Lansing, MI – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer previewed some of the factors being taken into consideration while she works on a plan to safely reopen Michigan’s economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While no firm decisions have been reached on how to reopen the economy yet, Whitmer said her administration is “doing the hard work now so that when it is safe to reengage, we’re able to do so in a strategic way.”
When it is time to reopen the economy, Whitmer said it won’t happen overnight. Instead, she said, low risk sectors will be the first to open.
Whitmer listed five things that are among the factors she will consider when determining whether a sector is low risk:
- Whether the workers interact with the public
- Whether the workplace is indoors or outdoors
- Whether workers are in close proximity to one another
- Whether workers use shared tools or machinery
- The total number of people in a workplace
Additionally, once businesses do reopen, Whitmer said she may place restrictions on them to ensure that their operations are safe.
While Whitmer emphasized that nothing has been decided upon yet, she listed several controls that are under consideration for businesses that reopen, including:
- The use of symptom diaries and temperature checks to control access
- Enabling social distancing by minimizing the number of workers present, closing common areas and reconfiguring workspaces to limit contact
- Improving sanitation by frequently disinfecting and cleaning, limiting use of shared tools and setting up handwashing stations
- Using protective equipment such as cloth face covers for all workers and gloves when handling shared items
- Providing rapid testing for employees at large workplaces, supporting employees who stay home when they are sick and using contact tracing when an employee tests positive for COVID-19
Republicans in the Michigan Senate released a plan last week to reopen the economy in five phases. The first phase, which would allow businesses whose employees don’t closely interact with one another or with the public, would remain in place as long as cases and deaths increase on a trajectory where they would exceed healthcare system capacity.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, said the caucus welcomes input from the medical community on ways to improve the plan.
Michigan House Republicans released their own plan Monday, which would classify regions of the state in tiers of risk and apply restrictions accordingly.
House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, also sent a letter to Whitmer over the weekend urging her to reconsider parts of her stay-at-home order, including applying restrictions by whether an activity is deemed safe or unsafe rather than whether a business is essential or nonessential.
Whitmer said the plans have “some good ideas,” but said no regions of the state are safe from COVID-19.
“Living in a rural part of Michigan does not mean that you are safe from the virus,” Whitmer said. “Just because it’s not showing up in your community yet doesn’t mean that it’s not already there.”
An emergency declaration in the state and Whitmer’s stay-at-home order are both currently set to expire on April 30.
But even if the Legislature does not extend the emergency declaration past April 30, Whitmer said she will retain most of her powers, noting that her current stay-at-home order draws from multiple sources of legal authority.
Whitmer addressed those who feel their rights are being violated by her stay-at-home order.
“We are taking a limited action for a limited amount of time to save people’s lives,” Whitmer said. “This action isn’t about our individual right to gather, it’s about our parents’ right to live.”
“Who among us wants to be that person that unwittingly brings this virus into their household? Who in this great state actually believes that they care more about jet skiing than saving the lives of the elderly or the vulnerable?”
More than 1 million people in Michigan had filed for unemployment as of last week, accounting for a quarter of the state’s workforce.
Whitmer announced that she will take a 10% pay cut and has asked her staff to take 5% pay cuts as well.
“I’m going to lead by example,” Whitmer said. “I know that times are tough, and that we as a state are going to be confronting a tough budget as a result of the economic shutdown.”
Whitmer said whether the state will be able to start reopening portions of the economy on May 1 will depend on the next 10 days.
“What happens next depends on every single one of us,” Whitmer said. “When faced with an unprecedented crisis like this, good people step up and do their part. They show you that they’re willing to make sacrifices to protect their family and friends and strangers they’ve never even met.”
Whitmer announced last week that she and the governors of Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky would coordinate their efforts to reopen their states’ respective economies, as Flint Beat reported first was in the works.
Michigan had 32,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state Monday, and 2,468 people have died from the virus.
Of the confirmed cases, 1,256 are in Genesee County, and 123 people in the county have died from the virus.
Statewide, the number of confirmed cases rose 576 since Sunday – the lowest number of new cases reported since late March.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said the smaller increase in cases is a positive sign that Whitmer’s stay-at-home order is working, but warned that relaxing social distancing measures too quickly could cause another peak even higher than the first.