Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced on Thursday that Michigan factories will soon be allowed to resume operations. This is good news for the thousands of auto workers who will now be brought back on the line. But as we've heard this week, it's not a simple process. There are two equally critical aspects of reopening the economy—public health and financial stability.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell said people are still “scared and worried” about reopening. Listening to public health officials' recommendations will be crucial in a successful restoration of the state’s economy, she said.
Dingell, D-Dearborn, said refusal to follow the public health guidelines, like wearing a mask, could make it harder to reopen businesses safely. Some Michiganders have opposed mandatory mask rules.
"There are people that resent being asked to physically distance or to wear a mask or to take other steps that protect the public good. And I think we’re at a real crisis in this country, and we need to have a conversation about how do you protect individual liberties and how do you protect the public good,” she said.
While traveling to Washington D.C. for her congressional duties, Dingell said she wears gloves, a mask, and keeps physical distance from others. But not all elected leaders are taking the same precautions. She said wearing a mask has become more partisan than it should be.
“I think all of us should be following those guidelines,” Dingell said.
As a member of the bipartisan coalition known as the Problem Solvers Caucus, Dingell said they’ve discussed how a shortage of personal protection equipment (PPE) will impact the ability of workers to safely return to their jobs. As manufacturing resumes operations, the need for PPE will increase as the demand comes from workers outside of the healthcare profession.
In a bipartisan effort, Dingell and other lawmakers are leading a congressional push to aid the auto industry. "It's an industry that still matters to this country," she said.
“Unlike 2008, where there was just plain blunt mismanagement, this is a situation that wasn’t created by anybody," she said.
Dingell said many suppliers are smaller businesses that are part of a larger manufacturing web. "When you're talking about the auto industry, you're talking about an ecosystem." She said they are not only worried about their jobs, they are worried they won't have a job to come back to.
Dingell said her main concern is about reopening safely and keeping workers safe.
This post was written by Stateside production assistant Catherine Nouhan.