Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer expects short term extension of stay home order

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said during a press conference on Wednesday that she expects a short-term extension to the Stay Home, Stay Safe order will be necessary, which is currently set to expire at the end of April.

Gov. Whitmer made that announcement during a Wednesday press conference from Lansing and was be joined by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun and Dr. Marisa Eisenberg from the University of Michigan Department of Epidemiology. 

Whitmer said there are reasons for cautious optimism in Michigan's fight against COVID-19 but said it would be necessary to extend the stay home order.

"I want to be clear. we will likely need another short-term extension of the stay home, stay safe order," Whitmer said.

She said when we do start to re-engage, the state would need to take necessary steps to prevent a second wave. She said she expects to release more details about her plan on Friday, April 24.

"We all recognize that a second wave would be devastating to our state, to our people, to our economy," Whitmer said. "It's not all going to happen overnight. We'll need an extension of some sort. We know even when we get to a stable moment even people who are compromised, vulnerable, will still need to stay at home. And so some version will be in effect for a while. We're seeing a trend where our numbers look pretty good. We still need to do more robust testing...but we see these signs and know that perhaps we can start to take some small steps forward."

She also said that she hopes to loosen restrictions, based on facts and data presented to her by medical experts.

"The data that we've seen in the past week has led me to believe that it's time to reevaluate the stay home, stay safe order," Whitmer said.

Whitmer took questions after the press conference and said the state would need to evaluate the right way to reengage the economy and said some version of the Stay Home order would be in place 'for a while'. She said that means, for the near future, it would not be safe for the vulnerable people to be out in public.

"Now is an appropriate time to assess the breadth of the stay-at-home order," Whitmer said.

People with health conditions and people over 65 would likely still need to stay home.

State Layoffs

Gov. Whitmer also announced a series of layoffs among state employees. Among the employees laid off, are employees with the Michigan State Police Department. The layoffs would not include first responders or troopers but would come from 'level four' employees, who are mostly working from home during the crisis. That would include various office workers and general office secretaries. 

Citing budget issues and to ensure essential services, Whitmer said state employees across the state would be laid off but would retain their benefits and health insurance.

"I made the difficult choice to approve a temporary layoff in departments across state government. 

Whitmer said they would automatically be enrolled in the unemployment process and layoffs are to last 10 workdays.

"I've made a lot of hard choices in the past six weeks and this was one of the hardest," Whitmer said. "This is the right thing to do to ensure that we can continue to provide critical services to the people of Michigan," Whitmer said.

It's not known how many people will be laid off but Skubick reports the administration recently sent out a directive to each department head to list all of its employees from Level One to Level Four, which is a state civil service classification system. That's expected to lay the foundation in other parts of state government as the fiscal belt-tightening begins in earnest across all the state departments.

On Monday, Gov. Whitmer said she was taking a 10% pay cut while her executive staff would take a 5% cut as well.

On Tuesday, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the temporary layoff of more than 100 people. In a statement to FOX 2, Nessel said she intends to bring the employees back when the time is right.

“The COVID-19 public health emergency has impacted everyone, including the Department of Attorney General. While certain areas of the Department’s legal work have dramatically increased as a result of this emergency, other areas have slowed. Yesterday, we issued temporary layoff notices to more than 100 people, about 25% of our workforce, which reflects the difficult reality that we all face. The staff at this Department do amazing work on behalf of the people of this State every single day. We will continue to do that, regardless of the challenges that arise in the future.”

Bending the Curve

Gov. Whitmer and Dr. Khaldun were joined Wednesday by Dr. Marisa Eisenberg from the University of Michigan Department of Epidemiology. She explained if social distancing was completely lifted over a two-week period beginning May 1, projections show a wide variety of outcomes: from a very small resurgence versus a second peak larger than the first.

"We can't say from the model which of this it's going to be, it just means a resurgence is a real possibility that we need to consider," she cautioned. "It's really important to think about staged reengagement and careful monitoring so we can track and handle any inreases in epidemic spread that might happen."

She said the data to monitor will be epidemic spread indicators, such as case and death data; healthcare system capacity, such as critical personnel and the number of beds, ventilators and PPE; and public health capacity, which is the number of tests we're able to administer as well as contact tracing.

Michigan's coronavirus cases have slowed in recent days as the state went from having the third-most in the nation to the seventh-most in the past week.

During a press conference last week, Whitmer and Khaldun said cases were starting plateau but cautioned against reopening the state as it could be disastrous and set Michigan up for a resurgence in cases.

Michigan's Stay Home, Stay Safe order is in place until April 30. Gov. Whitmer said last week that she would start releasing plans to reopen the state economy at the end of this week. She has not provided further details on any plans, aside from saying it would be done in phases to hopefully prevent a second wave.

"It's going to take a while before everyone is back to work, in the way we think of it," she said. 

However, Whitmer indicated Friday morning she wants to loosen restrictions around then during an interview on Good Morning America. 

"I do hope to have some relaxing come May 1, but it's two weeks away and the information and the data and our ability to test is changing so rapidly it's hard to tell you precisely where we'll be in a week from now, much less two," Whitmer told ABC Anchor George Stephanopoulos.