While Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has indicated that her administration is working on guidelines for a partial restart of the state’s economy as soon as May 1, Michigan’s Republican leaders have presented their own set of suggestions for what reopening sectors of the state’s economy could look like.
Michigan House speaker Lee Chatfield, a Republican representing District 107, weighed in on the Republican leadership’s proposal and how it would approach reopening the economy on a county-by-county basis.
“Regionally, we have been impacted differently across the state of Michigan. Though we're third in the number of deaths here in the state of Michigan in comparison to the rest of the country, 88% of those cases have come from three counties,” Chatfield said.
He noted that the Department of Health and Human Services has already broken the state into regions based on the impact of COVID-19, a system that helps inform where supplies and resources are needed. Chatfield suggested a similar, “surgical” approach could be taken with Michigan’s economy.
“I'm calling on the governor to create a task force to take the information that we have gathered through our regionalization of our state and begin implementing that in the policies that we are adopting,” Chatfield said. Counties could be placed in one of three tiers, based on the number of cases and risk of spread.
Chatfield said he is also asking the governor to “adopt the most updated federal standards” for operation of businesses.
“Other states are allowing activities such as construction when it can be done safely, lawn care and gardening when it can be done safely, certain manufacturing, and Michigan is not,” he said. “Because of that, we’ve become an outlier, where I feel that thousands of Michigan families are hurting unnecessarily because of it.”
Chatfield said he and his colleagues are proposing looking at the issue of reopening the economy through the lens of “safe versus unsafe,” rather than assessing businesses as essential or non-essential. He said they developed the proposal of a county-based approach after considering recommendations from both the federal and state administrations, as well as the hospital association, manufacturing community, and the public and private sectors.
“There are thousands of Michigan families across the state who have had their livelihoods taken away, and they’re being told that they can’t work a job and take care of their family, and I think they deserve to know from their government what data needs to be true in order for things to return back to normal,” Chatfield said. “So what we’ve presented to the governor is a roadmap.”
The plan, he said, has been in development for several weeks. Chatfield noted that the “frustration” protesters expressed in Lansing last week has been heard, and that any future protests should be carried out safely.
He said that getting back to a new sense of normalcy will likely be a step-by-step process, and that there could be another wave of COVID-19 cases in the future. But, he said, Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike have learned from recent experiences.
“I do believe we’ll be better prepared for a second or third wave than we were for this first hit,” he said. “I think [the] government now has found out the deficiencies we have within our framework and preparedness with the hospital system, personal protective equipment, and testing, so we’re going to be better prepared should something like this come back.”