Gov. Whitmer says coronavirus choices have been 'gut-wrenching'

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer - STATE OF MICHIGAN
  • State of Michigan
  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been getting a lot of shit from the right during the coronavirus pandemic, which changes depending on which way the political winds blow and the week's talking points. Early on, critics blamed her for not allowing doctors to use hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug touted by President Donald Trump, to treat COVID-19 patients. "How many people died because of Whitmer?" our trolls asked me via email. (The state has since walked the order back, Detroit is now heading one of the largest studies on the drug's potential, and the drug has still not yet been scientifically proved as an effective COVID-19 treatment.) When Whitmer did a number of national TV show appearances including Comedy Central's The Daily Show, our trolls accused her of being hungry for fame and vying to be Joe Biden's running mate. (The critics were ignoring the fact that due to the coronavirus, she recorded the short segments from home, and has also turned down being Biden's VP.) Then, last week, thousands gathered in Lansing to protest her stay-at-home order, which has been extended through April, saying it goes too far. Like clockwork, the right-wingers appeared in my inbox, saying that not enough people died from COVID-19 to warrant the expanded shutdown, pointing to scaled-back overflow field hospitals.

We went from "How many people died?" to "Not enough people died!" in less than a month. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Whitmer defended her decisions in an op-ed published in The New York Times on Tuesday, saying that every choice she's made has "weighed heavily" on her mind, and is made with the one goal of saving Michiganders.

"I never imagined having to use the levers of my office this way to protect the people I serve," she wrote. "Each action taken weighs heavily on me. Each action has been informed by the best science and epidemiology counsel there is. These choices have been tough. They haven’t always been popular. And we will never know precisely how many lives were saved as a result."

Whitmer did not mention the protests in her piece. In an appearance on Good Morning America last week, Whitmer said she understood the frustration.

"You know what, I can take it," she said. "If it makes people feel better to take their frustrations out on me, that's fine. ... I'm the governor for almost 10 million people. I want to represent and protect every one of them, whether they supported me politically or not ... that's my job, to protect the people of Michigan."

Whitmer says that re-opening must take place slowly and deliberately so as to not spark a second wave of the coronavirus spreading, like the one that happened during the flu pandemic of 1918.

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