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Whitmer extends ‘stay-at-home’ order through April. Here’s what that means.

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The new restrictions are aimed at stalling the spread of coronavirus in Michigan

A concrete plaza surrounded by buildings. There’s a number of empty, multi-colored seats. Photo by Michelle Gerard

In an effort to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order temporarily suspending all in-person operations that are “not necessary to sustain or protect life.” It also directs Michiganders to stay in their homes unless part of a critical workforce, engaged in an outdoor activity, or performing a task necessary to the health and welfare of themselves or their family.

The “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order goes into effect March 24 at 12:01 a.m. and was set to expire just before midnight on April 13. But the governor announced April 9 that it would be extended through the end of the month.

“This doesn’t mean everything will go back to normal on May 1,” Whitmer said in a release. “But based on the data we have right now, this is the appropriate window for an extension. It will take time to safely and responsibly re-open the economy, which is why we will continue to provide critical unemployment support and assistance to our small businesses during this challenging time. We will get through this if we all continue to do our part.”

This executive order has been the most forceful directive signed by Whitmer to stall the outbreak of COVID-19, which is rapidly infecting more people in the state. Previous orders have closed bars and restaurants to dine-in service, shut down casinos and fitness centers, and halted other kinds of retail.

Michigan is one of the hardest hit states in the country. As of April 9, there had been over 20,000 confirmed cases in the state—third highest in the nation.

Here’s more information on what the executive order means.

Who is allowed to continue working outside the home?

The order allows those essential to sustaining life or part of a “critical infrastructure” field to continue working. The definition is fairly broad and applies to those in healthcare, law enforcement, government, food and agriculture (including grocery store workers and restaurants for takeout), energy, transportation, or those that work at distribution centers, suppliers, shelters, childcare facilities, and a few other industries.

People can also work to maintain the “minimum basic operations” of a business, such as securing a building, maintaining inventory, or caring for animals.

But it only applies if working in-person is necessary to the functioning of the operation—all others should work remotely. Businesses must also adopt social distancing practices, limit the number of workers to no more than is strictly necessary, and increase cleaning standards.

All other in-person activities need to be suspended for the duration of the order.

What about volunteering?

Yes, you’re still allowed to volunteer for operations that provide “food, shelter, and other necessities of life” for needy individuals. Here are a few options if you’re interested in helping.

Can I still go outside?

Yes, though with substantial limitations. People can leave to engage in recreational activity (walking, hiking, running, etc.), but must maintain at least six feet of separation between those not in their household.

You can also leave your house to perform necessary activities like picking up medication, buying groceries, or going to the hospital. Visits to care for or see family members outside the home are allowed as well.

Though the order encourages people to have supplies and services delivered whenever possible.

Are there any changes in this extension?

Yes, there have been some additional regulations and clarifications. For example, you can’t use a boat with a motor—kayaking or canoeing, however, are allowed. The order also bans travel between two residences, yours or someone else’s.

Additionally, big box or grocery stores can only have four customers per 1,000 square feet inside at the same time. If people are lined up outside waiting to shop, they must stand six feet apart.

What happens if I don’t comply?

The order says that “a willful violation” will result in a civil infraction or misdemeanor, which means a fine of up to $1,000 and potential jail time. But the police cannot stop you and ask why you’re out of the house.

This is a developing story—more information will be added as it becomes available.