Gov. Whitmer: stay home unless your work or trip is life-sustaining

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer is trying to clear the air a little about what's considered as the state tries to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. 

Whitmer spoke with FOX 2's Roop Raj via FaceTime Tuesday from Lansing one day after announcing the 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' executive order that requires all of Michigan's residents to stay home unless their job or a trip out of the home is essential or life-sustaining.

"It's strict because we are seeing exponential growth of COVID-19 in the state of Michigan. You're going to see another massive increase today (Tuesday) and another one tomorrow and the day after," Whitmer said.

Since the order was issued, her office (and the FOX 2 newsroom) has been flooded with people trying to determine why they're still being told to report to work. The answer is, it's a gray area.

"We don't want any business to try to play fast and loose with the rules," Whitmer said. "If it is essential and life-sustaining, it must continue to function. If not, they need to send their employees home so the employees can be safe."

Whitmer said the most essential - first responders and grocery store employees, to name a few - are superheroes among us. However, our hospitals are at capacity already and this virus has only just begun.

"If 70% of our population gets COVID-19 like happened in Italy, we'll need a million people to be hospitalized," she said.

Whitmer said that now we have to be really conservative and if you're not sure if it's essential to your life, stay home.

"The worst thing we can do is to pretend that life hasn't changed. It has changed. There are people fighting for their lives across Michigan who are in dire straits because they touched a door handle and dire straits because they got in a car to go run an errand," Whitmer said.

As for employers who are not taking the right action, they will be punished if it's determined they're not adhering to the rules, which include complying with CDC recommendations of 6 feet, requiring employees to wash their hands, and maintain social distancing. 

"Responsible employers are taking pains to protect their workforce because that's what they need to do to stay up and running and that's what they need to do because the people that make their business go are the people that show up every day," Gov. Whitmer said.

For the men and women working at pharmacies, hospitals, banks, and other essential services, she had an important message.

"Thank you for keeping people afloat in this tough time and doing it with such honor. You're an inspiration," Whitmer said.

Gov. Whitmer also commented on the future of Michigan schools and said her office would evaluate as we get closer to the middle of April about plans for the rest of the semester.