State Rep. Michele Hoitenga this week introduced a plan to ensure that rural parts of the state are no longer lumped in with heavily populated areas when responding to states of emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hoitenga, of Manton, said Gov. Whitmer’s response to the COVID-19 emergency wrongly lumps large cities and metro areas like Grand Rapids in with rural counties like Osceola and Mecosta – even though the areas have very different population densities, fewer COVID case numbers and therefore a lower risk of transmission.
“The governor is failing families who live in rural communities by lumping urban and rural areas together into one region, and then issuing sweeping, one-size-fits all orders,” Hoitenga said. “The coronavirus data for many rural communities simply doesn’t support the response we have seen. If we’re truly going to make decisions based on science and data, it would be much more appropriate to make those decisions on a county-by-county basis.”
Hoitenga’s legislation, House Bill 6106, would require the governor, if treating parts of the state differently during a state of emergency, to make designations by county rather than by region. It would also require that any future stay-at-home orders would allow counties to work with local hospitals and health systems to determine when and how businesses, school districts and other parts of the economy can reopen and serve the public safely.
“This would allow for a more localized COVID-19 response, empowering county leaders to work with local health experts, school districts and job providers to create a plan for responding to the emergency and reopening the economy safely,” Hoitenga said.
House Bill 6106 was referred to the House Government Operations Committee for consideration.