Senate urges Gov. Whitmer to allow elective medical procedures

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LANSING — Republicans who control the Michigan Senate urged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday to lift her five-week-old ban on nonessential medical and dental procedures, saying the decision to resume should be left to hospitals and health providers.

The resolution, while symbolic, is the latest move by GOP lawmakers who are pushing the Democratic governor to ease restrictions she adopted to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. The voice vote came as Whitmer asks the Legislature to this week extend an emergency declaration — the underpinning of her stay-at-home and other orders — by 28 days so health workers and others are immune from civil lawsuits.

Hospitals in the Detroit area, home to many of the state’s 38,000 confirmed cases, have had to permanently or temporarily lay off employees to focus almost entirely on COVID-19 patients. Hospitals elsewhere in Michigan have made cuts, too, due to the cancellation of nonessential surgeries and other services. Many physicians have doing telemedicine appointments.

“The word elective might imply unnecessary. But in reality, there are thousands living with serious knee or hip pain, with cataracts or dental problems. I even have a friend who can’t get her melanoma treated,” said Sen. Lana Theis, R-Brighton, who accused Whitmer of having a “lack of faith” in medical professionals to safely do their work.

A message seeking comment was left with the governor’s office.

The Senate also approved a resolution urging Whitmer to bring Michigan in line with federal guidance on which “critical” workers are exempt from stay-home restrictions. The governor said Monday that she will soon allow commercial and residential construction — a major industry included on the federal advisory list — to restart, but Republicans have said other business activities can safely resume, too.

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