Michigan Republican leaders and U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (I-Grand Rapids) are criticizing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for her latest stay at home order. On Thursday, Whitmer extended the shelter-in-place for Michiganders until May 1.
Some of the main sticking points for her critics are not classifying landscaping services as essential and closing garden centers.
Michigan's Republican Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield has called Whitmer's latest order the "wrong call" and "bad for Michigan families." He cited locally-owned businesses that have shuttered due to the order and the thousands of people who have filed for unemployment.
"Instead of essential vs non-essential, we should think safe vs unsafe," Chatfield tweeted on Friday. He listed lawn care, construction, motorized boating, realtors, and buying seeds and gardening supplies as things that are prohibited under the current order.
"All these are safe. But the Governor says no. We can ensure safety & be reasonable. Let’s do both," Chatfield said.
In Michigan's other chamber, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Jackson) also critiqued Whitmer's order.
He acknowledged that quick action needed to be taken at the start of the crisis, but says now it's time for "commonsense revisions" to sweeping orders.
"The Senate Republicans believe a strategic application of 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' is appropriate going forward. Individuals living in regions of the state that are experiencing little to no growth in infection rates should be able to return to their jobs to support their families if proper safety protocols are put in place," he said in a statement.
As of Saturday, Michigan had nearly 24,000 cases of COVID-19 with close to 1,400 deaths. The state has the third highest number of cases in the country, behind New York and New Jersey. However, about 78% of the confirmed cases are in the three-county Metro Detroit region and some counties have yet to see any coronavirus patients.
In Whitmer's press briefing on Thursday, she was asked whether certain regions of the state that were not hit as hard with the virus would be allowed to reopen earlier. But the governor said COVID-19 does not observe geography.
"COVID-19 is present all across the state," Whitmer said. "It is present statewide and the more people move around, the more likely it is going to show up."
Saturday evening, Amash also commented on the order. The congressman said he typically stays out of state politics as a federal official, but said he has "a constitutional duty to ensure states don’t trample on the rights of the people."
In a 9-tweet thread, Amash explained why he thinks Whitmer's order "goes too far and will erode confidence in her leadership," and urged the governor to reassess it.
"Sensible instructions to practice social distancing, wear masks, and stay at home already do most of the work to reduce the virus’s spread. By pushing too far, the governor undermines her own authority and increases the likelihood people will not follow reasonable guidelines," the congressman contends.
He, like other critics, cites the closure of garden centers and says the order could prompt a damaging backlash.
"People will not long tolerate extraordinary restrictions on liberty that contribute so little to safety. Eventually, even basic measures, such as social distancing, will be ignored as people grow restless," he said.
Amash also said he believes Whitmer means well, but asked her to reconsider parts of the order.
In response to some of these pointed critiques, Whitmer tweeted her own response Saturday afternoon urging Michiganders to stay steady.
"We are living in a difficult time, & the unknown is scary. But I do know that we must remain steady. We can’t allow fear or panic to guide us.The lives of Michiganders are at stake. We must stay the course to save lives," Whitmer said.
The governor also explained on Thursday why her stay at order is so stringent, saying a list of exceptions erodes the the goal of keeping people away from each other.
"It's important to remember that we are all in this together. That creating all sorts of exceptions for what is going to last for three more weeks--is what this stay at home order is. Every exception we make makes it porous and less likely to be successful," Whitmer said.
"We know that these tactics work."
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