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Whitmer lifting some restrictions on construction, real estate

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed an executive order that allows more businesses to get back to work May 7, including those in construction and real estate.

"The Stay Home, Stay Safe order remains in effect until May 15," Whitmer cautioned during a press conference Friday afternoon. "It will not be business as usual in Michigan for some time. But we are starting to turn that dial."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during her press conference on Friday, May 1, 2020.

The new order requires construction businesses to adopt measures to protect their workers against the spread of COVID-19, according to a statement.

"The data shows that we’re ready to lift some of these restrictions while also encouraging Michiganders to continue doing their part under the governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state's chief medical executive. "The steps the governor is taking today will help ensure protections for workers and their families from COVID-19 while allowing for work in lower-risk fields to resume."

Under the order, construction sites must adopt best practices to protect their workers from infection, including designating a site supervisor to enforce COVID-19 control strategies and conducting daily health screenings.

The new order also allows workers "necessary to the manufacture of goods that support workplace modification to forestall the spread of COVID-19 infections" to return May 7.

The real estate workers included in the order are agents, appraisers, brokers, inspectors, surveyors and registers of deeds.

However, the order says in-person open houses aren't permitted.

"Any showings, inspections, appraisals, photography or videography, or final walk-throughs must be performed by appointment and must be limited to no more than four people on the premises at any one time," the order says.

The order also allows workers whose jobs are primarily performed outdoors to return to work May 7. Those individuals include forestry workers, outdoor power equipment technicians and parking enforcement workers. They are subject to social distancing requirements.

Whitmer's moves come amid a disagreement with the Legislature over her executive powers during the public health crisis and after a protest against restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus drew hundreds of demonstrators to the Capitol.

The governor called the demonstration, in which multiple protesters carried guns, "disturbing."

"Yesterday’s scene at the Capitol was disturbing, to be quite honest,” Whitmer said. “Swastikas and Confederate flags, nooses and automatic rifles do not represent who we are as Michiganders. This state has a rich history of people coming together in times of crisis."

As for the feud with the Legislature, Republican lawmakers believe the governor needed her declared state of emergency to be extended by the Legislature on Thursday, which didn't happen.

So GOP lawmakers believe the emergency declaration, which allows Whitmer to take unilateral actions, expired Friday. But Whitmer issued new orders, which she believes extend the emergency through May 28.

The governor called the Legislature's Thursday actions "political gamesmanship."

President Donald Trump targeted Whitmer, a Democrat, in a tweet on Friday morning, saying she should "give a little" and "put out the fire" after the protest.

"The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire," Trump posted. "These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal."

As of Friday, the virus had been linked to 3,866 deaths in Michigan.

cmauger@detroitnews.com