Whitmer: ‘Do not panic’

Stay-at-home order issued; coronavirus count remains at zero locally

While urging people “not to panic,” Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday issued a “stay-at-home” order, expanding the scope of past state shutdowns in an effort to fight against the spread of coronavirus.

The new “stay home, stay safe” order means that starting Tuesday, just after midnight, Michigan residents are ordered to stay home and avoid contact with others.

While some “essential services” remain open, schools now will remain closed until April 13, and offices and businesses that are not “necessary to sustain or protect life” must close for the next three weeks.

“Do not panic. Do not hoard,” Whitmer said in a news conference.

State Rep. Michele Hoitenga, R-District 102, said Whitmer’s order differs slightly from those in other states, including California, which have issued “shelter-in-place” mandates to deal with coronavirus.

“Governors are choosing their wording very carefully. I believe ours may be a little less restrictive than some states, because we do not have a curfew. I’m very happy there is no nighttime curfew on this, because some people may need to be outside at night for whatever reason,” Hoitenga said.

Hoitenga added that confusion remains among local business owners about whether or not the order applies to their business.

“We have requested from the governor’s office a more detailed list, specifically for building trades people,” Hoitenga said. “They are very confused about whether they qualify for this or not. Like roofers — if somebody’s roof is leaking, people need to be able to call a contractor.”

Big Rapids Mayor Tom Hogenson asked locals to heed the governor’s directive and stay at home.

“It’s not exactly a new concept at this juncture — there are several states that are following the same path, and it’s based on pretty sound science. It’s not something anybody anticipates. It creates some sacrifice. But it’s a good way of ensuring that people, particularly seniors, are as safe as we can make them under the current circumstances,” Hogenson said.

“There are places that have shown that by implementing these measures, you can control the spread of the virus. I think we need to give it a shot.”

Ferris State University President David Eisler stated in a memo that the school — which last week announced it would cancel spring commencement — had been preparing for the expected order throughout the weekend.

“A very limited number of people will need to attend to core areas of support ... If you are needed to come to work, your supervisor will contact you. Other employees will be on call and contacted if their services are needed on campus. The remainder of us should stay at home and develop the capability to work effectively from there,” the memo reads.

On Monday, a coronavirus triage tent was put up at Spectrum Health Big Rapids and Reed City hospitals, adjacent to the emergency entrance and not for “drive-thru” use.

“The tent ensures continued patient access to emergency services for those with non-COVID-19 conditions while also ensuring those with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 are cared for appropriately,” Caroline Ring, chief nursing officer of both hospitals, stated in a press release. “We’ve been preparing for this for months with a rapid uptick in those preparations in the last few weeks.”

A spokesperson for Spectrum declined to say the number of patients who have been tested or treated for coronavirus at the hospital, referring the question to local and state health departments.

Data released Monday indicates that the state has more than 1,300 positive cases of coronavirus, resulting in 15 deaths. Mecosta, Osceola and Lake counties have not seen any positive cases reported, however, the nearby counties of Newaygo, Montcalm and Wexford have one case each.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Q: How does this affect food delivery services? Grocery delivery services?

A: Food delivery services, including grocery delivery, are considered essential and will continue. Gov. Whitmer encourages people to use delivery services where they are available. However, the order allows people to leave their homes to shop for groceries or to pick up takeout from restaurants.

Q: Will banks still be open?

A: Yes. Banks and credit unions will continue to operate.

Q: How does this affect government services? Will we still have trash pickup?

A: The following services will still be provided: Public transit, trash pick-up and disposal, activities necessary to manage and oversee elections, and the maintenance of safe and sanitary public parks so as to allow for outdoor recreation.

Q: Does this affect mail delivery?

A: Mail will still be delivered, and residents are asked to keep six feet distance away from mail carriers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the World Health Organization, have reported the coronavirus cannot travel through the mail.

Q: Gas stations, pharmacies and retail stores will remain open, correct?

A: Yes. People will still be able to leave their homes to purchase groceries, take-out food, gasoline, medication and medical supplies.

Q: Are liquor stores allowed to remain open?

A: Yes. Liquor stores are considered essential and are exempt from the order.

Q: Are marijuana dispensaries allowed to remain open?

A: Yes. Licensed provisioning centers and adult-use retailers may provide home delivery services, as well as curbside pick-up. In-store purchases will be prohibited.

Q: Can I go for a walk or a run?

A: Yes. Individuals may leave their home to engage in outdoor activity, including walking, hiking running, cycling or any other recreational activity, while remaining at least 6 feet away from people outside the individual’s household.

Q: Will doctors’ offices and hospitals remain open?

A: Yes. Any business that does work to sustain life will remain open.

Q: Will my veterinarian still be open?

A: Yes. The order allows for people to leave their homes in order to care for pets.

Q: Are factories required to close?

A: Businesses operating in the following fields will be allowed to continue: chemical supply chains and safety, critical manufacturing, hazardous materials, and defense industrial base.

Q: How does this affect volunteer opportunities?

A: Volunteers and workers can continue operations that provide food, shelter and other necessities of life.

Q: Is public transportation still allowed?

A: Yes. The order allows government operations including public transit, trash pick-up and disposal, activities necessary to manage and oversee elections, and the maintenance of safe and sanitary public parks to continue.

Q: Can I care for my parent who lives away from me?

A: Yes. The order allows individuals to leave their homes to care for a family member or a family member’s pet in another household, to care for minors, dependents, the elderly, persons with disabilities, or other vulnerable persons and to visit an individual under the care of a health care facility, residential care facility, or congregate care facility.

Q: Can I go to the laundromat?

A: Yes. Critical infrastructure includes businesses that provide food, shelter, and other necessities of life.

Q: What happens if someone violates the order?

A: Consistent with MCL 10.33 and MCL 30.405(3), a willful violation of this order is a misdemeanor.