Amid Protests, Michigan Gov. Whitmer Expresses Hope to Reopen State on May 1

Amid Protests, Michigan Gov. Whitmer Expresses Hope to Reopen State on May 1
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., on April 13, 2020. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP)
Mimi Nguyen Ly
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said on Friday that she hopes the state can start reopening for business on May 1, amid protests over the current statewide mandated stay-at-home order intended to combat the spread of the CCP virus, according to reports.
“I am hopeful that come May 1, we will make some steps forward,” Whitmer said during a tele-townhall hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber, a business organization, reported The Associated Press.
Michigan, with a population of nearly 10 million, has confirmed 30,023 cases of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as the novel coronavirus, and 2,227 deaths to-date. The state saw 760 new cases and 134 additional deaths on Friday.
The Michigan governor’s comments come amid recent resistance in the state to the stay-at-home order that was announced April 9. The “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order, valid through April 30, bans “travel between residences” and also requires large retailers to close off sections dedicated to items that are considered nonessential, including flooring, furniture, gardening, paint, gardening supplies, and others.
The order met with resistance in the state over the past week. Four Michigan residents filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against Whitmer in federal court, alleging that the stay-at-home order clashes with both state and federal law. On Wednesday, protesters gathered around Michigan’s capitol building in Lansing to protest Whitmer’s order. In a joint press release on Wednesday, four sheriffs said that they won’t strictly enforce the order.

Whitmer told a news conference on Friday that next week, she will share the thought processes that go behind authorities’ decision-making as to the strategy to reopen the state for business. She also noted that she wants to avoid a second wave of infections.

“The rate of infection remains high, especially in certain parts of our state,” Whitmer said. “And the threat of a second spike that overloads our hospitals is still very real if we don’t get this right. But I promise that I will keep you all informed as we get closer to re-engaging our economy. And I will have more to share on that next week.”

She did not provide a specific date as to when businesses will be allowed to start reopening but said that there would be four factors in consideration in restarting the economy.

“One is the sustained control of the rate of new infections and hospitalizations; two, the enhanced ability to test for COVID-19 and to trace; three, sufficient health care capacity so that we can handle resurgence. That means knowing that our hospitals are not in surge mode, but they are capable of taking care of anyone who needs assistance at the hospital, and they have the PPE to do so safely. And fourth, observing best practices when it comes to social distancing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19.”

She said that any return to work measures “will be phased in carefully,” and that authorities will be monitoring multiple factors including whether workers interact with the public, whether the workplace is indoors or outdoors, whether workers come into proximity with one another and whether they share tools or machinery, and the number of people in a workplace.

“There’s no one, I think, more eager to start re-engaging sectors of our economy than I am. But the last thing I want to do is to have a second wave here, and so we’ve got to be really smart,” Whitmer said.

On Thursday, she joined six other governors to form a Midwest regional partnership to coordinate efforts to reopen their states’ economies. The other six states are Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota.
Whitmer’s executive orders that prohibit evictions (pdf) and bans price-gouging (pdf) were extended on Friday, to May 15.