Whitmer Says 'Stay Home' Order Will Likely Be Extended, But Some Restrictions Lifted

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(WWJ) Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says a "short-term extension" of her Stay Home, Stay Safe executive order will likely be needed — but there may be some changes on the way.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, the governor said she is looking to loosen some restrictions as soon as this Friday (April 24); although that won't happen without data and advice from medical experts.

"But we see these signs and know that perhaps we can start to take some small steps forward," Whitmer said, adding that she expects to talk more about that at a news conference Friday. 

"I think now is an appropriate time to reassess the breadth of the current stay at home order, to assess, you know, the scope of what the next one might look like," she said.

The current order is set to expire on May 1.

BUSINESSES TO REOPEN IN WAVES

"I am as eager as anyone to start reengaging sectors of our economy, but we all know we have to be really smart about what that looks like. So, it will be in waves," Whitmer said. "There will be some form of a stay-at-home order for a long time here. And I know when I say that everyone's going to speculate: 'What does that mean?'"

What it means, she said, is that Michiganders should not expect things to return to normal anytime soon. 

Through the phases of reopening, Whitmer said people who are vulnerable to the virus — such as adults 65 and older and those with compromised immune systems — will have to stay home for quite awhile. 

Whimer said business leaders and health officials would be joining her in the coming days to outline a plan to phase in re-opening of businesses, re-engaging sectors of the economy in waves.

When we do start to re-engage, she said, it will have to be "very thoughtful and precise," mitigating risk. 

"We gotta get this right," the governor said. "That's the most important thing."

MORE TESTING IS KEY

As things move forward, Whitmer stressed that more testing is key. "We are seeing a trend where our numbers look good," Whitmer said. "We still need robust testing."

Michigan's Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said the state needs to get to 15,000 COVID-19 tests a-day. It's now at about one-third of that.

The governor said: "Once we get our hands on some swabs and reagents, we can double or maybe even triple the number of tests that we're conducting in Michigan...and that will be absolutely essential."

STATE EMPLOYEES FURLOUGHED

Also announced on Wednesday: The governor said about 6% of state employees — nearly 3,000 people — will be laid off for ten days to help the state save $5 million.

"I mentioned that I made a lot of hard choices in the past six weeks, this was one of the hardest," she said.

The furloughed workers will not be paid but will retain their health insurance and other benefits, and the state is automatically signing them up to receive unemployment benefits. After the ten days the state will “reassess" whether additional furlough days are needed.

As previously announced, the governor reiterated that she and some others in her administration will take a 10% paycut.  

As of Wednesday, there were 33,966 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state, according to the Michigan Department of Human Services, A total of 2,813 people have died. Get more details on the latest numbers here.