Published in Economic Development

Michigan enters ‘preliminary stage of economic re-engagement’

BY Friday, April 24, 2020 12:00pm

Michigan has hit the “preliminary stage of economic re-engagement,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said today after modifying and extending the state’s stay-at-home order through May 15.

Whitmer’s latest executive order allows some businesses to reopen while maintaining social distancing guidelines, including landscapers, nurseries and golf courses. The order also allows retailers selling non-essential goods to begin doing so online for pick-up or delivery.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer COURTESY PHOTO

Meanwhile, Whitmer lifted restrictions on operating motorboats and traveling between residences, but she urged residents not to do so unless necessary.

The order requires residents to wear face masks in enclosed public settings, but those who don’t will not be penalized. 

Whitmer said today’s order is the first wave of what will be a months-long process to re-engage the state’s economy. As of yesterday, the state had more than 35,000 positive COVID-19 cases and just fewer than 3,000 deaths.

“We know that if we do it too fast, a second wave is likely and would be even more devastating than the moment we are in,” Whitmer said during a press conference today.

Statewide groups representing small businesses and retailers called today’s order a positive step forward. The Detroit Regional Chamber said the order begins the “process of responsibly restarting Michigan’s economy.”

“Today’s executive order is a positive step toward reopening our economy as Michigan works to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan, said in a statement. “We recognize that completely reopening Michigan’s economy will take time and careful actions but are encouraged to see these first steps being taken today. In addition to these steps, we urge the Governor to consider adoption of updated Homeland Security CISA guidelines.”

The Michigan Retailers Association called the order a “good first step” while recognizing it won’t be a “quick fix” for retailers. This week, an MRA survey showed “dismal” earnings among retailers since the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I want to thank Gov. Whitmer for trusting retailers to safely conduct retail-to-go,” MRA president and CEO Bill Hallan said in a statement. From the beginning, we have provided the Governor’s office detailed guidelines on how retail can operate in a safe and effective manner. We look forward to working with her office on the next several waves of reopening.”

Whitmer’s order appears similar, albeit shorter, than a modified order issued today by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker. Illinois’ stay-home order is through May 30 and also requires face masks in most public spaces while reopening state parks and golf courses.

Dr. Mohammed Arsiwala, president of the Michigan State Medical Society, said Whitmer’s order today 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,” Arsiwala said in a statement. “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.”

Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled state Legislature has convened for a session today to consider bills that would limit the governor’s authority to declare states of emergency, and to prepare formal oversight of the state’s COVID-19 response. 

Whitmer responded that she is not focused on the Legislature’s actions today, but said their efforts may be better spent addressing paid sick leave or ensuring health insurance for laid off workers. She vowed to veto legislation that restricts her emergency powers.

“I’m not going to sign any bill that takes authority from me or any future governor,” she said.

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