By David Fleet
On Monday the state moved forward in the fight against COVID-19 when Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a ‘Stay in Place’ order for Michigan. This order prohibits any non-essential business and travel for three weeks starting midnight March 24.
Essential businesses are outlined in the full order, which can be found at michigan.gov/coronavirus, and include hospitals, grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and more. A full list of essential businesses can be found in the order.
Residents are able to leave their homes for essential travel to get groceries, prescriptions, medical care or to care for others. They may also leave for walking, hiking, biking, running and other exercise activities given that they maintain the recommended social distance of six feet apart.
“There has been the debate over ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’ when it comes to who is still working and who stays home,” said Whitmer in a press conference on Tuesday. “The executive order has firm guidelines and instructions but complaints have come in of companies slipping through loopholes. We have to use some common sense here and be really smart. If everyone does their part, this is a matter of weeks. If people are determined to skirt the law then this will go on longer and our economy will suffer. More importantly, more people will die.”
Chris Swanson, interim Genesee County Sheriff said they will enforce and support the governors’ order.
On Tuesday, Genesee County Deputies responded to a work site in Vienna Township where a restaurant was under construction. A crew was working on the project, when deputies arrived.
“Building a restaurant is not critical,” said Swanson. “We are reminding and educating citizens if what they are doing is a nonessential service to cease and desist. The governor’s order is a temporary sacrifice for a long term impact. It’s not fair to others to continue, the coronavirus pandemic is a world-wide crises. Until we get the ‘all clear’ we have to submit to the professionals in health care for guidance.”
Swanson said several individuals and businesses have contacted his office for advice.
“Read the order from the governor, if what you are doing does not fit, just stop,” he said. “It’s laid out for everyone in the order. We are not using check points or on patrol for suspected violators of the order.”
Nonessential businesses could be subject to a fine of up to $500, forced closure and its owners facing up to 90 days in jail, said Kelly Rossman-McKinney, spokeswoman for the Michigan Attorney General’s Office.
Oakland County Sheriff Office Lt. Greg Glover, Brandon substation commander said the governors’ orders must be taken seriously.
“These rules are in place for the betterment of all citizens of not only our community, but for the greater population,” said Glover. “The rules are very clear and if you don’t need to be out there, you’re in violation. The sooner everyone adheres to the order and stays home the sooner the virus will pass. People breaking the order are being selfish and not helping the population.”
Glover said the sheriff office has been receiving calls and area residents have confidentially reported business open that are nonessential.
“We will be forwarding a report to the State of Michigan regarding these violations,” he said. “The governors’ order is not up to us. It’s very clear, and not up for everyone’s interpretation. However, we appreciate all the citizens that have hunkered down and are staying home until this pandemic is over. We understand it’s tough on everyone—but we are in this together.”
Not all leaders support the governors order.
State Rep. John Reilly (R-46th District which includes Brandon Township) said on Tuesday that Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order goes too far and needlessly threatens to derail Michigan’s economy while raising serious constitutional concerns:
“Issuing a stay-at-home order is a dangerous overreaction that will cause dramatic economic damage, more so than has already been caused,” Reilly said in a statement. “While I realize we are in uncharted territory with this virus, we also need to seriously consider the impact of mass unemployment and poverty, which will harm the public health as well as our quality of life.”
“I also have serious concerns about the governor’s continued use of executive orders, and the constitutional questions they raise. Even if we are facing a public health emergency, how does the governor have the authority to suspend the Michigan Constitution – which guarantees, among other things, the right to peaceful assembly? When this is over, we must take a serious look at the powers of the governor, and how they balance with our state’s public health needs and the livelihoods of Michigan families.”
“I do believe people should be listening to the medical professionals and taking precautions to slow the spread of this virus, such as social distancing and working from home whenever possible. Seniors and other people with underlying health concerns should take steps to isolate and protect themselves – but this should be done voluntarily, without placing the entire state on lockdown, as the governor has decided to do.”
State Rep. Mike Mueller, (R-51st District Atlas, Groveland townships) encourages residents to be part of the solution, not the problem, in stopping COVID-19.
“We all have two choices during this process – we can be part of the problem, or we can be part of the solution.
“Let’s all partner together to be the solution,” said Mueller in a statement. “I implore my neighbors throughout our communities to act as just that – neighbors,” he said. “Be respectful of others when venturing to the store for food and other necessary supplies, and do not take more than you need. Continue to practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently and cleaning high traffic surfaces.”
By David Fleet