Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issues 'stay at home' order for Michigan, effective at midnight
LANSING – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday issued a "stay home" order to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus, ordering Michigan residents to stay at home except for essential purposes and telling nonessential businesses to stop asking employees to report to work.
The order, which was highly anticipated and is effective starting at midnight tonight, draws on Whitmer's broad executive powers under a state of emergency. Though sweeping, it includes exemptions for essentials such as:
- Shopping for food or medicine
- Getting needed medical treatment
- Getting fuel
- Walking a pet
- Walking for exercise
- Workers who deliver food and other needed supplies to people's homes
- Staffing to allow maintenance of "minimum basic operations" for many employers, even if their companies are not considered "critical infrastructure" needed to "sustain or protect life"
- Child care, financial services such as banking, and workers and volunteers, such as those providing food and shelter, needed to help disadvantaged people affected by the pandemic
- Critical manufacturing
- Auto repair shops
- Individual travel to return to Michigan from another state, travel to another state from Michigan, to travel from one residence to another in Michigan, or to travel to comply with a court order
Essential workers such as police, fire, hospital, grocery store and pharmacy workers are also exempted, as are their workplaces. Public highways and streets remain open.
Violating the order is a criminal misdemeanor, the order says, and could bring fines and also result in businesses being shut down.
The order, which is in place through April 13, also bans all public and private gatherings of any size outside of a family home. An earlier order had limited gatherings to no more than 50.
“In just 13 days, we’ve gone from 0 to over 1,000 COVID-19 cases,” Whitmer said. “This is an unprecedented crisis that requires all of us working together to protect our families and our communities. The most effective way we can slow down the virus is to stay home. I know this will be hard, but it will be temporary. If we all come together, get serious, and do our part by staying home, we can stay safe and save lives.”
As of Monday afternoon, Michigan counted more than 1,300 positive cases and at least 15 deaths.
“Taking aggressive action to protect our communities is the most important thing we can do to mitigate further spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief deputy for health and chief medical executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. “If we do this now, we can make sure our hospitals and health care workers are prepared to take care of the sickest people. It is crucial that people do the right thing by staying home and staying safe.”
More:Gov. Whitmer's Michigan 'stay at home' order: Read the full executive order here
Whitmer has repeatedly advised Michigan residents to stay at home except for essentials. The major differences in issuing an order are that it requires businesses deemed nonessential to stop calling their employees in to work, or in some cases significantly scale back their operation and it establishes potential enforcement and penalties for violations.
"This order must be construed broadly to prohibit in-person work that is not necessary to sustain or protect life," the order says.
Those who do leave their homes must keep a 6-foot distance from others who are not part of their household.
Health care professionals, including leaders of the Henry Ford Health System, applauded the move.
The president of the Michigan State Medical Society issued a statement supporting Whitmer's order.
“We are grateful for — and support — Gov. Whitmer’s executive order today asking all Michigan residents to stay at home, in an effort to flatten the curve," said Dr. Mohammed Arsiwala. "This is the most important thing we can all do to protect the most vulnerable in our community. It is also the most important thing we can all do to return our lives to what we remember and miss.”
Businesses deemed "critical infrastructure," largely exempt from the order along with essentials such as law enforcement and health services, include:
- Food and agriculture
- Waste and wastewater
- Transportation and logistics
- Public works
- Communications and infrastructure technology, including news media
- Essential court functions
- Critical manufacturing
- Hazardous materials
- Financial services
- Chemical supply chains and safety
- Defense industrial base
- Child care workers
- Workers at designated suppliers and distribution centers
- Workers who perform critical labor union functions, provided they work remotely as much as possible
- Workers in the insurance industry, only to the extent their work can not be done remotely
- Workers that provide food, shelter, and other necessities for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals, who need advantage as a result of the emergency, including the disabled
- Other community-based government operations and essential functions
Whitmer's move, which is sometimes though not always accurately known as a "shelter in place" order, follows similar actions by governors in Ohio, New Jersey, California, Illinois, New York, Delaware, Kentucky and Louisiana. The orders vary in detail and there are other states with similar orders that apply only to specific cities.
Asked whether automobile makers and their parts suppliers would be considered critical infrastructure under the order, Whitmer said they would be if they were making essential equipment related to the crisis, such as ventilators.
The Detroit Three carmakers have temporarily shut down all their U.S. assembly plants. Their parts warehouses continue to operate using paid volunteer workers.
Car dealerships, with the exception of repair services, and dry cleaners are among the nonessential businesses expected to close, Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said
Trial courts will continue to perform essential functions, including arraignments for in-custody defendants, review and determination of requests for search warrants and personal protection orders, certain child protective proceedings, and critical issues regarding child support and child custody, among others, but will make greater use of technology such as video conferencing, the State Court Administrative Office said.
“As the crisis has grown, Michigan’s courts have shown they are up to the challenge of both reducing exposure to risk in court facilities while simultaneously innovating to ensure access to courts remains uninterrupted,” said Chief Justice Bridget McCormack.
Those workers deemed necessary to maintain "minimum business operations" are defined as "those whose in-person presence is strictly necessary to allow the business or operation to maintain the value of inventory and equipment, care for animals, ensure security, process transactions (including payroll and employee benefits), or facilitate the ability of other workers to work remotely.
Companies must inform "critical infrastructure workers" of their designation and put it in writing, though such designations can be made orally until the end of March, the order says.
Also under the order, businesses and other operations not deemed critical infrastructure must determine which of their workers are necessary to conduct minimum basic operations and inform such workers of that designation. The designations must be made in writing, whether by electronic message, public website, or some other means, though they can be made orally through March 31, the order says.
Those are designated workers who "allow the business or operation to maintain the value of inventory and equipment, care for animals, ensure security, process transactions (including payroll and employee benefits), or facilitate the ability of other workers to work remotely."
More:How the deadly coronavirus ravaged Michigan in 2 weeks
Whitmer, who declared a state of emergency when Michigan had its first positive tests for coronavirus March 10, earlier closed the state's schools, bars, gyms, theaters and other major gathering places, and ordered restaurants closed except for carryout and delivery services. On the weekend, she ordered hair and nail salons, barbershops and other personal service shops, such as tattoo parlors, closed.
Evictions and foreclosures have been put on hold as tens of thousands of Michigan residents, and likely more, are put out of work.
Elective surgeries also have been canceled to free up hospital resources.
"Businesses, operations, suppliers, distribution centers and service providers that abuse their designation authority shall be subject to sanctions to the fullest extent of the law," the order says.
At a news conference, Whitmer recalled the part that Michigan played in winning World War II, when many saw Detroit as the "Arsenal of Democracy."
“Michigan played a huge part in winning World War II and I’m calling on everyone to do their part now,” she said. “Stay home, stay safe, save lives. That’s the most important thing that we can all do now.”
U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden Township, said he has supported Whitmer's actions up until now, but believes Monday's order will unnecessarily hurt the economy because it will force many businesses such as real estate agents to close, when he believes they can operate safely through physical distancing.
It would be better to keep the "stay home" message advisory, said Mitchell, who believes Whitmer is bowing to pressure after similar action was taken in other states, including neighboring Ohio on Sunday.
But some Michigan business organizations, some of which had publicly expressed concern about the proposed order, as well as Republican legislative leaders, were supportive.
Michigan has moved into a new phase in our battle against COVID-19," said Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake. "It is a step none of us wanted to see happen, but one that is necessary. Our response to these orders could be the determining factor in how long the virus impacts our state."
House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, said Whitmer is "in the best and most informed position to determine what’s best for public health."
"Although these measures will prove painful, I appreciate and support her efforts," Chatfield said on Twitter. "We’re all on the same team. No time for politics. We’re going to get through this together."
Business Leaders for Michigan issued a statement that said the order "will impact all of us but was necessary to ensure that all Michiganders have the best opportunity to remain healthy through this crisis."
"We understand that the economic impacts of this period will be painful for Michigan’s residents and businesses, and we stand ready to help the governor and our state manage both the mitigation process and the recovery that will follow," the statement said.
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce was studying the order in detail and would have a comment later in the day, said President and CEO Rich Studley, who had expressed confidence Monday that Whitmer would strike the correct balance between protecting health and the economy.
Charlie Owens, Michigan director of the National Federation of Independent Business, said his organization was seeking more specifics on exactly which companies are deemed "critical infrastructure."
Owens said the Ohio order, issued Sunday, "included a more detailed description of small businesses that included contractors, laundering and dry cleaning, hardware supply stores, and more and that would be helpful here."
Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint, said Whitmer "made the hard choice, and the right choice, to require Michiganders to stay in their homes for at least three weeks — with exceptions for getting groceries, going to medical appointments and getting fresh air outside — to help curb the spread of COVID-19."
The Michigan Republican Party issued a statement that did not comment on the order itself, but said Whitmer was spending too much time on national TV.
“At a time when Michigan needs Gretchen Whitmer to lead, she is spending too much of her time seeking the national spotlight.” said Laura Cox, the party chairwoman.
“As governor, Gretchen Whitmer needs to realize that her responsibilities are to the people of Michigan, not as a spokesperson for Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.”
Whitmer is a national co-chair of Biden's Democratic presidential campaign.
The conservative group Americans for Prosperity criticized the order.
“We are in the midst of an unprecedented health and economic crisis," said state director Annie Patnaude. "However, a blanket shelter-in-place order is the wrong approach for our state. All businesses are essential — to the people who own them, the people who work in them, and the communities they serve."
Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4. Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our elections newsletter.