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A closer look at what is, isn't allowed under gov's order

Craig Mauger Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's new "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order, Michigan residents can still get groceries, go for jogs and pick up takeout meals from restaurants and medicine from pharmacies.

The order broadly directs people "to remain at home or in their place of residence to the maximum extent feasible" to stem the spread of COVID-19. But there are exemptions for "critical infrastructure workers" and for other tasks deemed necessary for living life.

The order, which was announced Monday and is in effect until April 13, will temporarily limit most businesses' operations, but those in some sectors will be able to continue if they are "critical" to the state's infrastructure.

Mariah Jackson, 19, waits on a take out customer at Bucharest Grill on Piquette Street in Detroit on Monday, March 16, 2020. Like other restaurants in Michigan, Bucharest Grill is closing their dine-in area but is still providing take out orders.

"If it is a business that is not directly contributing to our ability to fight the coronavirus, then it is not essential," Whitmer summarized Monday afternoon. "And it's actually better for the public if you don't leave your house than if you are going to work as though life is usual."

Whitmer made the comment during a question and answer teleconference organized by AARP Michigan. A person had asked if the plastics factory he works at would be considered "essential."

"This is where I think there is going to be some nuance," Whitmer replied. "Generally speaking, a factory that is making things out of plastic or making plastic would not be an essential function."

But she added that if the factory is contributing to "essential needs," it could be allowed to stay open.

Jeffrey Donofrio, director of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, posted on social media later Monday that "many businesses" had questions about the order.

"Best advice for now — make a judgement call," he tweeted. "If you're critical to an operation sustaining/protecting life, keep working, if you're not, stay home and help us save lives."

What you can still do

While the governor's new order is wide-ranging, it doesn't completely ban individuals from leaving their homes.

The order does say those who go out "must adhere to social distancing measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including remaining at least 6 feet from others."

Here are some activities that are allowed under the order, which sets a misdemeanor penalty for violators:

  • Residents can do outdoor activities, "including walking, hiking, running, cycling or any other recreational activity consistent with remaining at least 6 feet from people from outside the individual’s household."
  • Residents can perform tasks that are necessary to health and safety or to the health and safety of their family or household members, including pets. "Individuals may, for example, leave the home or place of residence to secure medication or to seek medical or dental care that is necessary to address a medical emergency or to preserve the health and safety of a household or family member," the order says.
  • Residents can travel to obtain "necessary services and supplies," including supplies for their vehicles, gasoline, needed medical supplies and "any other products necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and basic operation of their residences."
  • Residents can purchase groceries. But the order advises the use of "delivery to the maximum extent possible."
  • Residents can buy takeout food.
  • Residents can travel to care for a family member or a family member’s pet in another household. They also can travel to care for dependents, the elderly, disabled persons and other "vulnerable persons."
  • Residents can visit an individual under the care of a health care facility, residential care facility or congregate care facility.
  • Residents can attend legal proceedings as ordered by a court.
  • Residents can work or volunteer for businesses or operations that provide food, shelter and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals.
  • The order also exempts facilities used for religious worship when they're being used for religious services from misdemeanor penalties for violating the ban on operations.

What businesses can remain open

The new order will mean many businesses will have to shut down their normal activities. But they'll still be able to have "minimum basic operations" going, and numerous sectors of business will be able to continue unaffected, such as groceries and businesses that sell supplies essential to daily life.

Read: Homeland Security list of critical, essential workers

Workers needed for "minimum basic operations" are individuals whose presence "is strictly necessary to allow the business or operation to maintain the value of inventory and equipment, care for animals, ensure security, process transactions or facilitate the ability of other workers to work remotely," according to the order.

However, businesses must determine which workers "are necessary" to conduct these minimum operations and designate them in writing by March 31.

There are also exemptions for public transit, trash pick-up, activities necessary to oversee elections and operations necessary for the maintenance of safe and sanitary public parks.

Workers and organizations in the following sectors can continue under exemptions in the order:

  • Workers and organizations in health care and public health
  • Workers who perform necessary government activities
  • Child care workers "but only to the extent necessary to serve the children or dependents of critical infrastructure workers"
  • Suppliers and distribution centers designated as necessary by critical infrastructure businesses
  • Insurance industry employees
  • Workers and volunteers for organizations that provide food, shelter and other necessities of life for the economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy
  • Businesses in the food, beverage and agriculture sector, such as groceries and restaurants offering takeout or delivery. Liquor stores can remain open under the order, said Scott Ellis, executive director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association.
  • The production and distribution of wine and beer appear to be included under exemptions for food and beverage retail, said Spencer Nevins, president for the Michigan Beer & Wine Wholesalers Association. Beer and wine firms throughout the state plan to continue operating under that understanding, Nevins said, noting distributors also deliver water, juices and, more recently, hand sanitizer. Workers who perform critical labor union functions.
  • Automotive repair and maintenance facilities along with firms in transportation and logistics
  • Law enforcement, public safety and first responders
  • Businesses in the energy, water and wastewater sectors
  • Public works businesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, referenced in Whitmer's order, allows for the continued operations of "plumbers, electricians, exterminators and other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences."
  • Businesses in communications and information technology, including the news media
  • Organizations in community-based government operations and essential functions
  • Businesses in "critical manufacturing"
  • Businesses in financial services
  • Firms that handle hazardous materials or are in chemical supply chains and safety
  • Hotels and motels can remain open, according to the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association. But they may only engage in activities providing shelter and basic needs and may "not provide additional in-house amenities," such as gyms, pools and spas.
  • Licensed marijuana retailers may only sell product through curbside or delivery service. In-person transactions within the licensed facility or establishment are prohibited, said David Harns, spokesman for the Marijuana Regulatory Agency.

The state might issue additional "guidance" on which businesses can stay open in the future, said Tiffany Brown, the governor's spokeswoman.

What businesses and organizations remain shut

Under prior executive orders, Whitmer has already shuttered the following kinds of businesses:

  • Hair and nail salons
  • Tattoo and piercing shops
  • Bars
  • Workout facilities
  • Movie theaters
  • Dine-in service at restaurants
  • Libraries
  • Museums

New rules for open businesses

Businesses that remain open face additional regulations from the state. They include the following:

  • Restricting the number of workers present on premises to "no more than is strictly necessary to perform the business’s or operation’s critical infrastructure functions"
  • Promoting remote work to the fullest extent possible
  • Keeping workers and patrons who are on premises at least 6 feet from one another to the maximum extent possible
  • Increasing standards of facility cleaning and disinfection
  • Adopting policies to prevent workers from entering the premises if they display respiratory symptoms or have had contact with a person who is known or suspected to have COVID-19

cmauger@detroitnews.com