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Whitmer unveils 6-phase reopen plan, extends stay-home order through May 28

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has extended the state's stay-home order through May 28 in a Thursday executive order that also lifted some restrictions on manufacturing facilities

The announcement came as the governor unveiled the MI Safe Start Plan, a guide for the gradual reopening of the state. 

Under the extended stay-home order, residents must continue to stay home unless they're running "critical errands" or going to specified jobs. 

Whitmer reminded residents during a Thursday press conference that if they must go out, they should remember to wear a mask, wait 6 feet apart and wash their hands regularly. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration unveiled this graphic on Thursday, May 7, 2020, explaining phases for lifting COVID-19 restrictions in Michigan.

"It is crucial that we see this through," Whitmer said. "Letting our guard down now squanders all of the hard work we've put in up until now."

At the end of April, Whitmer extended her stay-home order through May 15, but even that date has been challenged by the Michigan Legislature as legally questionable at best because lawmakers did not agree to the extended emergency declaration. 

The state Legislature filed a lawsuit Wednesday challenging Whitmer's emergency orders. 

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said Thursday Whitmer's comments bring the state "no closer to understanding her decision-making."

"It appears the fate of MI workers continue to be dependent on whether it's their turn to be announced at a press conference," the Clarklake Republican said on Twitter. 

House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, criticized the governor's pivot from an effort to "flatten the curve" to lowering "the possibility of a second wave" as an attempt to move the goal posts.

MORE: Michigan's COVID-19 death toll hits 4,300 with 45,600 cases

MORE: Michigan church leaders sue to stop Whitmer's stay-home order

Michigan is in the third of six phases detailed in the governor's MI Safe Start Plan in terms of the pandemic's course through Michigan, Whitmer said Thursday. 

Michigan has already moved past the first two phases, uncontrolled growth and persistent spread, and is now working through the third phase, a sustained flattening of the curve, according to her office. 

The third phase, according to the plan, requires continued bans on gatherings and encourages social distancing, but lifts restrictions on lower-risk businesses such as manufacturing, construction, real estate and outdoor work. 

"The worst thing we can do is open up in a way that causes a second wave of infections and death, puts health care workers at further risk and wipes out all the progress we've made," Whitmer said. "That's why we will continue to monitor the spread of this virus, hospital capacity, testing rates and more as we work toward reaching the ‘improving’ phase."

The fourth phase includes proofs of continued improvement, including clear declines in cases, hospitalizations and deaths. 

Thursday was the fifth straight day the state reported fewer than 100 new deaths and the eighth straight day the state reported fewer than 1,000 new cases. As of Thursday, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,637 COVID-19 inpatients across the state, a 46% decrease from the 3,022 inpatients reported two weeks ago. 

Small gatherings are allowed in the fourth stage, but face coverings and safe workplaces still are encouraged. Other retail businesses and offices would be allowed to open, but with capacity limits and an emphasis on teleworking where possible. 

The fifth phase is containment of current cases and any new outbreaks. The fifth phase would usher in increasing sizes of gatherings and the reopening of restaurants, bars, schools and travel with strict mitigation measures in place. 

The sixth phase, post-pandemic, will occur when community spread is not expected to return because of an effective therapy, sufficient community immunity or the development of a vaccine. 

Large gatherings would be permitted in the sixth phase, as would all business activity and events. 

Advancement through the phases will depend on the pandemic's continued decline, health system capacity, and testing and tracing and operations.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan gave resounding support Thursday to Whitmer’s plan to reopen the economy ahead of her 3 p.m. announcement.

“I had significant input in what she is doing,” Duggan said during a news conference with leaders of construction projects in the city that resumed work Thursday. “I think what these folks have said they wanted for a while is to have some predictability about how the economy reopens and what the standards are and what you can expect."

In response to Whitmer's extension of the stay-at-home order until May 28, Detroit's 36th District Court announced it was extending its limited operations to coincide with the governor's new order. The court was scheduled to resume normal operations on May 18 but now will reopen May 28.

The court's extension of safeguards due to COVID-19 means its moratorium on evictions also is extended through May 28, the court said.

Staff Writers Breana Noble and Craig Mauger contributed