Michigan Gov. Whitmer extends modified stay-at-home order into May, as lawmakers intervene
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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday extended the state’s stay-at-home order to May 15, while making some revisions to the policy -- as the state’s legislature launched a committee to review her actions in response to the coronavirus crisis.
“Data shows that most Michiganders are doing their part by staying home and staying safe. That’s good, but we must keep it up. Social distancing is our best weapon to defeat this enemy,” Whitmer said in a statement. “With new COVID-19 cases leveling off, however, we are lifting some of the restrictions put in place in the previous order."
"I want to be crystal clear: the overarching message today is still the same. We must all do our part by staying home and staying safe as much as possible," she said,
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The current order had been scheduled to expire next week, and is now being replaced by one that tightens some restrictions and loosens others.
The new order requires, rather than encourages, residents to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces and says employers must provide coverings to their employees. But landscapers, lawn-service companies and bike repair shops will be allowed to resume operations, as long as they follow social distancing rules. Those selling nonessential supplies can reopen for curbside pickup and delivery.
But the order does not explicitly address the auto industry, an industry vital in places such as Detroit. It does, however, flag "transportation and logistics" and "critical manufacturing" as areas where some employees could return to work.
“This is one of what will be many waves,” Whitmer said. “My hope is that we can contemplate the next one. But it all depends on if people observe these best practices, if we can keep the COVID-19 trajectory headed downward and if we can keep people safe.”
Critics have accused Whitmer, a 48-year-old first-term Democratic governor, of overstepping her authority with a series of measures intended to stem the spread of coronavirus. A ban on garden centers selling gardening supplies and on residents visiting relatives were cited as two glaring examples of overreach.
In the new order, garden centers will no longer need to be closed off, nor will those selling paint and flooring. But dine-in restaurants, cinemas, gyms and sport complexes will remain closed. The order also allows individuals to travel between residences, although it is "strongly discouraged."
The new order comes amid increasing pressure on Whitmer as the claims of overreach have gone from mere accusations to legal threats. Anglers, landscaping companies and others had filed lawsuits against the order, while protesters against the lockdown held rallies outside the state Capitol and governor's residence.
Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled legislature on Friday created an oversight committee that will review the orders -- and could even strip her of her powers.
"It’s possible to be concerned about public health, the economy and personal liberty all at the same time. It’s a false narrative that you must choose between them. I choose all three," House Speaker Lee Chatfield tweeted. "We can take COVID-19 seriously yet be reasonable in our fight. Michigan needs a change ASAP."
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According to the Detroit Free Press, a majority of both chambers passed a resolution to create the committee during a special legislative session. The Senate also approved a bill to repeal the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governors Act, which gives Whitmer wide power to declare a state of emergency. Another bill would reduce the length of a state of emergency from 28 days to 14.
But Whitmer has promised to veto such efforts if they were to pass the legislature.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.