New Gov. Whitmer Executive Order Loosens Restrictions On Gatherings, Retail, More

WWJ News
May 21, 2020 - 4:10 pm

(WWJ) Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has announced that she is partially reopening more businesses and lifting medical restrictions all across Michigan — as well as allowing small gatherings.

However, she also said an extension of her stay-home order is likely.

Under Executive Order 2020-96signed by Whitmer Thursday, statewide:

  • Gatherings of 10 or fewer people are allowed starting now, as long as everyone in the group practices social distancing.
  • Auto dealerships and retailers can open by appointment only beginning Tuesday, May 26; provided that showrooms and stores are limited to 10 customers inside at a time.
  • Health care providers no longer have to delay some nonessential medical, dental and veterinary procedures beginning Friday, May 29.

"Congregation of people inside is what's so dangerous and that's why appointment-only gives us the ability to reengage this sector of our economy," the governor said, making the announcements at a news briefing. 

Thursday’s order means many in Michigan will be able to get together over the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The big question on everyone's mind though may still be: What about the stay-home order, which Whitmer is now calling "Safer at Home"? That order is set to expire on May 28, but Whitmer said Michiganders should expect her to extend it into June.

While Whitmer didn't mention any new dates, she said it was likely to be a "short-term, temporary extension," and that she will share more details on that in the coming days. 

“The data shows that Michigan is ready to phase in these sectors of our economy, but we must stay vigilant and ensure we’re doing everything we can to protect ourselves and our families from the spread of COVID-19,” Whitmer said. “On behalf of our brave first responders on the front lines of this crisis, we must continue to all do our part by staying safer at home. We owe it to them to do what we can to stop the spread of this virus.”

This latest comes just a few days after Whitmer announced all restaurants and shops in the Upper Peninsula and in 17 counties in the northern Lower Peninsula would be allowed to reopen starting Friday, with limited capacities and other restrictions in place. 

"As businesses continue to reopen, it’s crucial that they adopt strict safety measures to protect their employees, customers, and their families,” said MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. “I know that as medical professionals begin offering nonessential procedures again, they will do everything in their power to protect patients and their families from COVID-19. I will continue to work with Governor Whitmer and our partners across Michigan to protect our families and lower the chance of a second wave.” 

The governor also Thursday signed a separate order, Executive Order 2020-97, updating a prior rule on workplace safety. Under the amended order, reopened outpatient health-care facilities, including clinics, primary care physician offices, and dental offices, will have to adopt strict protocols to prevent infection. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs will issue guidance to aid those facilities in adopting appropriate safeguards. 

As before, businesses maintaining in-person activities must adopt social distancing practices and other mitigation measures to protect workers. They must, among other things, provide COVID-19 training to workers that covers, at a minimum, workplace infection-control practices, the proper use of PPE, steps workers must take to notify the business or operation of any symptoms of COVID-19 or a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, and how to report unsafe working conditions. 

“With today’s announcement, physicians and health care providers in Michigan are ready to resume taking care of patients,” said Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, president of the Michigan State Medical Society. “It is time for patients to catch up on the care that has been deferred for the past two months. We encourage the citizens of Michigan to tend to their health and protect each other by following public health guidance to prevent spread of this virus." 

Ongoing, anyone who is able to medically tolerate a face covering must wear a covering over his or her nose and mouth — such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandana, or handkerchief — when in any enclosed public space.

Michiganders who are not working as critical infrastructure workers or at a business that has been authorized to reopen should continue stay home to protect themselves and their families from the spread of COVID-19, the governor's office said. 

As for where the state stands amid the pandemic, health officials say the curve is flattening. There were 501 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Michigan in Michigan Thursday, and 69 new deaths. That brings the totals to 53,510 cases and 5,129 deaths during the pandemic.