Today at 4:30 p.m., the emergency alert went off on my phone. It was a recorded message saying that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer had extended the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order through April 30 to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Yesterday, on April 8, Michigan reported 20,346 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 959 deaths from it.
“If you’re not buying food or medicine or other essential items, you should not be going to the store,” said Whitmer in a statement.
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The new Executive Order No. 2020-42 goes into effect at midnight tonight, April 9, and rescinds the previous Executive Order 2020-21 signed on March 23, which mandated the “Stay Home” order until April 13.
“This doesn’t mean everything will go back to normal on May 1,” said Whitmer. “But based on the data we have right now, this is the appropriate window for an extension. It will take time to safely and responsibly re-open the economy, which is why we will continue to provide critical unemployment support and assistance to our small businesses during this challenging time. We will get through this if we all continue to do our part.”
Travel Between Michigan Residences Banned
Along with the extended “Stay Home” mandate, the new executive order includes several other notable provisions. Here are some of the highlights:
- Michigan residents are banned from traveling between two residences in the state after April 10. Residents may return to Michigan from outside the state or leave the state to go to a residence in another state. But they cannot travel between Michigan residences.
- Other non-essential travel is also banned in Michigan, including all travel to vacation rentals. On a related note, as of today, Traverse City officials have suspended all short-term rental licenses indefinitely. This means no rentals for Airbnb, VRBO or vacation homes, unless it’s related to housing healthcare workers or volunteers aiding in the COVID-19 crisis.
- All advertising of short-term rentals is also banned, unless as mentioned above, it’s related to housing healthcare workers or volunteers.
- All public and private gatherings among people outside a single household are prohibited. Michiganders may leave the house to get groceries or needed supplies, but they’re encouraged to limit the number of household members running errands.
Note that as one of the exceptions in the executive order – see Item (7)(a)(1) – “Individuals may leave their home or place of residence, and travel as necessary to engage in outdoor physical activity, consistent with remaining at least six feet from people from outside the individual’s household. Outdoor physical activity includes walking, hiking, running, cycling, kayaking, canoeing, or other similar physical activity, as well as any comparable activity for those with limited mobility.”
Meaning, we are allowed to travel to trails and walk, as long as we stay at least six feet away from people not in our household. As noted here, Peninsula Township parks are still open at this time.
Retail Stores: Garden Centers, Paint & Flooring Sections Closed
The new order includes several restrictions for retail businesses, including:
- Limiting the number of customers that can be in a store at one time based on square footage.
- Banning advertising of items that are not groceries, medical supplies, or items necessary to maintain the safety and sanitation of residences.
- Creating at least two hours per week of dedicated shopping time for vulnerable populations.
- Closing store areas dedicated to carpet or flooring, furniture, garden centers and plant nurseries, and paint.
- Establishing lines with markings for patrons to stand at least six feet apart while waiting.
- Consider establishing curbside pick-up to reduce in-store traffic and mitigate outdoor lines.
The new order also mandates several provisions for businesses and employees. As noted in the previous order, businesses that employ critical infrastructure workers may continue in-person operations. All other businesses are prohibited from being open.
Critical infrastructure workers include the following industries: health care and public health; law enforcement, public safety, and first responders; food and agriculture; energy; water and wastewater; transportation and logistics; public works; communications and information technology, including news media; other community-based government operations and essential functions; critical manufacturing; hazardous materials; financial services; chemical supply chains and safety; and defense industrial base.
‘Essential’ and ‘Non-Essential’ Challenged
Triston Cole, Majority Floor Leader for the Michigan House of Representatives, submitted a letter to Whitmer today challenging the restrictions in relation to “essential” and “non-essential” business operations.
“These restrictions, as they currently stand, have had and will have both short- and long-term adverse effects on the construction, lawn care, greenhouse and recreation industries, as well as other outdoor occupations,” he said.
Cole suggests modifying the restrictions to allow these businesses to continue while still adhering to social distancing recommendations. For example, establishing a limit on crew size or allowing crews to stagger throughout a 24-hour timeline.
“Single-family new construction projects, remodels, pole barn/garages, landscaping, dock work, marinas, golf courses, home sales, auto sales, lawn maintenance, delivery of materials, and countless other jobs and occupations can be completed with very limited social interaction and without jeopardizing public safety,” he said.
Read Triston Cole’s letter below, and read the full text of Gov. Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-42 here.