up to 75 to move to the second phase.

Phase 2: Invited applicants will meet with Lowe’s merchandising representatives to be considered for additional promotion and support. They will also participate in a live pitch to Lowe’s executives.

Following the pitch, Lowe’s will invite up to 15 applicants to submit a five-minute video on why they should “make it with Lowe’s.” Six will move on to the final phase.

Phase 3: The six finalists will participate in a group mentoring session to prepare for their live pitch to Lowe’s executives, with the chance to win continued support in growing their small business.

The online application for Making It…With Lowe’s is open until 2:59 a.m. EST on July 31. Apply on Lowe’s website.