Gov. Gretchen Whitmer today authorized an extension of Michigan’s “stay at home, stay safe” order through Thursday, April 30. The new order includes more specific mandates limiting the number of people allowed inside stores and banning “all public and private gatherings “among persons outside a single household.”
The new deadline follows the Michigan legislature’s approval of an extension to Whitmer’s emergency declaration through April 30 — a shorter timeframe than the governor had requested.
The stay-at-home order originally took effect on Tuesday, March 24, and was scheduled to expire on Monday, April 13; however, the escalating COVID-19 epidemic in Michigan — ranked third highest in the nation for novel coronavirus cases — required a longer period of social distancing to slow the spread, according to officials. At a press conference this afternoon, Whitmer pushed back against models suggesting that Michigan’s outbreak may reach its peak this week, stating that the projections were based on much more stringent shelter-in-place policies established in Wuhan, China.
The updated order also gets specific about managing grocery stores, where social distancing continues to be a challenge. The guidelines recommend that citizens limit the number of people per household leaving the house for groceries. Stores, meanwhile, are now required to establish lines with markings specifying where customers can stand six-feet apart, in accordance with CDC recommendations. Grocery retailers also banned from advertising and promoting items that aren’t medical supplies, groceries, sanitation items, and other items necessary for the “basic operation of residences” beginning on Monday, April 13, and must create at least two hours per week of shopping time dedicated to vulnerable populations.
- Stores less than 50,000 square feet of customer floor space must limit the number of people in the building including employees to 25 percent of total occupancy established by fire marshals.
- Stores over 50,000 square feet must limit the number of customers and employees in the store to 4 people per 1,000 square feet of customer floor space. The customer floor space doesn’t include areas that are closed under state guidelines such as carpet and flooring, furniture, paint, and garden centers. It’s recommended that stores block off those areas or remove items from those shelves.
Additionally, the state is recommending alternatives to lines such as curbside pickup and asking customers to wait in their cars and receive texts and phone calls when it’s time to shop. Customers are encouraged to order supplies online for delivery when possible.
Restaurant and bars were closed for dine-in service on March 16, just days after the first novel coronavirus cases were identified in Michigan. Whitmer eventually set that order to expire on April 13 with the “stay at home” order. Residents are legally able to leave homes to purchase take-out food under the updated order.
Many restaurants and bars across the state have quickly adapted to a new world of carryout and delivery. Some are even supplying groceries and household supplies for curbside pickup to help customers avoid crowded grocery stores.
Still, the economic impact on the service industry has been severe. Many employees are now out of work and struggling to file for unemployment. Some restaurant owners are also beginning to weigh the cost of putting their employees at risk of contracting the virus or closing down until the situation becomes safer. Since the crisis began, Michigan has received more than 815,000 unemployment claims. Whitmer stated during her press briefing today that state unemployment offices had nearly quadrupled staff and extended call center hours to deal with the high influx of filings.