Gov. Whitmer talks restarting economy in Michigan using science, safety

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer expanded on her plan to re-engage Michigan's economy during a press conference Monday.

Following an interview where she outlined what businesses could have restrictions loosened on them next, Whitmer said she envisioned the rules changing over the next few days.

Responding to a plateauing of new COVID-19 cases after weeks of higher daily totals, Whitmer and her chief medical executive said they were comfortable shifting restrictions to accommodate an increasingly-antsy populace eager to see the end of COVID-19's spread in the state.

"I would anticipate in the coming days if our trajectory of hospitalizations continues to go down and our ability to test goes up, that we will go into the next low-risk category," Whitmer told reporters with POLITICO Monday morning, adding "and that might include some construction for instance. It might include some additional outdoor enterprises that are currently forbidden from proceeding."

In the governor's first executive order that eased rules on travel and nonessential business in Michigan, Whitmer opened up traveling between residences, golfing, and motorized boating. Under the most recent stay-home order, landscapers, lawn-service companies, nurseries and bike repair shops could all reopen.

RELATED: Here's what's allowed under Gov. Whitmer's new stay-home order that relaxes rules in Michigan

Warning of a second surge in new cases over the summer if social distancing rules are not obeyed, Whitmer and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said they may need to put measures back in place if new cases begin to tick back up again.

However, businesses in Michigan - especially in the manufacturing sector - are showing signs they'll want plants to reopen sometime in May. Ford and General Motors have both started recalling employees to prep for assembly plants to start building vehicles again. Neither has confirmed a start date for when that could be.

The United Auto Workers Union has pushed back on reopening plants in May, arguing safety protocols were not in place yet that could ensure workers would be protected from possible coronavirus exposure. 

Stay-home orders like ones imposed by Whitmer have led to a decimation of jobs in the state, which now boasts one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. In places like Detroit where poverty rates are higher and the COVID-19 outbreak among one of the worst in major U.S. cities, residents are increasingly relying on stimulus checks deposited by the federal government.

A new survey released by the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study at the University of Michigan found at least a fifth of the population estimates it will run out of money in the next three months if the economic shutdown continues.

State House and Senate GOP members have argued a blanket ban on the entire state's business and industries is unnecessarily hurting the economy in parts less impacted by the pandemic. Both arms of the legislature have released roadmaps that would determine the level of restriction a county is under by the rate of new COVID-19 deaths and cases reported.

RELATED: Track Michigan coronavirus cases by county with this interactive map

Whitmer indicated that could be a possible method for reopening the state, but warned due to the lack of health care capacity in more rural parts of Michigan hospitals would be overwhelmed much sooner than those in Metro Detroit, where the bulk of new cases have been reported.

Data reported as early as Sunday shows that new cases are falling. After a peak at the beginning of April and a slight uptick a few weeks later, the state is reporting some of its lowest rates of new cases since the spread started rising exponentially. Additionally, 41 more deaths tied to COVID-19 were reported on Sunday - the lowest in almost a month.

The legislature is unlikely to approve an extension on Whitmer's emergency declaration that enables her to issue executive orders like her stay-home mandate. On Friday, the legislature voted on legislation that would strip her of powers and repeal the emergency declaration act. 

Michigan, especially Detroit and surrounding communities, has been one of the hardest-hit states. Since the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the state on March 10, tens of thousands more have become infected and thousands have died

Schools have been closed now for the remainder of the year and Gov. Whitmer's statewide stay-at-home order has been extended through the end of April. 

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and breathing trouble. Most develop only mild symptoms. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.

To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.

Are you showing symptoms? Try Beaumont's virtual screening tool

And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms - don't go straight to your doctor's office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.


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