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Michigan's stay home order extended; some restrictions added and removed

 Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the formation of a new task force looking into racial disparities with how coronavirus has affected Michigan.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the formation of a new task force looking into racial disparities with how coronavirus has affected Michigan. (WJRT)
Published: Apr. 24, 2020 at 10:40 AM EDT
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(4/24/2020) - Michigan's "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order will remain in place for two additional weeks and now requires residents to wear face coverings in enclosed places.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced an extension of the order to May 15. It previously was scheduled to end on April 30 before the extension announced on Friday.

The new order includes some new provisions. However, some restrictions on outdoor gatherings have been relaxed and some outdoor workers will be allowed to get back to work.

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“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.

She pointed out that coronavirus cases in Michigan have been increasing at a slower rate over the past few weeks, but the number of cases is still growing by several hundred each day.

“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,” Whitmer said.

She hopes to continue relaxing coronavirus restrictions in the near future as conditions allow. If coronavirus statistics continue falling, she would feel comfortable removing restrictions. But more could be added if statistics increase again.

“We all need to do our part and staying home is our best way of preventing the spread of COVID-19,” Whitmer said.

With a coronavirus vaccine still months away and no approved antiviral treatment for the illness, Michigan Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said residents should expect some restrictions to continue for a long time.

“Life in the foreseeable future will not go back to what it was before COVID-19,” she said.

Anyone entering an enclosed public space is required to wear a face covering over their nose and mouth, including employees at their work spaces. Masks should be made of cloth and cover the nose and mouth.

Employers are required to provide masks for their employees to wear at work. Masks are not required outdoors and nobody caught without a mask indoors will face a criminal penalty.

However, Whitmer said businesses will be allowed to refuse service to any customers who are not wearing a mask indoors. Some grocery stores already are requiring masks for customers and she hopes more will follow.

Whitmer also is allowing outdoor workers, such as landscapers, lawn service companies and plant nurseries, to reopen as along as they follow proper social distancing guidelines. Large retail stores will be allowed to open their garden centers, as well.

Outdoor workers must still wear personal protective equipment and avoid contact with the public. Any workers using shared equipment are must properly sanitize it between uses, Whitmer said.

She also is allowing people to use motorized boats again and return to golf courses, but no motorized golf carts will be allowed. Boaters and golfers are reminded to follow social distancing guidelines.

Some travel restrictions also are being lifted, which will allow residents to drive to and from their second homes and cottages. However, Whitmer is strong discouraging residents from visiting vacation property.

Anyone who does visit a second property is asked to avoid visiting stores and limit their trips as much as possible. Whitmer is concerned that many rural hospitals have less capacity to handle a spike in coronavirus if it breaks out.

She developed the changes in her orders in alignment with six other Midwest governors. She hopes to relax more restrictions over the next couple weeks.

“The data shows that what we have done is working. We have saved lives in this process," Whitmer said. "The thing with public health is, when you do it well you don’t know how many lives you save.”

Khaldun said an expansion of coronavirus testing will be necessary to significantly reduce restrictions. She said capacity has increased more than 10-fold in the past month.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services could only process about 200 tests per day in mid-March. The state set a record with more than 7,400 tests on Wednesday.

But Khaldun said Michigan should be able to process about 15,000 tests per day -- more than double Wednesday's high -- before allowing more of the economy to reopen.

Testing now is available to all essential workers regardless of symptoms and to anyone else who is experiencing mild symptoms. Another 21 test sites and laboratories have been added over the past two weeks statewide.

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