The eight laborsheds.
The eight laborsheds.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced MI Safe Start, a plan to reopen the economy in waves and in different regions.

LANSING, MI —  Michigan’s return to economic activity will be based around different sectors of the economy and eight geographical regions called “laborsheds”. 

What reopens when is explained with two ideas: risk assessment and laborsheds. 

Those laborsheds are the Detroit Region, Grand Rapids Region, Kalamazoo Region, Saginaw Region, Lansing Region, Traverse City Region, Jackson Region and the Upper Peninsula. 

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Michigan’s phased economic re-engagement plan, announced Monday by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, is called “MI Safe Start”. The MI Safe Start program assesses the risk of various sectors of the economy in each of these laborsheds and making decisions based on those risks in the various laborsheds instead of a statewide approach.

Risk is assessed in two ways — pandemic risk and individual workplace risk. As the pandemic risk remains urgent (which it still is), only businesses with an extremely low workplace risk or deemed essential can be returned to operation. As both types of risk reduce over time, more businesses can open. 

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And some businesses like those specializing in lawn care were already allowed to reopen under the May version of the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order, The ‘Gander reported

But even businesses opening will need to develop best practices to avoid pandemic spread. 

“Masks will be ubiquitous in almost every workplace in Michigan,” said DTE Energy Chairman Gerry Anderson. “Gloves and face shields will be in widespread use as well.”

How workplace risk is assessed. Infographic courtesy the Office of the Governor.

Anderson is co-chair of a 29-member “economic recovery council” that is helping Whitmer develop plans to reopen businesses despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. That council helped chart the path for MI Safe Start and future plans to re-engage sectors of the economy. 

The plan, it was noted during its announcement, is designed to be flexible and able to respond to the changing nature of the novel coronavirus pandemic. If a second wave of infections begins to show itself, the process of re-engagement can slow or even reverse course in one of the laborsheds without necessarily changing the progress of other laborsheds toward reopening. 

“The more urgent the pandemic risk and the more risky the workplace, the more cautious we’re going to be to reopen,” Anderson said.

As Up North Live reports, the Republican-controlled legislature demanded elective medical procedures and construction sectors, among others, be part of the initial phase of MI Safe Start’s re-engagement plan. The state Senate passed several resolutions to that effect Tuesday. 

Best practices to reduce risk. Infographic courtesy the Office of the Governor.

“I think trust is not the problem here, the problem is the virus that no one can see. The problem is the virus that can show up as a fever for one person in a family and be fatal for another member. This isn’t a question of trust,” Whtimer said. “So, I’m not quite sure today’s action changes anything.”

As Bridge notes, Republican leaders have suggested an unwillingness to extend the state of emergency declaration. Whitmer has asked for a 28-day extension of the order that expires Friday. Failing their extension of the emergency declaration, Whitmer argues a 1945 law leaves her not needing the Legislature’s continued approval to take emergency actions. What she does need the Legislature for is extending liability protections for public health workers.

But protesters will be taking to the capitol building’s lawn Thursday, The ‘Gander reports, asking the Legislature to do exactly that. 

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Whitmer’s more cautious and regionalized plan without firm deadlines has been contrasted to Ohio’s Gov. Mike DeWine’s plan. DeWine’s plan is a statewide approach with rapid timelines aiming for a restoration of the retail sector in just two weeks. 

And Whitmer’s caution may be justified. Wall Street investment banking firm Raymond James noted that Michigan not only struggles to meet Whitmer’s criteria for re-engaging the economy, but also fails to meet any of the criteria set by the comparatively lax White House plan for economic re-engagement.