Michigan greenhouses and nurseries say they are pleased and ready to open following an executive order today by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer loosening restrictions on some businesses as COVID-19 cases level off.
Tensions between garden industry advocates and the state had grown bitter over the past two weeks. On April 9, Whitmer ordered gardening businesses and landscaping departments to close in an effort to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus and prevent hospitals in the state from becoming overwhelmed with patients.
“We are pleased to be able to open our doors and resume operations today,” Dave Mast of Grand Rapids-based Andy Mast Greenhouses said in a statement. “It won’t be business as usual but greenhouses and garden centers appreciate the opportunity to put our safeguards into action and step up to operate safely.”
Friday’s updated executive order allows those businesses to reopen while requiring reduced foot traffic and strict social distancing practices. It also extends limits on gatherings, travel and work “not necessary to sustain or protect life” until mid-May.
Earlier this month, thousands of demonstrators drove into Lansing to protest the restrictions on the garden industry, recreational activities and other concerns. On April 17, lawn care companies filed a federal lawsuit seeking an emergency injunction against the stay-at-home order in an effort to “immediately resume providing lawn care, landscaping, and retail-garden-sales services,” according to court documents.
Spring is a critical time for all nurseries, greenhouses and landscape companies in the state, most of which are family-owned and many are multi-generational businesses, according to industry advocates.
Like grocery stores, gardening businesses must reduce capacity based on the size of retail spaces and direction from the state. The businesses must also consider establishing curbside pick-up to reduce in-store traffic and create at least two hours per week of dedicated shopping time for vulnerable populations.
“Michigan’s greenhouses and garden centers are prepared to reopen with a focus on the safety of our customers and employees,” said Mast, who is also president of the Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council. “We have put safeguards in place and are ready to resume operations and safely get our product out to customers.”
Whitmer said Friday that “most Michiganders are doing their part” to maintain social distancing.
“With new COVID-19 cases leveling off, however, we are lifting some of the restrictions put in place in the previous order,” Whitmer said. “I want to be crystal clear: The overarching message today is still the same. We must all do our part by staying home and staying safe as much as possible.”
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