Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the extension of the “Stay Safe, Stay Home” Executive Order through April 30 on Thursday afternoon.
The order limits gatherings, travel and requires workers who are not essential to “sustain or protect life” to stay home. Police officers, hospital employees and grocery store workers are among those considered essential. The order also places more stringent requirements on businesses to limit foot traffic.
While the order still allows residents to go to grocery stores and purchase necessary supplies, it encourages households to limit running errands as much as possible. In a press conference Thursday, Whitmer noted the importance of wearing homemade masks, washing hands and practicing social distancing.
“When we all take this seriously, we will save lives in Michigan,” Whitmer said. “We will save the frontline health care providers that are struggling to keep up with the need. And we will come out of this in a more robust way where we can get our economy reengaged.”
The new order prohibits all gatherings outside of immediate family members and travel for vacations or any other purpose.
Under the new legislation, large stores must have no more than four customers at any given point for every 1,000 square feet of customer floor space and small stores must limit capacity to 25 percent of the total occupancy limits including employees. Stores must also have markings on the floor to keep patrons six feet apart.
Whitmer said the coronavirus is reminding people across the state and country of the inequities that impact the most vulnerable communities. She noted African Americans make up 14 percent of the state’s population but over 40 percent of deaths.
“This virus is holding up a mirror to our society and reminding us of the deep inequities in our country,” Whitmer said. “From basic lack of access to care, to access to transportation, to lack of protections in the workplace, these (are) inequities that hit people of color and vulnerable communities the hardest.”
In addition to previous actions like restoring water to all residents, Whitmer said they will continue to study how this outbreak is impacting daily life and learn from this tough moment.
Whitmer noted the economic crisis also happening due to the outbreak, but said the economy will not get back on track until the health crisis is resolved.
“This has been a hard month,” Whitmer said. “We've got to take the lessons that we've learned from it and use them for the betterment of our state and the betterment of our people.”
Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said early data has indicated the growth rate of the virus could be slowing as the total number of cases tops 21,000 and 1,000 deaths. However, she said there is still not enough testing available.
Khaldun also noted the racial disparities the data shows and said she is committed to working to better understand these disparities with the state task force. She also discussed the impact the virus has had on mental well-being in addition to physical health.
She echoed the importance of staying home and practicing social distancing.
“We already know that there are some parts of the state where there is community spread,” Khaldun said. “This means now more than ever, we have to double down and do everything we can to fight this disease. Too many people are getting sick and too many people are dying.”
Daily News Editor Alex Harring can be reached at email@example.com.