Leaders make tough calls when the times require it. That’s what Gov. Gretchen Whitmer did to keep Michigan residents as safe as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some of her executive orders have been unpopular, but all of them have been made to slow the spread of the disease. In an era where those who shout the loudest seem to prevail, it is good to know the governor is letting science and data drive her decisions to protect Michigan.

Not everyone agrees with the governor, and that is the norm for a pluralistic society. But just because everyone is entitled to their own opinion doesn’t mean they are entitled to their own set of facts. And the facts are clear and convincing: The actions taken by Whitmer have saved lives in Wayne County and across Michigan.

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Not everyone agrees with the governor, and that is the norm for a pluralistic society, Evans writes. (Photo: Todd McInturf, The Detroit News)

Don’t be fooled by a small group of partisan actors who are leading a petition drive to curtail the governor’s powers to keep all of Michigan safe during the pandemic. Their efforts are a brazen attempt to politicize a public health emergency during an election year, and these same partisan voices were silent when a Republican governor exercised similar emergency powers in Benton Harbor, Detroit and Flint just a few years ago.

The COVID-19 pandemic is the worst public health crisis we’ve faced in a century, and unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes. COVID-19 is persistent and deadly. It has taken the lives of more than 200,000 Americans, which is more than World War I and the Vietnam War did combined. That’s why the response to the virus has required such extraordinary measures to keep our communities as safe as possible.

Michigan is fortunate that Whitmer has steadfastly taken decisive, science-based steps to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. The death of 6,600 Michigan residents is a tragedy, but without the definitive action exhibited by the governor the death toll could have been exponentially higher.

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Wayne County Executive Warren Evans (Photo: Max Ortiz, The Detroit News)

COVID-19’s initial impact on the most vulnerable among us was devastating. Throughout the pandemic, African Americans — a community that has long borne the brunt of an inequitable health care system — have died at a greater rate from COVID-19 than whites. Wayne County was one of the hardest hit of all 83 counties in Michigan. We know better than most how the governor’s executive orders have affected us and have made us safer at the same time.

During a crisis, swift decisive action is essential. The framers of Michigan’s constitution — and especially its voters — recognized this when they gave every governor the ability to act unilaterally to protect life and property in specific conditions.

Presently, a lawsuit before the Michigan Supreme Court and a petition drive threaten to take away the governor’s emergency powers. These efforts do not trim at the edges. They aim to wrest from the governor — and any future governor, Republican or Democrat — the powers used during this pandemic to save thousands of lives.

If these partisan agitators succeed in their efforts, it will be our grandparents, parents and the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our communities who will bear the cost of this ill-conceived and cynical political powerplay. The worst thing we can do is to undermine the governor’s ability to save lives, or open up our economy in a way that causes a second wave of infections and death, puts our health care workers further at risk, and wipes out the progress we’ve made.

Whitmer has been the target of noisy critics for her swift and decisive response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the people of Michigan support her because they know that wearing face masks, social distancing and avoiding large groups are the most fact-based ways to slow the spread of COVID-19. They know the medicine works, even if they don’t like the taste of it.

Warren C. Evans is Wayne County executive.

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