LANSING – Three major Michigan business groups, including the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, are asking Gov. Gretchen Whitmer not to issue a stay-at-home order, sometimes referred to as a “refuge in place,” under which residents are asked not to leave their residence except for essential purposes and all non-essential businesses are closed.
The Michigan Chamber, the state’s most powerful business lobby, wrote Whitmer a letter on Friday opposing such a move and issued a press release on Saturday. The Detroit Regional Chamber and Michigan Small Business Association issued similar statements on Saturday, saying that an order that is too broad could harm the economy unnecessarily.
The governor is not expected “for the time being” to shut down nearly all businesses, “while a few are allowed to remain open,” the Michigan Chamber said in a press release.
Other governors have issued such orders in recent days to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected more than 700 people in Michigan and killed at least five, amid a global pandemic.
âNot all Michigan businesses need to go out of business because of the threat of COVID-19,â House President and CEO Rich Studley said in a letter to Whitmer Friday.
âFor example, many businesses provide essential goods and services to our citizens. We cannot risk an interruption in the supply chain or a disruption in the distribution cycle. In addition, many companies have non-interruptible operations and these operations must be protected as we go along. “
He urged Whitmer to allow businesses to continue operating “unless there is a high risk to the public health of employees or the general public.” An extensive shelter in place, similar to those issued in other states, should only be used “as a last resort,” Studley said.
“Frankly, we are concerned that an inappropriate or overly broad order could cause unnecessary and long-term damage to Michigan’s economic health.”
Whitmer, who has broad executive powers after declaring a state of emergency in Michigan on March 10, considered ordering all residents to stay in their homes except for essential purposes, and telling all non-essential businesses to stop asking employees to come to work. But she said on Friday she was “not here yet”.
Asked to comment on Studley’s letter, Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said it was under review, but: “There are no plans for a statewide shutdown . “
California, Illinois and New York have already issued a shelter-in-place ordinance, allowing only businesses deemed essential, including hospitals, grocery stores, drugstores, gas stations and workshops. auto repair, to stay open.
Under orders issued in other states, residents can still go out for a variety of purposes, including shopping for groceries or drugs, walking the dog, or exercising.
In a press release issued approximately 90 minutes after the Michigan House press release, Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah said that “many businesses deemed non-essential are able to operate smoothly. safety in compliance with social distancing guidelines. “
Other businesses, if forced to shut down quickly, “could suffer serious, lasting economic losses that would hamper recovery or pose security concerns,” Baruah said.
If public health authorities determine that such an order is warranted, “we urge the state to allow sufficient time for commercial operations to cease safely and to allow businesses that pose low risk or supply products and important services to remain open within the framework of public health guidelines â. he said.
Brian Calley, president of the Michigan Small Business Association, took a similar position.
âIdentifying ‘essential services’ is not as easy as government officials might think,â Calley said in a press release.
âJust keeping the food supply in the best condition requires thousands of economic activities around the world to function effectively. The state is unlikely to be able to anticipate and exempt all of the economic activities necessary to keep shelves stocked. “
The position taken by business leaders has drawn criticism, especially from public health officials.
Dr Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who first linked Flint’s drinking water change to the Flint River to high levels of lead in the blood of Flint’s children, said on Twitter that the last time Michigan had put financial problems ahead of public health, “it didn’t go so well.”
Studley, Baruah and Calley have all said they support the governor’s actions in handling the crisis to date, including the closure of schools, bars, gymnasiums, theaters and other public gathering spaces, the limiting restaurants to be carried out and delivery services and stopping evictions.