Chamber Presses Gov. Whitmer for Clarifications on Order

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Small to medium businesses in the Detroit region are anxious about when they can reopen, and how they will survive the COVID-19 crisis. The Detroit Regional Chamber asked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer the tough questions on how her administration will ensure both the health of Michiganders and businesses during the pandemic.

When asked about her approach to handling the impact of COVID-19, Gov. Whitmer acknowledged to Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah that her number one concern is health and safety.

“We’re developing plans to safely phase in the reengagement of our economy,” said Gov. Whitmer. “We’ve got to work together to safely reopen so people can get back to work and businesses can get back on their feet without fear of a second wave.”

The timeline for reopening the economy will depend on the state’s ability to coordinate four critical factors, explained Gov. Whitmer. These include the capability to control the rate of new infections, access to testing, the capacity of hospitals, and preparing workplaces to accommodate social distancing.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is another measurable factor. The governor noted that Michigan companies have been critical in meeting hospitals’ needs for PPE. The state currently has up to nine- or 10-days’ worth of PPE, but Gov. Whitmer hopes to see Michigan acquire up to a few weeks’ worth at a time.

Along with her timeline for reopening the economy, Baruah also pressed on the governor’s rationale for prohibiting various home improvement businesses from operating when many want to make use of their time at home.

“The more people that are out and about, the longer COVID-19 will continue to spread and the more people that will get sick and the more people that will die,” said Gov. Whitmer. “That’s why unnecessary trips really are not permitted right now to bring down the number of people that are or sharing and spreading those germs.”

The governor also recognized that reopening the economy will not happen all at once on May 1 when the “Stay Home, Stay Safe, Save Lives” Executive Order is set to lift.

“We can’t just flip a light switch and return to life March 9, the day before our first two cases of COVID-19 appeared in Michigan,” said Gov. Whitmer. “We’re going to have to be strategic and phase in certain sectors of the economy at a time.”

Baruah noted that businesses are ready, willing, and able to make the necessary changes to their operations to accommodate the “new normal” when the time comes to start transitioning back.

The governor is currently focused on lowering the risk for a second wave of the virus to hit Michigan, looking at examples of this unfolding in Singapore and in Michigan during the 1918 influenza which caused further damage to the economy.

“If we get this right, we can reengage in a really smart way that means we don’t have to go back into a stay home posture,” said Gov. Whitmer. “Help encourage people to follow the spirit of the stay home order so we continue to see the numbers of these infections go down, build up the resources in our hospitals – those are critical components to see us safely reengage.”

Listen to previous Tele-Town Halls here.

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