Michigan’s Shelter-In-Place Order: What You Need to Know

March 25, 2020

Less than two weeks ago, Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency when Michigan confirmed the state’s first two cases of COVID-19 on March 10. As of Monday, March 23, confirmed cases of COVID-19 statewide exceeded 1,200 — a considerable increase from the 53 cases reported merely a eek ago. At least 15 deaths in Michigan have been attributed to COVID-19 so far.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Whitmer has issued an executive order that asks everyone in Michigan to shelter in place. The order was announced on Monday morning and will take effect as of 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, March 24. You may be wondering what this policy means for you and your family.

How Will Daily Life Be Affected By the Order?

The order asks Michigan residents to remain at home and refrain from all travel that is not essential for the next three weeks. They can leave home for the following essential business:

  • For work, if they are critical infrastructure workers (which we’ll define later)
  • Going to the hospital, if ill
  • Buying groceries, medications, and gasoline
  • Exercising outside, including walking, running, biking, and hiking
  • Visiting someone in a hospital or residential care facility, with the facility’s permission
  • Showing up for legal proceedings concerning essential or emergency matters
  • Caring for a relative or relative’s pet in a different home
  • Caring for children, seniors, people with disabilities, or others requiring hands-on assistance
  • Volunteering at places that offer shelter, food, and other necessities to low-income people or people with disabilities
  • Leaving the state for a residence in another state
  • Coming back to Michigan from another state
  • Going from one home to another within Michigan
  • Transporting children in accordance with a custody agreement, as mandated by court order or law enforcement

If residents do leave the house, they must follow social distancing practices as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC recommends that people stay six feet apart if they must leave their homes for essential business.

Fortunately, we still have the internet at our disposal. In August 2017, women’s apparel was the top-selling product online. Since Michigan residents won’t be able to go out to buy much besides groceries, gasoline, and medications, they will likely turn to the Internet to purchase other products.

All gatherings, whether public or private, of people beyond their own homes are also prohibited. In 2012, 33% of business trips within the United States involved airplane flights, but most Americans are too worried about contracting coronavirus to even consider getting on a plane. Everyday life in Michigan will be seriously restricted by the new order.

Who is Considered an Essential Worker?

Businesses cannot require employees to leave their homes unless they are essential workers who are needed to save lives or to maintain basic operations. The governor’s order states that essential employees are those classified as “critical infrastructure workers” by the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. They include:

  • Medical and public health professionals
  • Workers in food and agriculture
  • Police officers, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, and firefighters
  • Workers in the energy industry
  • Child care workers who are caring for the children of essential workers
  • Public transportation workers
  • Public works employees
  • Workers in the news media, information technology, and the communications industry
  • Employees in essential manufacturing
  • Government workers providing critical community services and functions
  • Workers who handle hazardous materials
  • Employees involved in chemical supply and safety
  • Workers who provide financial services
  • Defense workers on industrial bases
  • Employees of businesses that support critical infrastructure workers
  • Workers in the insurance industry whose work cannot be done remotely
  • Employees of supply and distribution centers
  • Labor union representatives with crucial functions
  • Employees who provide essentials such as food or shelter to low-income or people with disabilities

Businesses and operations must designate workers who are necessary to maintain minimum basic operations. They must notify workers that they have been designated as such and can do so orally until 11:59 p.m. on March 31, 2020. After that time, they must notify essential workers in writing, including through email or a public website. Anyone who is unsure whether they are an essential worker should contact their supervisor or wait to receive word.

Will Public Places Stay Closed?

Governor Whitmer has also ordered that public places such as restaurants, bars, theaters, gyms, and libraries remain closed until 11:59 p.m., April 13. Restaurants and bars were originally ordered to close on March 16 and stay closed until March 31. The additional two weeks is intended to slow the spread of coronavirus and protect vulnerable people such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

Is There Help for People Who Have Lost Their Jobs?

Workers affected by closures of public places, as well as others who can’t work remotely from home, are seeking help with meeting their basic expenses. Although temporary disability benefits provide injured employees with two-thirds of their average weekly wages, more than 100,000 Michigan residents filed for unemployment just last week. Under normal circumstances, the state receives approximately 5,000 unemployment claims per week. Governor Whitmer has expanded benefits for the following:

  • Workers who are ill or in quarantine and are not covered by paid family or medical leave or who have been laid off
  • People who have had to leave jobs in order to care for family members, including children
  • Law enforcement officers and other first responders or public health employees who are sick or under quarantine after exposure to someone with COVID-19

There may be more financial help to boost Michigan’s economy. Just after signing the executive order expanding unemployment benefits, Whitmer stated that small businesses in Michigan could obtain loans at low interest rates through the federal Small Business Administration.

Like many states, Michigan is taking drastic steps to try and slow the spread of coronavirus. As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 grows rapidly in the state, Michigan officials are doing all they can to prevent infections and protect the most vulnerable. Fortunately, people can still get out long enough to perform essential tasks. While it may be difficult for people to stay mostly at home for an extended period, they need to remember that by staying home, they are saving lives.

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