Whitmer deems Michigan car dealerships essential, allows for business done remotely

Part of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's extended shelter-in-place order issued on Thursday included a loosening of restrictions on car dealerships.

Under the revised plan, vehicle sales and leasing are now considered essential services and work can be conducted remotely or online. The new order will extend until the end of April.

While most agree on the need for continued social distancing, there has been consternation across the state and country over how public officials reopen businesses. After a new report from the U.S. Labor Department revealing some of the grimmest job numbers since the Great Recession a decade ago, many are concerned taking too long to get people back to work could exasperate an already floundering economy.

"The governor is moving in the wrong direction by placing more restrictions on people with her new 'Stay Home' order," read a release from the Michigan House Republicans. "While it is important for people to continue social distancing, it also is important to allow workers who can safely do their jobs to support their families."

However, Whitmer and her chief health executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun have warned it would be a while before things return to normal, opting to prioritize reducing the spread of COVID-19 before refocusing efforts on the economy.

“This doesn’t mean everything will go back to normal on May 1,” Whitmer said Thursday. “But based on the data we have right now, this is the appropriate window for an extension."

Michigan's automotive industry has found itself at an unorthodox time amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While factories were shuttered only a week after Michigan's first confirmed case, some will be back up and running making equipment for hospitals as part of an executive order delivered by President Trump to marshall the country's private sector to aid in public emergencies.

RELATED: GM awarded contract to build 30,000 ventilators by August

At the same time, the state's dealerships were banned from selling vehicles until Whitmer's new order. Another 23 states have offered the same restrictions to dealerships.

The restrictions that Whitmer put in place under her new revised order now mandate stores to limit the number of people in at any one time and outlawing traveling between residences.

RELATED: Michigan stay home order imposes tougher restrictions on stores to reduce crowds

Some of the harshest job numbers ever released dropped Thursday when another 6.6 million Americans applied for aid as the country's unemployment rate climbed to 10%. The federal government has sought to ease the burden on those workers with stimulus checks being sent to Americans making less than $100,000 a year.

Those funds will be coming from the IRS over the next few weeks.