As COVID-19 cases continue to soar in Michigan, fueled by highly contagious variant strains of the coronavirus, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has refused to impose additional restrictions on schools and businesses, instead asking for people to "voluntarily" abstain from activities that could help the virus spread.
"[As] we take a hard look at the data and observe the spread of the variants, we all need to go above and beyond the rules we already have in place," Whitmer said at a press conference on Friday. "We all have to step up our game for the next two weeks to bring down rising cases. And that's why I'm calling on high schools to voluntarily go remote for two weeks past spring break, I'm calling on youth sports to voluntarily suspend games and practices for two weeks, and I'm strongly encouraging all Michiganders to avoid dining indoors and avoid gathering with friends indoors for two weeks."
Whitmer called on people to "support your local restaurants by eating outside or getting carryout instead of dining indoors" and to "opt for small, outdoor gatherings with masks" instead of gathering indoors.
"To be very clear these are not orders, mandates, or requirements," she said. "A year in, we all know what works, and this has to be a team effort. We have to do this together. Lives depend on it."
The emphasis on personal responsibility over more government-mandated restrictions was welcomed by Republican state Senate Majority Mike Shirkey, who had previously called Whitmer a "dictator."
"For the better part of a year, Republicans have insisted this would be more effective than trying to mandate healthy behaviors," Shirkey wrote on Twitter. "I'm encouraged that the governor seems to have come to this realization as well."
But after more than a year of the pandemic, we can pretty much rest assured that plenty of people are all but certain to ignore Whitmer's and Shirkey's calls for personal responsibility.
After all, the virus wouldn't be spreading if people still weren't giving it ample opportunities to do so. We see it everyday, from the packed-to-capacity restaurants in Ferndale and Midtown to people not wearing masks at the local store despite signs saying it's mandatory. Plenty of people appear to have either let their guard down or, a year into this thing, still aren't grasping the basic concepts of epidemiology.
One thing people can choose to do is get vaccinated for COVID-19. Whitmer said so far, Michigan has administered more than five million vaccine doses, moving the state closer to her goal to achieve "herd immunity" by vaccinating 70% of Michiganders ages 16 and older as soon as possible. (So far, we're at about 20%.) But vaccine hesitancy is a problem, with many people saying they refuse to get one. (I got my first dose last week at the FEMA site at Ford Field, and the whole thing took me less than an hour.)
Can people be trusted to do the right thing on their own? Generally speaking, probably not — otherwise, why would we need to have any laws at all?
"Freedom is messy," Shirkey previously said of COVID-19 restrictions, as reported by Bridge Michigan. "And I think for the most part, people do make the right decisions. You can never, ever, ever pass enough laws... to prevent people from making bad decisions. That's not the country that we love and embrace."Well, we can probably rest assured that plenty of people will continue making bad decisions, at least when it comes to COVID-19.
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