Some industries are closer to opening than others, and some already have concrete dates. How does yours rank?
MICHIGAN — Heading into May, protections against the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic have started to ease. Michiganders can start going back to work. But that re-engagement isn’t happening all at once.
As The ‘Gander previously reported, certain outdoor-focused businesses determined to be very low-risk workplaces have already started to ramp back up, and a plan announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Monday has more jobs on the verge of coming back. But other industries are still weeks away from re-engagement.
The plan to reignite economic activity in Michigan breaks down all industries into nine categories: Office, Industrial, Healthcare, Retail, Restaurants and Lodging, School, Construction, Outdoor and Other.
So what’s opening, what’s coming soon and what’s still weeks away?
This includes Construction, which is slated to resume May 7. Some infrastructure projects continued through the pandemic, reports the Detroit Free Press, but soon private construction projects and projects focused on public buildings like schools can resume.
Garden centers, greenhouses and other similar work has also already resumed under the revised “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order Whitmer issued Friday. So were outdoor recreation businesses like golf courses and marinas for boating. The state grouped these as Outdoor jobs.
Retail is partially open already. Essential retail never closed down, but nonessential retail that can do delivery or curbside pickup has been allowed to reopen. If businesses can adapt to those requirements, they don’t have to stay closed.
Another sector partially open is obviously Healthcare. Hospitals and doctors have been the frontline responders to the coronavirus crisis. But elective medical procedures and lower-priority medicine like dentistry are likely to remain closed for a long time, as they’re high-risk activities during a pandemic.
Whitmer said she’s taking a “hard look” at including manufacturing in her next round of reopening as Michigan continues to get a better hold on the pandemic. This will likely be a partial restoration for the Industrial sector of the economy, though The Associated Press notes that the auto industry has backed off their plans to restart in early May. Still, industrial work makes up 19% of Michigan jobs, so even some re-engagement would be a major difference.
Another huge chunk of Michigan’s economy is Office work. Because offices tend to be indoors and not exactly spacious, those jobs are higher risk. Many office jobs can be transitioned to work-from-home, though as Forbes notes that isn’t an ideal long-term solution for workers’ mental health. Some workplace changes, like social distancing precautions, might help offices reopen faster.
Restaurants and Lodging are likely a while off. By their nature they tend to be indoor activities that include a lot of close interaction and possible avenues to spread the coronavirus. It’s hard to imagine dine-in restaurant services coming back before cases of the coronavirus start falling. Pickup and delivery restaurants can still be open, however. And as The Gander noted, hotels have been providing other useful services like housing survivors of domestic abuse during the pandemic.
The easiest sector to address is probably Schools. Schools make up 6% of Michigan’s workforce, but students going back to school before the fall is remarkably unlikely. The myth that young people are immune to the coronavirus has been debunked thoroughly, by the Atlantic among many others, and existing summer vacation schedules give schools an obvious restart point in fall. Despite how high-risk schools are, President Trump has been pushing to get students back in school, saying he’d send his own kids, reports COURIER.
Other jobs would vary based on how much risk of spreading the virus exists in the workplace.
The only businesses opening now or in the immediate future had to be very low risk as it relates to spreading the pandemic. Things focused on outdoor work, with the ability to keep social distance, were ideal candidates for the early round of business reopening.
How It’s Being Decided
Risk of spreading the virus is based on two factors: how the pandemic is progressing and how well the business or industry is adapted to best practices to prevent the spread of the pandemic. And each sector can be assessed regionally, instead of statewide, using eight regions called “laborsheds.”
The ‘Gander dove into detail on the risk assessments and laborsheds.
“If we see a second wave coming, we’ll step back when necessary. There’s no on-and-off switch here,” Whitmer said in a press briefing. “I am eager as everyone to continue turning that dial and safely re-engage but I know we have to be really smart about it and do this incrementally.”
The overall plan to re-engage, called “MI Safe Start”, is designed to operate in multiple waves that can be scaled back easily if there is a resurgence of the disease.
“As hard as this moment is. As isolated as people feel, I know we do not want to have to go back to a stay home order in the fall,” said Whitmer.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.