Armed protesters stormed the Capitol Building, but Gov. Gretchen Whitmer worked undeterred. We break down her latest Executive Order.
LANSING, MI — After a tumultuous day in Lansing, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced an extension of certain protections related to the pandemic coronavirus called COVID-19 Thursday night.
“Although we are beginning to see the curve flatten, we are not out of the woods yet.” Whitmer said in a statement. “We must all continue to be diligent, observe social distancing and limit in-person interactions and services to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
The new order, Executive Order 2020-69, represents a further explanation of Michigan’s strategy for economic re-engagement she’s calling “MI Safe Start.” It makes a distinction between public accommodations and public amusements, and lays out limited accessibility on both through May 28.
Her order came after a day when hundreds of protesters descended on Lansing. They carried placards threatening her life and stormed the Capitol Building with assault weapons. The threat posed by those protesters was so tangible and immediate, some legislators wore bulletproof vests, The ‘Gander reported.
And while those protesters demanded to be let into the House chamber, the House voted to scale back Whitmer’s previous executive actions and sue the Governor over her handling of the pandemic.
But neither lawsuits nor threats to hang her prevented Michigan’s governor from taking action on pandemic protections and continuing to lay out her plan for safe, phased re-engagement.
“Michigan now has more than 40,000 cases of COVID-19. The virus has killed more Michiganders than we lost during the Vietnam war. Extending this order is vital to the health and safety of every Michigander. If we work together and do our part, we can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and save lives,” said Whitmer
What Does The New Order Do
Here are five major take-aways from that latest piece of the plan which spans the next 28 days.
Restaurants, Breweries Bars and Hookah Lounges Stay Closed
As The ‘Gander noted in our forecast for when different sectors will open, places like dine-in restaurants are some of the farthest businesses from reopening. Businesses where people are in close quarters and interacting around food or drink pose a high risk for spreading the coronavirus.
However, delivery and pick-up orders to restaurants remain available. The order only bans food or drinks designed to be eaten at the place they’re purchased. Also, food courts in secured sections of airports are unaffected.
Libraries, Gyms, Theaters and Performance Venues Stay Closed
Similarly, places where it is difficult or even contrary to their mission for people to engage in social distancing can’t reopen. As The ‘Gander explained when discussing MI Safe Start’s methods, businesses like this pose a high risk for transmission of the virus and so can only reopen when the overall risk posed by the virus is much lower.
The same calculation applies to what the order calls “non-essential personal care services.”
Non-Essential Personal Care Services Stay Closed
Those services are defined as “hair, nail, tanning, massage, traditional spa, tattoo, body art, and piercing services, and similar personal care services that require individuals to be within six feet of each other.” Because a large number of personal care services require the provider — a barber, for instance — to be in direct contact with a customer, they remain unsafe.
Importantly, the “non-essential” part of this category means anything deemed necessary by a licensed medical professional is specifically not prohibited.
What Are Public Accommodations?
Public accommodations are any business whose goods or services are directly extended to the public. They range from golf and yacht clubs to grocery stores and libraries. Some public accommodations are open and some are closed, based on both how easy they are to social distance at and how essential to life their service is. The kinds of public accommodations noted above are so risky they cannot be even entered by the general public for ordinary business.
What Are Public Amusements?
This is a squares-and-rectangles distinction. Public amusements are types of public accommodations that provide indoor or close-contact outdoor recreation. Movie theaters, bowling alleys, outdoor concert halls, amusement parks and casinos all qualify as public amusements. And public amusements remain shut down for the next four weeks.
Challenges to the Order
This latest phase of MI Safe Start will likely be challenged in court as part of the lawsuit the Republican-controlled Michigan House voted to make against Gov. Whitmer over her handling of the pandemic.
It should be noted that her handling of the pandemic has been broadly popular with Michiganders, The ‘Gander reported. 61% of Michiganders trust Gov. Whitmer to determine when sectors of the economy reopen. By contrast, the Trump-backed desire to re-engage the economy as quickly as possible that the Legislature appears to support is dramatically unpopular both in Michigan and nationwide.
Meanwhile, protesters representing that small but vocal minority have risked additional spread of the virus, brazenly carried weapons into the Capitol Building and intimidated legislators into wearing bulletproof vests. They got the Michigan House to vote the way they wanted.
President Trump has called for Whitmer to similarly capitulate.
“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire,” Trump tweeted Friday. “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”
This despite Michigan not meeting any of the White House’s criteria for economic re-engagement, as The ‘Gander reported. Michigan is one of only two states to meet none of the three gating criteria authored by the White House, which are more relaxed than the Midwestern re-engagement plan spearheaded by Whitmer.
Whitmer remained undaunted.
“By refusing to extend the emergency and disaster declaration, Republican lawmakers are putting their heads in the sand and putting more lives and livelihoods at risk. I’m not going to let that happen,” Whitmer said in a statement.