Seven regional governors, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, announced today they will partner on reopening sectors of the economy while making decisions “based on facts, science, and recommendations from experts in health care, business, labor and education.”
The partnership includes Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. All but Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb are Democrats.
“We are doing everything we can to protect the people of our states and slow the spread of COVID-19, and we are eager to work together to mitigate the economic crisis this virus has caused in our region,” according to a joint statement. “Here in the Midwest, we are bound by our commitment to our people and the community. We recognize that our economies are all reliant on each other, and we must work together to safely reopen them so hardworking people can get back to work and businesses can get back on their feet.”
The states have similar stay-at-home orders in place lasting until late April or early May. Michigan has some stricter rules than others, including more limited travel and closures on nurseries and landscaping companies. However, Michigan has the most COVID-19 cases out of the seven states, and has nearly as many deaths (1,921 as of yesterday) as all of them combined (1,936).
For Michigan, the announcement comes amid growing unrest among some residents and top GOP lawmakers. A rally in Lansing yesterday included thousands of people protesting from cars for Whitmer to reopen portions of the state’s economy. Whitmer said the “sad irony” is that the large gathering, which included dozens who mingled on the Capitol lawn while not maintaining social distancing, could prolong portions of the state’s stay-home order. Meanwhile, four Northern Michigan sheriffs have said they won’t enforce portions of Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, while multiple federal lawsuits have been filed over the restrictions.
However, business groups also have started drafting reopening recommendations. The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce released several recommendations today, including “creating a framework for reopening based upon activity, risk, safe work and geographic, as well as individual vulnerability.”
The Midwest governors say four factors will help determine the reopening process: sustained control of the rate of new infections and hospitalizations, better ability to test and trace, sufficient health care capacity to handle a potential resurgence, and best practices for social distancing in the workplace.
The governors say the coordination will prioritize workers’ health.
“We look forward to working with experts and taking a fact-based, data-driven approach to reopening our economy in a way that protects families from the spread of COVID-19. … We will make decisions based on facts, science, and recommendations from experts in health care, business, labor, and education,” the governors said in the statement.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to note Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is a Republican.