Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s expanded stay-at-home order has passionate supporters and ardent critics.
It’s being challenged in federal court. And foes of the order are planning a rally Wednesday at the state Capitol.
Their plan is to have a caravan of cars and trucks drive around the four blocks that surround the building. That will allow them to register their objections without violating the order.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer says her order that keeps many people home and many businesses closed until April 30 is tough medicine. But she says it is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19.
By the last count, there have been at least 1,200 confirmed COVID-19-related deaths in Michigan.
There has also been an economic toll that’s cost workers lost income and, in some cases, threatens their livelihoods. Whitmer says she’s aware of that.
“No one wants to move onto the next phase more than I do. That is a fact," she said. "I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights because this is tough stuff and I know the people in our state are paying a price for the decisions I have to make in this moment.”
One quarter of Michigan’s workforce is idle. More than one million people. That’s according to the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.
So many claims were filed Monday, it crashed the computer system for processing those claims.
Michigan’s are some of the strictest limits in the country on public gatherings and business closures.
Matt Seeley of the Michigan Conservative Coalition is one of the protest organizers. In an interview, he told WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids that Whitmer’s order is too strict.
“People are basically being told what they can and cannot buy at stores. None of it makes sense. You can buy a bottle of liquor at stores, but you can’t buy a gallon of paint,” he said.
A Facebook group called Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine – with more than 316,000 members – has been promoting the protest.
It’s also posted its suggested rules – beep horns, make noise, but stay inside vehicles. Seeley said people who don’t live together should not share a ride.
“We don’t want anyone leaving their vehicles. We want to be respectful of people’s health at this point. But at the same time, we want to have our voice be heard,” he said.
State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) – a Republican – is among those who think it’s time to accelerate efforts to re-open the economy.
He says there’s no perfect solution, but the sweeping stay-at-home order and closing businesses means lost livelihoods.
“There’s no such thing as zero risk. When we get out of the bed in the morning and we put our feet on the floor, we’re taking a risk,” he said. “Right now, the light is red. We want the light to be green, but I think there’s going to be a lot of flashing red and flashing yellow before we get there.”
Charles Ballard is a Michigan State University professor whose specialty is the economy of Michigan.
He says people are frustrated, but social distancing seems to be working to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He says there’s a risk with lifting the restrictions too quickly.
“If we relax rules for this, there will be pressure to relax it for the next thing and pretty soon the commitment of society to distancing will begin to break down. That’s the danger,” he said.
Ballard says this pandemic is so big and the situation is so unique, there’s no template to follow on how exactly to re-open business activity and safely allow people to go back to work.
That is, there’s no perfect solution with life, death, and economic consequences at stake.