(This story was updated at 4:45 p.m.)
THURSDAY, April 9 — Michigan will remain in a virus-induced lockdown for a few more weeks after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer today extended an executive order closing nonessential businesses and ordering residents to stay home.
“Now is not the time to pull back at all,” Whitmer said. “It’s the time to intensify.”
Whitmer’s initial “Stay Safe, Stay Home” executive order was set to expire Tuesday. The latest extension pushed that date back until at least April 30.
As with the prior order, this extension limits gatherings and travel and requires all workers who are not necessary to sustain or protect life to stay home. The order also now also bans all unnecessary travel between two homes after this Friday.
The Detroit Free Press reports that Michiganders will no longer be legally permitted to get in the car or even cross the street to visit friends and neighbors, unless it is to care for someone in need or in other, extremely limited instances.
The order also imposes more stringent limitations on stores to reduce foot traffic, slow the spread of coronavirus and to save lives, Whitmer explained today.
Specifically, large stores that remain open must now limit the number of people inside their facilities to no more than four customers for every 1,000 square-feet of customer floor space. Smaller stores must also limit their capacity to 25% of occupancy limits under fire code — including space for staff.
To regulate entry, large stores are expected to establish lines with markings for patrons to stand at least six feet apart while they wait to be let inside. Those stores must also close off sections dedicated specifically to carpeting, flooring, furniture, garden centers, plant nurseries or paint.
Stores, like many have done already, must also create two hours per week of dedicated shopping time for the vulnerable, like seniors, pregnant women and those with other health conditions.
To help enable critical workers to get to their jobs, automobile dealerships are also now allowed to open for remote sales, though in-person showrooms must remain closed under the order. Workers at dry cleaners and laundromats have also been cleared to return to work this week.
Starting April 13, businesses of more than 50,000 square feet will also be required to stop advertising or promoting goods that are not groceries, medical supplies or items necessary to maintain home safety and sanitation.
Under the new order, public and private gatherings of any size among people outside a single household are prohibited. As before, outdoor activities and exercise are allowed but social distancing recommendations must be followed. All vacation travel has since been prohibited.
Exceptions exist for trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, hospital or other essential businesses like gas stations, car repair, convenience stores and more.
“This doesn’t mean everything will go back to normal on May 1,” Whitmer said in a release. “But based on the data we have right now, this is the appropriate window for an extension.”
Whitmer said preliminary data suggests the spread of the virus may be slowing in Michigan, noting that continued, aggressive social distancing measures can help totally flatten the curve.
The latest data…
Across Michigan, 1,158 more cases of COVID-19 and 117 more deaths were reported today. Several new cases were identified in Greater Lansing, but no new local deaths were reported today. Deaths have now been reported in 44 counties with at least one case in every county.
Here are the latest statistics from earlier this afternoon, with tracked changes from yesterday:
Cases — 21,504 (+5.7%)
Deaths — 1,076 (+12.2%)
Cases — 222 (+4.7%)
Deaths — 3
Cases — 69 (+3%)
Deaths — 3
Cases — 85 (+3.7%)
Deaths — 1
State officials announced today that about 18% of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 are hospitalized, with the majority of severe illnesses still being reported in southeast Michigan.
In Ingham County, officials reported earlier today that 13% of patients have required hospitalization with about 16% fully recovering. The rest remain in “active monitoring,” many quarantined at home with comparatively mild cases, according to Health Officer Linda Vail.
In Eaton County, officials track a 46% recovery rate among those infected. Officials in Clinton County have not made data about its coronavirus outbreak publicly available online. Statewide, at least 56 cases are tracked as full recoveries for those 30 days past the virus’ onset.
One of the latest reported deaths in Ingham County was a man with preexisting conditions who tested positive for the virus postmortem. The third death, in Eaton County, was a 76-year-old man who died at a hospital outside the county, reports the Lansing State Journal.
Ingham officials have said locally confirmed cases also include first responders and healthcare workers. Local hospitals are not releasing data on infection rates among their personnel.
According to state reports, about 80% of cases (and about 85% of those dead) are from Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties, including the city of Detroit. Data also shows African Americans accounted for 33% of cases and 40% of deaths. Caucasians accounted for 25% of cases and 31% of deaths; those of unknown race charted 34% of cases and 24% of deaths.
Whitmer today also established a task force to address racial disparities in communities most impacted by the spread of coronavirus. It meets this week.
This afternoon, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed 427,460 cases of COVID-19 and 14,696 deaths in the U.S. The New York Times database, which is updated more frequently, listed more: At least 450,682 confirmed cases and 16,231 deaths nationwide.
Michigan is still the state with the third most confirmed cases in the country, still behind New York and New Jersey. Michigan also reports the third-highest number of deaths among states.
According to a recent study, coronavirus was the third leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer, in the U.S. on Monday and the seventh leading cause of death since March 1. Experts project the virus to be either the fifth- or tenth-most deadly event in U.S history.
While the virus strains health care systems globally, another study shows that Michigan is relatively well-staffed and well above the national average in health care workers per capita. In Michigan, there are 419,590 health care workers — about 4.20 for every 100 residents.
In other news…
The Lansing City Council voted unanimously this afternoon to extend the city’s existing state of emergency until at least April 30 to coincide with Whitmer’s latest executive order extension. It would’ve otherwise expired tomorrow without an action from City Council.
Whitmer signed an executive order yesterday to waive credentialing requirements and eliminate fines and penalties for delivery drivers if their licenses or decals lapse, just as long as they’re delivering various medical equipment, sanitary supplies, food and other essential items.
“Right now, it’s more important than ever to ensure there are no disruptions in the flow of critical equipment and health care personnel coming into our state to help treat patients and reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Whitmer said in a recent press release on the new mandate.
Another executive order signed yesterday allows electronic signatures to replace physical means of notarization unless the law specifically mandates a physical signature. As a result, financial institutions cannot refuse a tangible copy of an electronic record if it’s certified by a notary.
Whitmer also announced today that the TCF Regional Care Center in Detroit will accept its first 25 patients tomorrow in partnership with several southeastern Michigan hospital systems.
Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Hills, detailed yesterday a proposal to give essential workers a government-funded boost in pay of up to $25,000, reports the Detroit News. The measure includes medical staff, pharmacists, grocery store workers, truck drivers and more.
Under Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe,” executive order, golf courses, deemed as “nonessential” businesses, have been ordered to close to the public across Michigan. The Country Club of Lansing, while closed, has still attracted dozens of golfers in recent days.
Ingham County Prosecutor Carol Siemon said yesterday that she was “disappointed” in the Country Club for not doing more to actively discourage its golfers from business as usual.
After a warning from Attorney General Dana Nessel, Crystal Car Wash in Kalamazoo County agreed to cease operations yesterday in an effort to slow the virus’ spread. The order prohibits any business that requires workers to leave their homes except to the extent that those workers are necessary to “sustain or protect life or to conduct basic minimum operations.”
According to reports in the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit Police Department checked 792 locations for violations of the executive order, gave 369 warnings and 74 citations and broke up nine parties. Willful violations of the order can result in a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail.
Nessel warned residents today that door-to-door scammers may attempt to pose as government officials offering information on stimulus checks, unemployment benefits or other programs. Any contact from someone posing as an official should be verified by asking for credentials.
A seventh UAW member employed by Ford Motor Co. at a transmission assembly plant in Livonia died from COVID-19, according to reports yesterday in the Detroit Free Press.
A second state prisoner also died yesterday from COVID-19, reports the Detroit Free Press. State officials report: The number of confirmed cases among prisoners has nearly doubled in a week from 140 cases on April 1 to 262 prisoners at nine facilities as of yesterday morning.
Meanwhile, the ACLU of Michigan has since filed a federal lawsuit calling for the release of detainees held in jails by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Calhoun, Monroe and St. Clair counties at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports the Detroit News.
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency is adding staff and extending hours to better manage the influx of unemployment claims. The call center is now open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. Visit michigan.gov/UIA to access services.
The Lansing Economic Area Partnership is quickly evaluating nearly 2,000 applications from Lansing region small businesses to help them get through the economic fallout of COVID-19. Over the coming weeks, 208 low-interest small business loan applications will be approved.
And an additional $400,000 in small business grant funding will be made available for locally owned businesses in Lansing that are closed or struggling to stay afloat amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Mayor Andy Schor labeled it today as the “Small Business Recovery Program.”
The Michigan State Police is reminding residents that their personal masks, gloves and other protective equipment belongs in the trash, not littered on the streets and sidewalks. According to the Detroit Free Press, litterers could be charged as much as $225, though costs can vary.
And Click on Detroit reports that federal stimulus checks to help relieve economic pressures amid the COVID-19 pandemic could begin to reach Americans as early as next week.
The latest information is posted at michigan.gov/coronavirus and cdc.gov/coronavirus.
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