Michigan business leaders advise Whitmer on orderly stay-at-home order


Michigan’s major business groups spent the weekend advising Governor Gretchen Whitmer on how to enforce an ordered stay-at-home order to combat the spread of the coronavirus after some initially resisted drastic measures that neighboring states have taken, Crain’s learned.

The discussion came as Whitmer faced four days of questions about whether she would follow orders from governors of New York, New Jersey, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois and now Ohio and ban non-essential work and trade to reduce human contact that helps spread the virus.

Business groups that are actively talking with the governor’s office include the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Detroit Regional Chamber, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Association of Michigan and Michigan Manufacturers Association, confirmed reports. sources at Crain’s.

“We’ve worked cooperatively with other business groups to try to come up with recommendations and suggestions, but I haven’t seen a final draft or the order itself,” the Michigan Chamber CEO said. , Rich Studley.

“I have to imagine at this point that (Ohio Governor Mike) DeWine issued an order (on Sunday) that this may have impacted the governor’s thinking on this,” Studley said.

On Sunday, the governor made his strongest public plea for Michigan residents to stay put.

“Stay home if you don’t absolutely have to be outside your home,” Whitmer said on ABC’s “This Week.” “And if you go out, keep that 6ft distance from others. We all need to do our part to mitigate the spread and save our healthcare system.”

The governor has scheduled a press conference late Monday morning at the State Emergency Operations Center near Lansing.

Studley and Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah struck a decidedly different tone in talks late Sunday night, a day after the two spoke out against a “blanket” shutdown order.

On Saturday, Studley specifically cited concerns that “a premature or overly broad order would create unnecessary and long-term damage to Michigan’s economic health.” On Sunday, he said the state Chamber of Commerce is providing advice to the governor’s office on how certain businesses and industries need time to shut down manufacturing plants.

“What we tried to do was provide them with lots of factual information and suggestions on the difference between essential and non-essential, interruptible and non-interruptible businesses,” Studley said. “…And to be fair, the administration has been open and willing to listen to feedback from the business community.”

On Sunday, Studley and Baruah seemed almost resigned to the idea that with Michigan now at more than 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nine deaths, the state is heading for another shutdown of non-essential work and travel.

“Our position has been that public safety must come first,” Baruah told Crain’s. “And we’re going to support whatever she does. But I think there are some things we want her to consider.”

Business groups have been “talking to the governor and his team over the past few days about how to handle this,” Baruah said. He declined to say what issues the Detroit chamber had asked the governor to address in a shelter-in-place order.

Some of the communications between business groups and the governor’s office have focused on how to temporarily shut down large swaths of the economy and keep workers in essential sectors working, Studley said.

In other states where governors have ordered workers to stay home, there have been broad exceptions for what is considered essential work.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s order includes exceptions for manufacturing workers in chemicals, paper products, pharmaceuticals, building supply stores, auto repair, child care , laundromats, banks and accounting firms, Crain’s New York Business reported.

Whitmer’s office did not deny there had been talks over the weekend with business groups about how to proceed.

“We received feedback on a variety of topics from key stakeholders,” Whitmer spokesman Zack Pohl said in a statement late Sunday. “The Governor bases her decisions on facts and science in consultation with medical experts. Her #1 priority is to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and protect public health.”


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