Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-92 on Monday, May 18 that will allow regions six and eight- the Upper Peninsula and the greater Traverse City area- to partially reengage their economies. This order will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, May 22.
The sectors of the economy permitted to reopen under this executive order are retail businesses, restaurants, bars, and office work that can’t be done from home, as outlined by Whitmer during today’s press conference.
“I want to be very clear that these businesses have got to adhere to the worker safety requirements,” Whitmer said.
Those worker safety measures include providing employees with training 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,” as stated in the press release.
CEO of Dow Chemicals Jim Fitterling spoke extensively during the press conference about safety measures that the company has implemented in its facilities, which are a strong echo of the worker safety measures mandated by the governor, and how it has shared that information with others.
Fitterling explained that Dow has established a “Return to Workplace” playbook that goes into detail about the safety measures the company uses.
“The plan is based upon key standards that can be adapted across all industries,” Fitterling said.
Dow has been sharing the guidelines with “governments, trade associations, and other businesses, schools, and organizations in hopes that it can inform their safety practices,” Fitterling said. The playbook can be found here.
Restaurants and bars will be restricted to half of their usual seating capacity in order to promote social distancing. During the press conference Whitmer expressed hope that establishments would take advantage of the nicer weather to encourage outdoor seating, which is safer than indoor, and acknowledged that local governments have the ability to take a more cautious path, such as restricting restaurants and bars to outdoor seating only.
Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers expressed excitement for the economic reopening, but encouraged people to follow Whitmer’s policies and recommendations.
“We want you to come have fun, but we want you to be wise and safe,” Carruthers said. “…Please, wear your masks, be socially distant. Come enjoy Traverse City, come enjoy Petoskey, Charlevoix, Harbor Springs, Ludington, all the areas that we love along the coast. But please be mindful that we are small towns with limited abilities to take care of you if you should get sick. We will do our best, we will do our part, but everyone needs to be mindful.”
Regions six and eight are alone in their partial reengagement due to the lower number of COVID-19 cases in those regions compared to the state average. They haven’t been affected by the virus to the extent that the lower portions of Michigan have been, which is demonstrated by the statistics for new cases per million, percent of positive tests, and number of deaths.
“We are removing barriers to testing in Michigan, because it is critical that we continue to ramp up our testing,” Whitmer said.
Michigan has been increasing the rate of testing, with an average of about 16,500 tests per day over the past week- 1,500 tests per day over the goal. Relaxing the criteria for getting tested will supplement that increase.
“In many locations if you need a test, the test is free,” Whitmer said. “You do not need insurance. You do not need to have a doctor that you see regularly to write you a prescription. Those with mild symptoms are eligible for a test. Those who leave home for work are eligible for a test. Be sure to contact the testing site ahead of time to make sure the location fits your individual needs, and to schedule your appointment.”
A testing site finder for Michigan’s 250+ testing locations is available here.
“The more people that get tested, the more confidence we can have that we know where COVID-19 is present in Michigan, and the more likely we can contain it so we can continue to move forward,” Whitmer said.
During the press conference Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Deputy, reported current numbers for COVID-19 as of May 18: 51,915 cases, 4,915 deaths, and more than 28,000 recoveries in Michigan.