Gov. Whitmer says President Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandate a 'problem,' report says

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks to the news media about COVID-19 in Michigan after she joins a roundtable with local and federal leaders including U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021 to discuss the CHIPS Act at the UAW Region 1A Stephen P. Yokich Auditorium in Taylor.
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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, in her strongest public remarks to date about President Joe Biden's vaccine mandate for employers, said Monday that the requirement is "a problem" for her and state government, according to a published report.

The Daily News in Greenville reported Whitmer as telling business leaders in Montcalm County that she had the same concerns as some of them that the mandate, if enforced, could lead to workers, including those in state government, walking off the job.

"We’re an employer too, the state of Michigan is," Whitmer was reported as saying. "I know if that mandate happens, we’re going to lose state employees. That’s why I haven’t proposed a mandate at the state level. Some states have. We have not, we’re waiting to see what happens in court."

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“But we have a lot of the same concerns that you just voiced and it’s going to be a problem for all of us,” Whitmer added.

The governor made the remarks in response to a comment from the head of a home health care provider during a meeting with business leaders in Howard City, about 35 miles north of Grand Rapids.

Whitmer has generally been mum on the vaccine mandate, the rules for which were issued early last month by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). It calls for private companies with 100 or more employees to require workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or wear masks and undergo regular testing.

Michigan is one of more than two dozen states that despite having set up its own workplace safety rules is required to have state and local government workers meet standards as rigorous as those put in place by OSHA, meaning the mandate applies.

A federal appeals court has at least temporarily halted enforcement of the mandate, however.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Whitmer has been a key ally of Biden's but in recent months she has been circumspect in terms of venturing any opinion about the mandate. On Tuesday, her press office said she shares the concerns of businesses and that they and the state will work through any mandate if required to do so.

"Our top priority remains slowing the spread of COVID-19 so that businesses can keep their doors open, schools can keep students in the classrooms and the state can continue our strong economic progress," said a statement from her office. "While the federal government's vaccine rule is currently halted, Governor Whitmer continues to urge Michiganders to receive one of the safe and effective vaccines because this is the best way for Michiganders to protect themselves and keep our economy growing."

Whitmer has refused so far to attempt to issue any statewide masking or vaccine mandate, though earlier in the pandemic her office took several steps to try to slow the spread of the virus through stay-home orders. Last month, the state Legislature filed legal briefs in support of efforts to block the Biden mandate.

Contact Todd Spangler: tspangler@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @tsspangler. Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our elections newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Gretchen Whitmer says Joe Biden vaccine mandate a 'problem'

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