United StatesMichigan

Whitmer declares racism a public health crisis, orders implicit bias training for 48,000 employees

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declares racism a public health crisis on August 5, 2020. 

(The Center Square) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-163 to create the Black Leadership Advisory Council and declared racism a public health crisis.

Whitmer signed Executive Directive 2020-9 to recognize racism as a public health crisis and provide means to address it by analyzing data to suggest “equitable” policies.

Whitmer also called on Congress and President Donald Trump to pass a “comprehensive package” to fund states’ budgets and extend federal unemployment benefits.

In the same news conference during which Whitmer asked the federal government for additional funding, the governor added what appears to be an unfunded mandate through mandatory implicit bias training for about 48,000 state employees by December 31, 2020.

“Implicit, unconscious bias exists within each of us, and as public servants we have a duty to understand how our bias can impact the lives of others,” Whitmer said in a statement. “I am committed to leading by example and making sure state government is a model for equality, understanding, and fairness.”

The Black Leadership Advisory Council will “elevate Black leaders” through 16 voting members who will advise Whitmer on recommended actions to eradicate racial inequity in Michigan, according to a news release.

Applications for the Black Leadership Advisory Council are due by Aug. 19.

State data says the rate of reported COVID-19 deaths for Black Michiganders is 1,624 per 1 million compared with 399 per 1 million for white residents.

Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths remained low and steady.

Khaldun identified 99 COVID-19 outbreaks from last week, with the highest categories from nursing homes, social gatherings, and schools.

Khaldun didn’t provide a breakdown. The Center Square has reached out for exact information.

The Wednesday morning news conference restricted reporters to Zoom instead of in-person, citing Whitmer’s orders that limits 10 people of different households in one room.

Reporters immediately pushed back.

The practice allows Whitmer to choose which questions she prefers to address in front of the over 14,000 people watching through the Michigan State Police Facebook live feed alone, reporters said.

Zach Gorchow, the Executive Editor of Gongwer News, tweeted:

“The new format of @GovWhitmer’s news briefings, done via Zoom with reporters having to provide questions in advance to get called on, gives complete control to the administration on the questions that will be asked. There are many better options for the public.”

The statement was retweeted at least 142 times.

Detroit News reporter Beth LeBlanc tweeted: “Unfortunately, during today’s press conference, we weren’t able to get to about three questions on the reopening of Detroit casinos while other facilities remain closed. And by ‘not able to get to’ I mean those questions were skipped over.”

Detroit Free Press reporter Paul Egan tweeted: “I reported on Govs Engler, Granholm, and Snyder and none required questions to be screened. Is this the plan going forward @GovWhitmer?”

Chad Livengood from Crain’s Business Detroit tweeted: “I logged into this press conference Zoom room not entirely sure what the format would be. Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, the question-screening format has got to go.”

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