Several Michigan CEOs sent a letter on Monday to Governor Gretchen Whitmer, asking her to allow workers to return to work as soon as possible to save the state's economy and are citing data that the state's COVID-19 cases have peaked.
According to a document that was hand-delivered to Gov. Whitmer's office in Lansing and obtained by FOX 2, several small business CEOs are asking the governor to lift the 'Stay Home, Stay Safe' order originally issued on March 23rd for the entire state of Michigan. The order was originally set to expire on April 13th but was later extended to the end of April and was imposed with tougher restrictions on stores to reduce crowds inside.
CEOs included in the letter are Signature Sotheby's International Realty's Douglas Hardy, Intraco CEO J. John Antakli, Bloomfield Hills Dental Associates and AJN Management CEO A.J. Nafso, Pridgeon and Clay CEO R. Kevin Clay, and retired Republican Senator Bruce Patterson.
The CEOs are represented by attorneys at Butzel Long, a Bloomfield Hills-based law firm, in the letter to Whitmer. It states that they know it's not easy to "balance public health and the economy" and support the good intentions behind the executive order. However, the CEOs say the choice is between saving lives and saving jobs and they "believe Michigan has enough moxie to do both at the same time."
According to the letter, they said the current strategy is being driven by modeling based on data that is "unavailable to the public" and they find it hard to "have confidence in hidden data and analysis."
To address the issue, the CEOs contacted Michigan-based Anderson Economic Group to conduct their own research. The data delivered by Anderson they say is "in sync" with data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.
According to Anderson Research Group, Michigan hit its peak last week and the growth rate of infections is in decline. Because of this projection, the CEOS are asking that Whitmer remove the executive order and get Michigan workers back on the job.
In the three weeks since the first executive order was issued, Michigan's unemployment has jumped to 16.5% and is projected to hit 23% in the second quarter. That's nine points higher than the national average of 14%.
The letter is asking Whitmer to amend her executive order to include jobs covered in the U.S. Department of Homeland Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency which lists thousands of jobs considered essential.
At the end of the letter, the CEOs ask for Whitmer to take the report from Anderson Research Group into consideration. They also thank Whitmer for her efforts to save lives and ends with this statement: "We hope that you will be equally tenacious in saving the livelihoods of our clients and all the people of Michigan."
In the report, which FOX 2 obtained, Anderson Research Group says epidemiological evidence strongly suggests the state has reached its peak infection rate for the current wave of the pandemic based on their data and the IHME assessment from April 8.
Anderson estimates that 1.5 million Michigan residents have lost income in the pandemic.
Gov. Whitmer said on Monday that the curve is bending but warned that lifting the order too soon could prove disastrous for the state.
"Not one of us wants to go through this again, not in a month, not in the fall. We want to avoid that at all costs and I want you to have your freedom. I want to have mine too. We will get to a place where we can be with our friends and family again. It's okay to be frustrated. It's okay to be angry. If it makes you (feel) better to direct at me, that's okay too. I've got thick skin. And I'm always going to defend your right to free speech," she said. "I just ask those who are protesting these orders do so in a safe manner so that you don't get sick and you don't subject our first responders either. This is a tough enough situation, let's not make it harder on one and other."
The push from CEOs was delivered the same day that FOX 2 reported on a group of Michigan residents who are pushing against Gov. Whitmer's stay home order.
The group Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine exploded to over 250,000 followers in just a few days on Facebook.
"Michiganders are hurting right now," said founder Garrett Soldano. "And people are hurting to provide for their own family. And that's where I have a problem. That is where this virus does not have the teeth to support that."
The Governor's Office told FOX 2 that it was not aware of the letter but said if it was received by the officer, it would be reviewed. The governor's spokesperson released this statement:
"Bottom line is this: 1,768 Michiganders have been killed by Coronavirus. The governor is doing everything she can to protect public health and safety. We’re going to get through this, but the best thing we can do right now is stay home and stay safe to save lives. Saving lives is the focus."