LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended Michigan’s stay at home order through the end of April. She made the announcement Thursday, just four days before the original order was set to expire on Monday, April 13.
Michigan follows the lead of several other states that have extended their original orders, including others in the Midwest like Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. By the time this extension is lifted, Michigan’s nearly 10 million residents will have been under the stay home, stay safe order for over five weeks.
The new order goes into effect on April 9 at 11:59 p.m. and expires at 11:59 p.m. on April 30. It supersedes the original order.
“Michigan has the third highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country, and we’re still on the upswing. We must continue to do everything we can to slow the spread and protect our families,” said Whitmer in a news release.
The stay at home order means only essential businesses are allowed to operate. People are asked to stay home as much as possible, and only leave for life sustaining tasks, like getting groceries or seeking medical care. Getting exercise outdoors is also encouraged, granted social distancing is maintained. However, any gathering, public or private, with people outside of a household is prohibited.
“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.”
The governor said that data indicates Michiganders are staying home, but the order needs to be extended in order to continue to slow the spread of the virus within the state.
"When we do, we can save lives and shorten the amount of time we’re working through this crisis, which will be good for our families and good for our economy in the long-run. We can also protect critical infrastructure workers like doctors, nurses, grocery store employees, and child care workers. Now more than ever, it’s crucial that people stay home and stay safe," said Whitmer.
The governor and Michigan’s chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun have both said modeling done by the University of Michigan indicates the virus won’t peak here until the end of April or the beginning of May.
“It’s clear that staying home is the most effective way we can slow the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan,” said Khaldun “This aggressive action will help us protect more people and ease the strain on our health care system.”
Thursday, Michigan recorded 21,504 cases of COVID-19, with 1,076 deaths—making it the state with the third highest number of cases in the country.
The new order has a section that imposes restrictions on stores to reduce crowds. Large stores, primarily grocery stores, must limit the number of people to no more than four customers for every 1,000 square feet. Small stores must limit capacity to 25%.
During Thursday's press briefing, the governor was asked if the stay home order should be regional, since 80% of the COVID-19 cases are in the three-county metro Detroit region. Whitmer said COVID-19 does not observe geography.
"COVID-19 is present all across the state," she said. "It is present statewide and the more people move around, the more likely it is going to show up."
The order will keep Michigan businesses shuttered for an additional three weeks. Michigan Senate leaders have developed a bipartisan work group that will advise the governor how to reopen parts of the economy while complying with social distancing measures. They are expected to make their recommendations on April 17.
“We need to start looking at how our state can begin to move forward and get people back to their jobs and their livelihoods to support their families in a safe and healthy manner,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson) in a video update on Tuesday.
Whitmer said that right now, the state is facing a health crisis and an economic crisis, and if the health crisis is not addressed, the economic impact could be even more devastating. She said Michigan won't be able to flip a switch and return to business as usual.
"It's not going to be how it was. You all just have to kind of come to terms with; that; it's the harsh truth," Whitmer said. "We have to be very smart about how we re-engage."
Due to sweeping social distancing measures, unemployment in Michigan has surged to record levels. Over the past three weeks, more than 800,000 people have filed claims for unemployment. The Michigan Unemployment Agency has been overwhelmed with calls and applications, prompting the office to add staff and call center hours.
Whitmer said she understands people are frustrated with the process of filing an unemployment claim, but she assured Michiganders that the state government is making progress.
"If you know people are listening or reading, and they're still frustrated, I hope that they'll give us a little more grace as we get to them. But we will get back to them and everyone will get some employment benefits that that they're eligible for," Whitmer said.
Watch Whitmer's full briefing here:
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