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Here's what you need to know about Michigan's "stay at home" order

There's no need to race to the store and begin hoarding food. Grocery stores will remain open, and the food supply chain will remain operational.
There's no need to race to the store and begin hoarding food. Grocery stores will remain open, and the food supply chain will remain operational.

This post was originally published on March 23. It has been updated to include details from the latest stay home order, which Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced on May 7.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has ordered all Michiganders to stay at home through at least May 28 in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. It extends her previous order, which was set to expire May 16. 

In her latest order, the governor also reopened manufacturing, with specific screening protocals, such as temperature taking and monitoring symptoms and contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases, put into place. Workers in those jobs will also be required to wear a mask if they are unable to keep six feet of distance from other workers. 

In her previous extensions of the stay-at-home order, Whitmer required face coverings in enclosed public spaces such as grocery stores if they can medically tolerate it. Landscapers, lawn-service companies, plant nurseries and bike repair shops could resume operating, subject to social-distancing rules. Big-box retailers no longer had to close off garden centers and areas dedicated to selling paint and carpet.

Under the order, only "essential" businesses are allowed to operate, and all other businesses are ordered to suspend in-person operations. Michiganders are instructed to stay home as much as possible, but there are exceptions. 

Here's what you need to know about the order:

Can I leave my house at all?

Although the order is to "stay at home," that doesn't mean you can never leave your house again. That would be impossible! While you should stay at home as much as possible, the order does allow for exemptions, including:

  • Seeking medical attention. Health care facilities such as urgent cares and pharmacies will remain open. However, if you think you have COVID-19, call a medical professional before visiting in-person. Many insurance companies have also expanded telehealth options so you can speak to a doctor without leaving your home.
  • Gathering supplies or getting fuel. Grocery stores and gas stations will remain open. You should limit the amount of times you go to the store, but that doesn't mean you need to hoard food or supplies. The food supply chain will remain operational, so there will not be a food shortage. You should also limit the number of household members who leave the home for any errands.
  • Going for a walk. "Stay home" doesn't have to mean "stay inside." You can still walk a pet, go for a run, or play in your yard. But remember to maintain six feet of distance between you and anyone else you encounter. Avoid touching things like playground equipment or drinking fountains, and thoroughly wash your hands when you come inside.
  • Caring for another individual. If you need to leave your home to care for a family member, friend, or pet, you may (cautiously) do so. You can also continue to do volunteer work to provide food, shelter, and other "necessities of life" for those in need.

It is important that if you do leave your house, you follow social distancing guidelines by staying at least six feet away from others. You are also required to wear a mask while in public.
All public and private gatherings are prohibited, so you should not interact with anyone outside of your household. The only exception to this rule is for funerals, which must be limited to ten people.

What is and isn't closed?

An array of operations are deemed critical under the order and will continue to operate while practicing proper social distancing. 

That includes:

  • Health care operations such as hospitals, pharmacies, veterinarians, and medical equipment suppliers
  • Law enforcement, transportation, trash pick-up, and other necessary government operations
  • Restaurants that are using carry-out or drive-thru options
  • News media and other crucial communications operations
  • Banks, grocery stores, gas stations, laundromats, and convenience stores
  • Hotels and motels, but in-house amenities such as pools, gyms, and meeting rooms must be made off-limits
  • Metroparks will remain open, however playgrounds and offices will be closed and programs are canceled

Stores that are allowed to continue operation under the order must follow a strict set of rules, including limiting the number of customers based on the size of a store and set up lines to regulate entry that enable patrons to stand at least six feet apart from each other.
Under the previous order, big box stores were ordered to close sections dedicated to selling carpet or flooring, paint, furniture, and gardening supplies. Under the new order, these stores can re-open those sections.  

The order does not list every single business that will or won't close, but it warns that the rules "must be construed broadly to prohibit in-person work that is not necessary to sustain or protect life."

Under her new executive order announced May 7, manufacturers were allowed to reopen, including the big three auto companies. 

Any non-critical business is ordered to suspend in-person operations. If necessary, a business or operation can designate certain employees as critical if their presence is necessary to maintain basic operations.

In order to have critical employees go into work, a business or operation is "required to make such designations in writing, whether by electronic message, public website, or other appropriate means."

Who is considered an "essential" employee?

The order defines essential workers as "critical infrastructure workers." And while that includes employees of the operations listed above, critical infrastructure workers also include:

  • Child care workers, but only if they are serving those who work in essential business
  • Workers at suppliers, distribution centers, or service providers that serve essential operations
  • Employees and volunteers that work to provide food, shelter, and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged

How is this being enforced?

Violation of the order by nonessential businesses is a misdemeanor. 

Why is this order necessary?

The spread of the novel coronavirus has been rapid, and hopitals throughout the state will soon be overwhelmed and without protective equipment. Staying home and practicing social distancing will "flatten the curve."

Or as the state puts it, "to suppress the spread of COVID-19, to prevent the state’s health care system from being overwhelmed, to allow time for the production of critical test kits, ventilators, and personal protective equipment, and to avoid needless deaths, it is reasonable and necessary to direct residents to remain at home or in their place of residence to the maximum extent feasible."

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Emma is a communications specialist with the digital team at Michigan Radio. She works across all departments at Michigan Radio, with a hand in everything from digital marketing and fundraising to graphic design and website maintenance. She also produces the station's daily newsletter, The Michigan Radio Beat.
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