At a press conference Friday morning, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced an executive order extending Michigan’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order through May 15. The new order requires residents to wear homemade face coverings — such as scarves, handkerchiefs or clothes — in enclosed public spaces, including grocery stores and pharmacies. Whitmer said while face covering is crucial to protecting the public and critical employees, no one will be subject to criminal penalty for not wearing one.
“Today’s announcement is a step forward,” Whitmer said. “There is and will be light at the end of the tunnel, but I want to be crystal clear: the overachieving message today is still the same. We all need to do our part and staying home is the best way to prevent (the) spread of COVID-19.”
The order lifts restrictions on some outdoor activities such as golfing and motorboating. It also allows for landscapers, lawn-service companies and nurseries to return to business so long as they follow strict social distancing. Additionally, retailers not selling necessary supplies can open for curbside pickup and previously closed areas in big box stores will open. While some restrictions are lifted, Whitmer said the public needs to remain vigilant to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.
“Please remember that if you choose to go to the golf course, take the boat out or engage your lawn care service, please stay safe and do everything you can to protect yourself and others,” Whitmer said. “I know there’s been a lot of discussion about these restrictions. I know they haven’t been easy and they seemed inconsistent or confusing, but the data shows that what we have done is working. We’ve saved lives in this process.”
Whitmer spoke alongside Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health. Khaldun said the state continues to see a plateau of new COVID-19 cases but emphasized the need for continued compliance with the stay at home order.
“We are cautiously optimistic, but we are by no means out of the woods when it comes to COVID-19 in the state of Michigan,” Khaldun said. “We all still have to do our part, like the governor said. Stay home unless you must absolutely go out. Wear a mask when you’re going out into closed spaces and continue to do things like staying home if you are sick.”
Khaldun expressed optimism about Michigan’s increased COVID-19 testing capacity, noting 7,400 tests were performed Wednesday compared to a couple hundred per day last month. That number is still shy of the state’s goal of 15,000 tests per day, according to Khaldun. She encouraged people with symptoms and essential workers without symptoms to seek testing.
“As part of this effort to get more testing done, we want everyone to do their part,” Khaldun said. “Even if you don’t have symptoms, you can now seek out a test. You can go to our website… to contact a testing site near you. We will continue to make sure testing is available to those who need it and to remove as many barriers as possible.”
Whitmer praised the efforts of Michiganders who have stayed home over the last six weeks, saying the majority of people and businesses are doing the right thing. She said while new cases have plateaued, loosening too many restrictions too soon could put the state back at risk for sharp increases in cases.
“As hard as this moment is for us right now, as isolated as we feel and as stressed as we are about getting back to work and reopening our businesses, we know that if we do it too fast a second wave is likely and would be even more devastating than the moment that we are in,” Whitmer said.
State lawmakers are currently constructing a bill in Lansing to limit the governor’s emergency powers and shorten the time executive orders can last as a result of the dissent to the stay at home order. Whitmer said she would veto any bill limiting emergency powers for her or any future governors.
“The only thing I’m focused on is meeting the needs of everyone across our state,” Whitmer said. “The political conversation that is happening in the capitol right now is not something that I’m spending a lot of energy on because every unnecessary trip out of the house, every unnecessary close contact with another person threatens to continue spreading COVID-19.”
Summer News Editor Calder Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.