Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration has declared an “extraordinary animal health emergency” and imposed “the most comprehensive measures in the country” to combat highly pathogenic avian influenza.

“Producers must immediately implement robust biosecurity practices and create emergency preparedness plans and this order starts to address these on-farm risks,” Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director Tim Boring said statement last week.

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“Implementing these measures must be the highest priority for every farm and agriculture worker,” he said. “Working together, we can combat HPAI and reduce the long-term impacts on our dynamic food and agriculture industry.”

The “Determination of Extraordinary Emergency, HPAI Risk Reduction Response Order” signed by Boring on Wednesday imposes a series of biosecurity practices on all Michigan dairy farms and commercial poultry operations.

Those measures include a biosecurity manager for every farm, a secure perimeter around poultry, cleaning and disinfection for people and vehicles, a log of all people and vehicles that enter farms, isolation of lactating cows until 30 days after the last HPAI case, and isolation of poultry “until such a time there are no new cases of HPAI in domestic poultry in the State of Michigan for at least 30 consecutive days.”

“This is an active and ongoing threat to both dairy and poultry operations across the state,” Boring told Bridge Michigan.

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HPAI is a disease that’s highly contagious and often deadly in poultry that can be transmitted by wild birds to domestic poultry and other bird and animal species. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service details outbreaks among livestock in nine states, and among poultry in 48 states since the start of the outbreak in February 2022.

In Michigan, where the Whitmer administration’s restrictions take effect on Wednesday, there have been six detections so far in 2024, impacting millions of chickens, about 200,000 turkeys and four cattle herds, officials said.

“As we work together with our federal partners to gain a more complete understanding of this virus and its transmission, it is necessary to re-evaluate, refine, and enhance the measures being taken on Michigan farms to lower the risk of introducing this disease to animals,” said State Veterinarian Nora Wineland. “By limiting the opportunities for vulnerable species to be exposed to the virus, we can better protect animal health throughout the state.”

The state and federal government’s track record on handling diseases officials don’t understand will undoubtedly raise questions about whether the emergency measures are necessary or effective.

Based on Whitmer’s concerns about “the widespread and severe health, economic, and social harms posed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” her medical edicts four years ago cost Michigan a quarter of its small- and medium-sized businesses, 81,900 jobs, and years of learning loss in schools across the state.

“To suppress the spread of COVID-19, to prevent the state’s health care system from being overwhelmed, to allow time for the production of critical test kits, ventilators, and personal protective equipment, and to avoid needless deaths, it is reasonable and necessary to direct residents to remain at home or in their place of residence to the maximum extent feasible,” Whitmer wrote in April 2020 as she issued Executive order No. 2020-42, one of many unilateral edicts from the governor during the pandemic.

Whitmer’s executive orders blocked children from attending school, restricted businesses from serving customers, prevented family from consoling dying loved ones, forced toddlers to wear masks, locked elderly in nursing homes, forced teens to test weekly for a disease that did not pose a serious health risk, and limited movements for all but “essential” workers, which included those who sell marijuana and liquor.

While other states also imposed similar measures, Michigan’s stay-home order and other COVID mandates lasted far longer than almost all states, and job recovery was among the slowest, according to Bridge.

Research since has shown government-imposed mask mandates, social distancing, and other COVID precautions didn’t “make any difference” in stopping COVID transmission, Tom Jefferson, an epidemiologist with the British nonprofit Cochrane, told The New York Times last year.

“There’s no evidence that many of these things make any difference,” he said.

“Those skeptics who were furiously mocked as cranks and occasionally censored as ‘misinformers’ for opposing mandates were right,” the Times reported. “The mainstream experts and pundits who supported mandates were wrong.”

A Cochrane review of 78 randomized controlled trials involving 610,872 participants in multiple countries concluded states with mask mandates fared no better during the pandemic than states without.