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Amash urges Whitmer to reassess expanded stay-home order

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash has joined a growing number of critics disagreeing with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's revised stay-home order, which placed restrictions on shopping for "nonessential" items like plants and seeds, home improvement equipment and gardening supplies.

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash

Amash, a libertarian who is independent of both parties, raised similar concerns to those of business owners and Republican lawmakers who view Whitmer's executive order as going "too far" to prevent disease spread amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Amash said he's sure Whitmer "means well" but urged her to "immediately" reassess her approach, saying several recent measures "provide marginal benefits at best, while substantially heightening frustration and resentment."

"I have a constitutional duty to ensure states don’t trample on the rights of the people. @GovWhitmer’s latest order goes too far and will erode confidence in her leadership," Amash wrote Saturday in a Twitter thread. 

"Sensible instructions to practice social distancing, wear masks, and stay at home already do most of the work to reduce the virus’s spread. By pushing too far, the governor undermines her own authority and increases the likelihood people will not follow reasonable guidelines."

Whitmer's Thursday order extended her stay-home order through April 30, aiming to stem the disease's spread. 

Her order restricts the foot traffic permitted in stores and said large retailers that remain open must close areas dedicated to carpeting, furniture, gardening and paint, which aren't viewed as essential supplies.

People also aren't allowed to travel between homes they own in Michigan or to vacation rentals Up North.

Whitmer said the state needed to "double down" to save lives, as the death toll from COVID-19 topped 1,390 and confirmed cases neared 24,000 on Saturday.

 Michigan has the third most cases of the virus nationally behind New York and New Jersey.

"While we can come up with all sorts of scenarios where we can make an argument that someone is safe in whatever activity it is they want to do, every single exception to a Stay Home, Stay Safe order makes this more porous. Makes it less likely to work," Whitmer said Thursday.

She also said golfing and lawn care are “not necessary to sustain life and, to be candid, just by engaging in it can expose people to risk — serious risk.”

Critics on social media continued to complain about the order Saturday, causing the hashtag #ImpeachWhitmer to trend on Twitter. 

“More than 100 people died and over 1,200 COVID cases were confirmed in Michigan today. In total, the state has over 23,900 confirmed cases and over 1,300 deaths,” Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said. 

“Protecting the health and safety of the people of Michigan remains the governor’s number one priority. The focus must continue to be on taking actions to slow the spread of this virus and keep Michiganders safe.”

Amash warned that excessive restrictions on personal liberty would eventually lead to people ignoring basic public health guidelines like social distancing as they grow restless.

"At the very least, government officials need to trust people with matters that are extremely low risk. There’s no compelling case for banning bicycle repair shops or landscaping services, or for prohibiting open retailers from selling items related to home and garden maintenance," wrote Amash, a former Republican representing the Grand Rapids area. 

"Other aspects of the governor’s order may also produce unintended and undesired consequences. For example, while she understandably doesn’t want too many people inside stores, a blanket limit may create long lines outside, which will put people in closer contact with one another."

Republican lawmakers in Lansing are also urging Whitmer to revise her order. 

House Speaker Lee Chatfield noted Saturday that lawn care, construction, buying home materials and fishing from a motorboat are all "safe," but not allowed. 

"All these are safe. But the Governor says no. We can ensure safety & be reasonable. Let’s do both," he tweeted. 

mburke@detroitnews.com