LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has lengthened her stay-at-home order through May 15 while relaxing restrictions so some businesses can reopen and the public can participate in more outdoor activities like golf and motorized boating.
The measure is designed to help combat the coronavirus pandemic. It immediately replaces one that was scheduled to expire next week.
"The new executive order will now allow some workers who perform lower risk activities to go back on the job," said Whitmer. "We will consider this, the preliminary stage of economic re-engagement, we will measure. We will collect data. We will continue to ramp up our testing and our tracing. And we will make informed decisions in the coming days about potential further economic re-engagement, but it depends on you."
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan's chief medical executive, said that some rules were lifted because the state is seeing a plateau in cases.
"We're starting with slowly reopening businesses and allowing people to engage in some previously suspended activities that are lower, public health risk," Khaldun said.
In general, the order continues to ban all in-person work that is not essential to sustain or protect human life, but it provides exceptions.
Perhaps most notably, those exceptions include things like boating, golfing and the allowance of lawn care and garden center workers to continue their work — the ban on all three of those were heavily criticized in governor's previous order.
"These are changes that public health experts say are lower risk," Whitmer said in her Friday morning briefing. She also acknowledged the criticism, saying that the orders may have seemed "inconsistent or confusing," but they are working.
Under the new order, garden stores, nurseries, lawn care, pest control and landscaping operations may all resume. Moving and storage company workers may also get back to work.
The order provides detailed requirements for what in-person businesses should be doing to curb the spread of the virus, including things like restricting the number of workers on site at a time and promoting remote work to the fullest extent possible.
Big box retailers are also allowed to open their garden centers are areas dedicated to selling carpet and paint.
Public and private gatherings of people not in the same house are still banned in this order, however, outdoor recreational activities are still allowed. Parks will remain open. People can also now leave their home to pick up non-essential items at the curbside of a store that is otherwise closed to the public.
Funerals remain limited to no more than 10 people in attendance.
Also worth noting, people can now return to their homes from outside of this state, leave the state for a home in another state or travel between two residences. But travel to vacation rentals and the short-term rental of vacation homes is still prohibited.
"Michiganders may travel between their residences, but I still strongly discourage people from doing so unless it is absolutely necessary," Whitmer said. "We ask that you consider not doing that."
Large stores, anything larger than 50,000 sq ft, are still required to limit the number of customers in the store at a time and create special hours (at least two hours a week) that allows for vulnerable populations to shop. The order also calls for stores to try and establish curbside pickup if possible to reduce in-store traffic.
Under the new order, starting April 26 at 11:59 p.m., any individual out in enclosed public place is now required to wear a face covering, and open businesses must provide non-medical grade masks for their employees. The N95 masks should continue to be reserved for front line workers, the order reads.
Even though this order does relax some of the restrictions, it still requires people to stay home as much as possible.
"Staying home remains our best weapon to defeat this enemy, and to stop the spread," Whitmer said. "Every unnecessary trip outside the house, every unnecessary close encounter with other people spreads this virus."
Both Whitmer and Khladun emphasized that reopening the state will go slowly, because they want to avoid a second wave of the virus at all costs.
"We have to keep in mind that it may take as long as 18 months for vaccine to be developed for COVID-19," said Khaldun. "And we still don't have the appropriate antibiotic treatments for this disease. So life in the foreseeable future will not go back exactly to what it was before COVID-19. This is going to be a marathon, and not a sprint."
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