Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a new extension for Michigan’s stay-at-home order on Thursday, to last through Thursday, May 28. The previous stay-at-home order was due to expire on May 15. The updated order represents a step forward for the state, with allowances for areas of manufacturing to start up again on Monday, May 11, with specific safeguards in place.
This brings the stay-at-home order in line with a separate order closing restaurants and bars for dine-in service through May 28. As essential businesses, restaurants are allowed to continue operating for limited carryout, delivery, curbside, drive-thru, and walk-up window service.
Whitmer also revealed the Michigan Safe Start Plan, which outlines six stages of the pandemic and how they relate to different parts of the economy. She described Michigan as being presently in stage three.
Stage three of the Safe Start plan describes a time when cases of novel coronavirus are “gradually declining” but when it’s still safer to stay home, maintain social distance, wear face coverings, and avoid gatherings. Lower risk businesses such as construction, manufacturing, real estate, and outdoor work can resume operations during this stage.
If the number of cases and deaths in the state “decline more sharply” and more robust testing, contact tracing, and containment protocols are in place, Michigan could move to stage four. In stage four, when some retail could resume with capacity limits, while offices could potentially reopen with options for working from home.
Under the plan, Michigan’s restaurants and bars couldn’t return to dine-in service with “strict mitigation measures” until stage five, referred to as “Containment.” This stage describes a time when staying at home would not necessarily be a requirement and people could gather with safety measures including social distancing. Michigan would only reach stage six theoretically at a point when there’s a safe therapy or vaccine for COVID-19. Experts optimistically think vaccine could maybe be developed in 18 months, however it’s extremely unlikely based on previous rates of vaccine development.
Whitmer estimated that moving to stage four could take a few weeks, but it’s dependent on the data being gathered by state health officials. She also didn’t rule out that restrictions being put back in place if cases began to rise again.
Across the country, more and more states are moving to quickly jumpstart portions of their economies that have been placed in stasis by the pandemic. States such as Georgia and Texas have already resumed business at restaurants and bars. While the White House and President Donald Trump have pushed for the reopening the economy, internal models show that there could be roughly 200,000 new cases reported daily by June — an increase of around 25,000 cases daily from current levels — if states remove stay-at-home restrictions at this stage in the crisis.
Michigan has shown more caution in its progress towards lightening restrictions, putting Gov. Whitmer, a Democrat, at odds with the Republican-dominated legislature who wish to open more quickly. The legislature has filed a lawsuit trying to end the state of emergency extended by Whitmer; at least one Michigan judge has already sided with Whitmer on a challenge to her executive powers in the state of emergency. More than 4,000 people have died in Michigan from COVID-19-related causes.
Whitmer also took action on Thursday to expedite unemployment benefits processing for the hundreds of thousands of Michiganders who have applied in recent weeks. The system has been overwhelmed, with confusing and slow responses to application queries. Monica Greer, the former pastry chef at Leila in Detroit, told Eater last week that she had been fruitlessly trying to get her benefits since being laid off on March 16.
Whitmer’s office also announced data showing that 657 bars and restaurants in the state applied for a total of more than $3.3 million in temporary relief through the state’s so-called spirits “buyback” program. Under the program, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission paid businesses back for their unused beer, wine, and liquor purchased before March 16, but didn’t collect the bottles. This effectively gives businesses a temporary loan. Businesses will have to either pay back the loan amount or return the bottles to the state within 90 days of the state’s emergency and disasters declarations being lifted.
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