Whitmer: Restrictions to stop COVID-19’s spread aren’t ‘helpful hints’

By: - May 11, 2020 4:46 pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives an update on COVID-19 | Gov. Whitmer office photo

After several weeks of staying at home, Michiganders are turning the tide on COVID-19, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said at a media conference on Monday. 

She reminded residents and businesses that although they’ve done a great job so far in abiding by the stay-home order and social distancing guidelines, now is not the time to let up or break the law.

Michigan reported on Monday a total of 47,552 COVID-19 cases and 4,584 related deaths. However, Michigan Department Health and Human Services (DHHS) Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said at the conference that the daily number of cases continues to decrease, showing the stay-home order and social distancing is working.

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Whitmer noted the emotional toll on mothers and families not being able to celebrate this Mother’s Day in a traditional sense, due to the COVID-19 crisis and reiterated the importance of powering through these struggles.

“Our hard work is truly paying off. Michigan is leading the country while taking the brunt of this virus,” Whitmer said. “Millions are doing their part by staying safe at home, serving on the front lines, donating money, supplies, or health care workers and first responders.”

It’s been about a month and a half since Whitmer instituted a stay-home order and closed down businesses, like most states have. She has been lifting some restrictions, like allowing for golf and manufacturing to reopen this week.

But for businesses looking to reopen before the stay-home order is lifted, Whitmer said her executive orders are not suggestions; they are the law. Licenses to operate come from the state, so breaking the law can jeopardize a business’s ability to reopen.

“They’re not optional. They’re not helpful hints. This is an order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is a deadly virus, so that we can save lives. And I expect all Michiganders to comply with the law,” Whitmer said.

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An Owosso barber has gained statewide attention as one of a handful of businesses that are defying the stay-home order and illegally operating. The Shiawassee Sheriff’s Department, which has jurisdiction in Owosso released a public statement on Monday saying it “values the constitutional rights of residents” and will not enforce Whitmer’s executive orders. In case the police do intervene, an armed militia is ready to “defend” the businessman, the Detroit Metro Times reported.

Whitmer said she is concerned by those who jeopardize their own health as well as the health of the state by attending protests at the Capitol without masks and without social distancing.

A sea of around 600 protestors, carrying threatening signs, President Donald Trump flags and firearms gathered outside the Capitol on April 30 to protest the stay-home order. Over 200 then entered the Capitol, some armed and tried to enter the legislative chambers. A handful were allowed into the Senate gallery and shouted down at legislators, while a large group stood outside the House floor chanting “let us in” and yelling at Capitol staff and police.

Outside, protests led chants ranging from “lock her up” to “Heil Whitmer ” while toting signs saying, “Tyrants Get the Rope” and “Whitchmer.”

An April 15 demonstration also featured threatening language, swastikas and Confederate flags.

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“I’m increasingly concerned about the violent nature of the extreme comments that are being made around these organizations and groups that are coming together, the violent racist dream rhetoric,” Whitmer said. “I think is concerning isn’t a strong enough word.”

Whitmer also called out Republican lawmakers for failing to adequately denounce protestors and the Michigan State Capitol Commission for not banning firearms from the Capitol at their meeting on Monday. 

Attorney General Dana Nessel has previously called upon the commission to do its duty to protect legislators and issued a formal opinion Monday that the commission has the legal authority to ban firearms from the premises.

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Anna Liz Nichols
Anna Liz Nichols

Anna Liz Nichols covers government and statewide issues, including criminal justice, environmental issues, education and domestic and sexual violence. Anna is a former state government reporter for The Associated Press and most recently was a reporter for the Detroit News. Anna is a graduate of Michigan State University.