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Politicians rely on 'virtual' meetings and at-home work as pandemic continues

Politicians and government workers are relying on electronic meetings, phone calls and home offices to get work done under Michigan’s ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ order.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Even though Michigan remains under a 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' executive order, the business of government goes on, which includes a lot of work at home and online.

Thousands of state and local employees, including politicians, are using home offices as part of social distancing protocol.

“We want people to know that we are in this, just like they are,’’ said state Sen. Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford.

MacGregor says the lack of one-on-one contact has been a challenge.

“It’s not my style, but I’m learning how to cope with it,’’ he said. “I prefer face-to-face conversations and meetings, even if I have to drive to Lansing.’’

From the state house to the courthouse, virtual meetings and teleconferences have become the norm as the coronavirus pandemic intensifies.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week signed the ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ executive order directing all Michigan businesses and operations to suspend in-person operations that are not necessary to sustain or protect life.

On March 18, Whitmer signed an executive order allowing public bodies to meet virtually. 

“We are taking every measure we can to mitigate the spread of coronavirus and protect Michigan families, but recognize that public bodies still have an obligation to conduct business as usual,’’ Whitmer said in a news release.

For now, the Kent County Board of Commissioners is conducting its meetings via electronic communications “in order to protect the public health.’’

“Any member of the public wishing to listen to the proceedings or provide public comment may do so online or by phone,’’ it says on its website.

MacGregor says he is staying busy, which includes answering questions from constituents about executive orders and pandemic protocols. Popular topics include filing taxes, essential businesses and the need to carry credentials.

“Tell you the truth, I’ve probably had more conference calls and teleconference calls the last six days than I have had in my entire life,’’ MacGregor said during a recent interview in downtown Rockford. “All the legislator’s offices are open, we’re just not physically in Lansing right now.’’

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