Restaurants, gyms, theatres and many Michigan establishments have been shut down, leading to even more Michiganders being out of work. Here is how the governor is helping them out during the outbreak.
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued a sweeping order Monday banning dine-in customers at restaurants and closing all bars, movie theaters, gyms and other sports facilities to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
The measure was set to take effect at 3 p.m. and to last through March. Businesses can still offer food and beverages for delivery and pickup, including with a drive-through service.
She also ordered that unemployment benefits be extended to 26 weeks, from 20, and that eligibility be temporarily expanded to cover workers with an “unanticipated family care responsibility” due to school closures or caring for family members who become ill. Others who can qualify for jobless benefits include those who are sick, quarantined or immunocompromised and do not have paid sick leave, and first responders who become ill or quarantined due to exposure to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
“This disease is a challenge unlike any we’ve experienced in our lifetimes,” Whitmer said in a statement. “Fighting it will cause significant but temporary changes to our daily lives. … This is about saving lives.”
The state reported 20 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, bringing the Michigan total to 53. Among the new cases is the state’s first child to test positive, a 5-year-old boy from Oakland County. Some other Oakland County patients are in their 90s, said the county’s executive, Dave Coulter.
Whitmer previously declared a state emergency, closed all schools, prohibited gatherings of more than 250 people and restricted visits to hospitals and other facilities.
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The disease has infected over 169,000 people worldwide, and more than 6,500 people have died so far.
The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, a trade group for more than 5,000 food-service and lodging establishments, backed Whitmer’s decision.
“It is incumbent upon all Michiganders to remain united to prevent a catastrophic overrun of our limited healthcare resources,” said president and CEO Justin Winslow, adding that the restaurant and lodging industries will be “decimated” in coming weeks.
People can help, he said, by buying gift cards from their favorite restaurant and still ordering carryout or delivery. Restaurants may allow up to five people inside at a time to get orders, so long as they stay 6 feet apart from each other.
Dean Bach, owner of M-Brew and Dino’s in the Detroit suburb of Ferndale, said Whitmer did the “right thing” to take the decision out of restaurant owners’ hands. He called it a forced “vacation,” but also said there was a “sense of relief.”
“Our staff can go home and worry about their families at this point,” he said. He said he was hoping to get federal Small Business Administration assistance and to file an insurance claim to cover losses, noting places still have to pay utilities and mortgages.
“Restaurant owners have never thought about this before — I can guarantee it,” he said. “We want to make sure that our staff is safe and that our customers are safe.”
Whitmer, who with other governors was briefed by Trump on Monday, said the state needs more tests, personal protection equipment, masks and hand sanitizer. The state’s chief medical executive has warned that the state lab is having trouble quickly reporting test results due to capacity issues.
“We need to make sure that we’ve got the ability to make all the tests, to run the tests and to get results in real time,” Whitmer said on MSNBC. “All of these come in the form of assistance and leadership at the federal level. I would love to see a coherent policy when it comes to ordering people not to do unnecessary travel. I think that there are a lot of pieces that the feds need to step up on.”
Also Monday, one of Michigan’s largest utilities, Consumers Energy, said it would suspend non-payment shutoffs for low-income and senior customers — two days after DTE Energy announced similar actions.