After a weekend filled with criticism from top GOP lawmakers, business advocacy groups and some Michigan residents over an expanded stay-at-home order, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer maintains the state’s response to the coronavirus is to protect public health and the health care system.
“The question we’re trying to confront is: How do we save lives, how do we hold on to this health care system?” Whitmer said. “No one wants to move on to the next phase more than I do. We will get past this — this is not a permanent moment.”
Whitmer also rejected suggestions that some rural parts of the state, which have fewer confirmed COVID-19 cases compared to Southeast Michigan, or some industries like landscaping should start to be reopened.
“At this stage, we can’t make exceptions for some people in the state to get back to work,” Whitmer said. “We will get to that point, but we’re not there yet.”
However, Whitmer said state officials have “cautious optimism” about the rate of new COVID-19 cases slowing. As of today, Michigan has 25,635 confirmed cases and 1,602 deaths — more deaths than Ohio, Indiana and Illinois combined and more than twice as many as all of Canada.
The smaller increase in confirmed cases “gives us reason to have some cautious optimism,” Whitmer said.
“These measures may be starting to work,” Whitmer said of the stay-home order, which was expanded on Thursday to include more travel limitations and close portions of big retail stores. “Right now my immediate concern is trying to keep everyone in Michigan safe.”
Whitmer also said planning has started around eventually re-opening portions of the economy, and the administration has been consulting with labor groups, local governments, economists and medical experts. The criteria for doing so depends on four factors: a sustained reduction in case counts, better ability to test and trace residents, sufficient health care capacity and best practices in the workplace.
“We can’t afford a second wave,” Whitmer said, adding that the “re-engagement of the economy” will likely come in phases. “It’s going to be incredibly important that we do this right.”
Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan, backs Whitmer’s planning to “restart our economy and lives the right way.”
“All of us want to get back to the way we lived and worked before this pandemic struck,” Rothwell said in a statement. “But not at the expense of the health of thousands more Michiganders or long-term risk to our economy.
“We’re anxious like most are to get back to ‘normal,’ but we’ll get there faster if we do it the right way. The Governor understands this and we will do our part to help her write the right playbook.”