Gov. Whitmer extends Michigan stay home order to May 15, allows some businesses to reopen


APRIL 24, 2020

State of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer gives an update on COVID-19 during a press conference on April 15, 2020.

Michiganders will have to continue to stay home as much as possible to help stop the spread of coronavirus until May 15, though some businesses that had been closed will be allowed to reopen.

Residents are now also being told they must wear masks or other face coverings when in close quarters outside the home.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she signed an executive order Friday that extended her stay-at-home edict past its May 1 expiration but also altering it to allow more state residents to get back to work, according to a copy of the document first posted on Twitter by the Associated Press.

The order was dated Friday and began at 11 a.m. when Whitmer held a news briefing outside Lansing to discuss the order.

“We can now start the process of gradually resuming in-person work and activities that were temporarily suspended under my prior orders,” Whitmer said in the document. “But in doing so, we must move with care, patience and vigilance, recognizing the grave harm that this virus continued to inflect on our state and how quickly our progress in suppressing it can be undone.”

The order:

  • Allows certain businesses that had been closed, like plant nurseries and bicycle repair shops, to reopen, but under social distancing guidelines.
  • Permits some outdoor activities including golf and boating to resume.
  • Says businesses which had been restricted closed because they were deemed to provide nonessential items to reopen but only for curbside pickup or delivery and allows large retailers to reopen certain parts like their garden centers or paint sections.
  • Requires, rather than encourages, Michiganders shopping in close spaces to wear masks or other face coverings as long as it wouldn’t otherwise put them at any risk to do so. There would be no criminal penalty, however, for failing to wear a face covering under the order, though violations of other parts of its requirements could be a misdemeanor.

The order also continues to prohibit all public and private gatherings of any number of people between groups who are not part of a single household. Residents can still leave their homes to care for family members and pets, have work done on their vehicles or bikes, work at businesses permitted to open, attend funerals or legal proceedings and get recreation. Travel to vacation rentals remains prohibited, though people can travel between different residences they own in Michigan.

In all cases, people leaving their homes are required to continue to attempt to the degree possible to maintain a distance of at least six feet between themselves and another person, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

Businesses allowed to reopen will be required to keep patrons and employees at least six feet apart, including in lines, and draw up lists of the limited number workers required to reopen. Stores of less than 50,000 square feet must limit occupancy to 25% of the limits set by the fire marshal.

Workers at reopened businesses will not be required to carry documents stating that they are permitted to travel and work.

News of the order came as coronavirus cases in Michigan grew to more than 35,000 and deaths climbed to nearly 3,000 as of Thursday afternoon.

It also came on the same day that Republicans in the state Legislature called for a special session to create an oversight committee to examine how Whitmer has handled the coronavirus crisis. The Senate also was scheduled to vote on bills that would strip and limit power from the governor’s office during times of “public crisis.”

Whitmer has promised to veto the bills if they reach her desk.

Whitmer made her first emergency declaration on March 10 when the first two cases of coronavirus were reported. She closed restaurants and bars, except for carry-out and delivery services, on March 16, and issued her first “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order on March 23, putting in place more sweeping restrictions in an attempt to slow the rapid spread of the virus.

Michigan has been one of the hardest hit states in the country from the pandemic and Whitmer said she would reconsider the extent of the order when it is set to expire or before then if necessary.

But the governor has been under pressure to relax her earlier order somewhat to get Michiganders back to work and in recent days she has said it clear that the number of new cases and deaths have been leveling off.

Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, the revisions to the order begin the process of restarting the state’s economy and credited the original order with decreasing the likelihood of another wave of cases.

“This is good news for some of the hundreds of thousands of Michiganders struggling economically and the Chamber will work diligently with Gov. Whitmer and the Legislature to execute a smart and successful full re-opening as we all adapt to the new normal,” he said.

Previous order had been under fire by conservatives

In reopening stores and some other businesses, the order requires employers to ensure workers have, at a minimum, non-medical grade masks and any other equipment needed to protect them. Stores larger than 50,000 square feet must limit the number of customers in the store at any one e time no more than 4 people per 1,000 square feet of floor space.

They must also set aside at least 2 hours a week to allow more vulnerable populations, including people over 60, those with chronic conditions and pregnant women, to shop.

Dr. Mohammed Arsiwala, president of the Michigan State Medical Society, said Whitmer’s new order “is the right decision at this time and one that will require all of us to continue practicing common sense and social distancing. ”

“As a state and a community, we are seeing success in battling COVID-19, but our frontline health care workers continue to care for new and very ill patients every day.  Michigan residents’ commitment to limiting their activities to slow the spread of the disease to critically important for the health of patients, doctors, nurses and paramedics, and we ask that that commitment remain strong until May 15 and beyond,” he said.

The Republican-controlled Legislature agreed to a second emergency declaration on April 7, but only until May 1 instead of the mid-June deadline that Whitmer wanted. On April 9, she tightened up the stay-at-home order, banning “non-essential” sales of goods, like gardening supplies and paint at big box stores, travel between households and to vacation homes Up North, and prohibiting motorboats from going into the water.

It was that second, more restrictive order that prompted a backlash from conservatives, who organized a rally last week that attracted thousands to Lansing to protest the stay at home order as an overreach by Whitmer.

Some criticized her earlier order for allowing lottery outlets to remain open while closing other businesses. Some of the criticisms — including complaints that child safety seats couldn’t be sold or it was against the law to sell seeds — were shown to be untrue, though they continued to be cited by Republicans who have seen Whitmer’s reputation grow nationally.

While most of the protesters stayed in their cars in order to create gridlock around the state Capitol, several hundred people milled around the Capitol grounds and steps, many of them not wearing masks or practicing social distancing.

The protests results in President Donald Trump appearing to take a swipe at Whitmer last Friday in a post on Twitter in which he said, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” even though his own administration has urged social distancing and the closing of many businesses to stop the spread of the virus.

Republicans in both the state Senate and House of Representatives have offered their own plans on how to gradually reopen the economy in phases and would like to see some of those actions taken before May 1. The GOP and some in the business community have become increasingly critical of what they view as the arbitrary nature of some of Whitmer’s actions.

Two polls out in the last week, however, have shown high job approval ratings for Whitmer.

One survey done by the Glengariff Group for the Detroit Regional Chamber showed 58% of 600 Michiganders surveyed approved of the job Whitmer was doing. A second poll released Wednesday by Fox News showed 63% of 801 MIchiganders surveyed gave high marks to Whitmer.

Courtesy/Source: Detroit Free Press