By Allie Ouendag
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced eased restrictions of the stay-at-home order this Thursday, May 21 as part of her MI Safe Start plan to reopen the state. Changes include allowing gatherings of 10 people or less, reopening retail businesses and auto dealerships by appointment beginning May 26 as well as allowing for nonessential medical, dental, and veterinary procedures to take place after May 29.
The governor announced these changes after Southeast Michigan, the hardest-hit area in the state, saw a seven-day record low in positive testing for the COVID-19 virus.
“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 during a press briefing Thursday. “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.”
Whitmer also provided an update on the crisis in mid-Michigan. The governor sent a letter to President Donald Trump the night before requesting a federal emergency declaration after parts of Midland County suffered extreme flooding from the collapse and breach of two dams. Trump has since approved the declaration and has authorized The Department of Homeland Security as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide assistance to state and local authorities in managing the situation.
“The federal emergency declaration is a good start because it will help us take protective measures to protect lives and property from further damage,” Whitmer said. “These devastating floods have forced thousands of people from their homes and caused a tremendous amount of damage to our infrastructure. I’m hopeful that the federal government will soon approve the full funding request to help Michigan families rebuild after this natural disaster.”
The governor signed Executive Order 2020-96 that is an attempt to slowly re-open businesses and non-essential services throughout the state. This comes three days after the governor announced the reopening of restaurants and stores in the upper peninsula as well as some northern parts of the lower peninsula.
Despite the easing of restrictions, health officials still stress the importance of social distancing precautions as well as utilizing personal protection equipment in public spaces.
“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.”
Whitmer also signed Executive Order 2020-97 pertaining to workplace safety procedures and virus protection. Workplaces will implement new training to prevent contamination between workers as well as to adapt to social distancing guidelines. In a statement from the governor’s office, the executive order will require employers to create training for “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.”