Gov. Whitmer Issues 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' Order For Michigan

WWJ News
March 23, 2020 - 11:07 am

(WWJ) As the number of coronavirus cases in Michigan spikes, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has issued a "Stay Home, Stay Safe" executive order directing most businesses in the state to temporarily suspend in-person operations.

This will take effect at 12:01 a.m Tuesday, March 24, 2020, and will remain in effect until April 13, 2020 at 11:59 pm.

People should only leave their homes or places of residence under very limited circumstances, like for medical help. Grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses deemed essential to life will also be allowed to remain open.

"Critical" workers told to continue working include health care workers, law enforcement and first responders, food and agriculture workers, utility workers, and critical manufacturing workers.

 - WHAT WILL REMAIN OPEN? FULL DETAILS HERE

The governor said anyone violating the order could face a misdemeanor charge. "Don’t play fast and loose with what is essential and what is not. Don’t try to skirt the rules," she said. 

Whitmer is telling companies to promote remote work to the fullest extent possible.

“In just 13 days, we’ve gone from 0 to over 1,000 COVID-19 cases,” said Whitmer. “This is an unprecedented crisis that requires all of us working together to protect our families and our communities. The most effective way we can slow down the virus is to stay home. I know this will be hard, but it will be temporary. If we all come together, get serious, and do our part by staying home, we can stay safe and save lives.” 

"This disease can't spread person to person if we're not out there," Whitmer said. "Too many people are out and about unnecessarily, so we must do more."

This comes as state health officials announced today the number of deaths has risen to 15 as the number of confirmed cases has jumped to 1,328. 

“Taking aggressive action to protect our communities is the most important thing we can do to mitigate further spread of COVID-19,” said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. “If we do this now, we can make sure our hospitals and healthcare workers are prepared to take care of the sickest people. It is crucial that people do the right thing by staying home and staying safe.” 

Michigan has the sixth largest number of cases in the country, according to the last official count. 

There are about 25,000 hospital beds to treat problems like the novel coronavirus in Michigan but the fear is if the spread continues at the current rate, up to 1 million beds would be needed. Whitmer says at the current rate, 60-70% of Michiganders could get COVID-19. The state says they can now test 1,000 residents a day and they expect to be able to increase that number over the next several days and beyond.

To primary goal of this order, the governor said, is to keep the virus from spreading. "I want you to know I didn't make this decision lightly," Whitmer said.

How will the order be enforced? 

"Businesses who don’t heed this order, I anticipate there will be fines," Whitmer said. "At this point in time, this is an order they must comply with for their own and their employees' health. Any businesses that don’t comply, there will be ramifications."

Officials say the Michigan State Police and National Guard will not be actively patrolling and asking people what they're doing out. 

Whitmer said the National Guard's role has been limited to things like packing boxes with supplies for health departments and assisting at veteran's hospitals. “With regard to the National Guard, they’re helping with humanitarian efforts and setting up temporary hospitals and beds,” the governor said.

In the last four days, five states, including Illinois and Ohio, have ordered residents to stay at home unless absolutely necessary to leave.

Small business owners and supporters in Michigan have been fearful of the implications such a stay at home order may have on small businesses and the state's economy. 

"On one side is public safety and on the other side is business safety, and the governor has said at the end of the day she will come down on the side of public safety," WWJ's Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick reported.

In the midst of the pandemic, Whitmer has taken many measures to prevent the spread and help the economy, including making low-interest loans available through the SBA.

“Everyone can agree that the most important thing we can do for our people is to slow the spread of COVID-19 and ‘flatten the curve.’ It is also important that the public health response not jeopardize the health and well-being of the population in ways that add to the dangers our society already faces," Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan, said in a press release.

Calley says there are many businesses that can operate with little or no risk of spreading infection, but that's not the case for everyone.

"Other activities, if not given a reasonable lead time, will experience severe economic devastation that will reduce their viability. The actions taken today will impact the future recovery, and therefore the resources that the state has available to support the health and well-being of Michiganders for years to come," Calley said.

Last week California became the first state to be ordered to stay at home.