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Whitmer Expected To Announce Plans To Let Some Businesses Re-Open

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer is expected to outline plans Friday to lift some travel restrictions and to allow some businesses to resume operating – even if it’s at just partial capacity.  Many Republicans in the Legislature have been unhappy with how Whitmer’s used her authority during the COVID-19 crisis.  GOP leaders have called a special Friday session to vote on measures to place new restrictions on her emergency powers. Rick Pluta reports.

Republicans may not like how Whitmer’s handled the crisis, but it appears most Michiganders approve of her actions so far.  That’s according to a poll conducted by the Glengariff Group for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

That statewide survey determined most Michiganders think the state is already in a recession.  Despite that, 57 percent say Whitmer’s done a good job. 
Whitmer says Michigan’s strict prohibitions on many business activities, travel, and gatherings are working to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“We are ramping up testing, and I think that the stay-at-home order are having an impact. This hasn’t been easy. It doesn’t mean everyone agrees. I don’t want to minimize the incredible stress that people are under, but by and large, the vast majority of people in Michigan are doing the right thing and it’s pushing that curve down and that means we’re saving lives.”

That’s the governor during an interview on the NPR program, 1-A. 

“We’re looking at our numbers every single day. Having the most-restrictive policy on the books means that we can start to maybe use the release valve a little bit and re-engage certain sectors.”

The governor says that could include garden shops and landscaping.  These are businesses that don’t require close person-to-person interactions.  She says those are among the businesses that could more-easily comply with rules, such as social distancing and face masks.
That would be good news to D.J. VanderSlik.  He owns a Grand Rapids commercial landscaping and lawncare company. 

“We’re hoping in the next 7 to 10 days that we’ll get positive word that we can go back out and get into our busy spring season.”

VanderSlik says he has 200 full-time employees, and that he’d love to call his team back to work.

“The second quarter is one of our busiest typically every year because coming out of the winter months everything starts to grow and there are a lot of services to provide to our clients.”

Vandersilk says his company has developed a return-to-work plan that includes distancing and face masks.  He says he respects the difficult choices Whitmer has to make but thinks some restrictions went too far. 
Legislative Republicans also think so and have called a special Friday session to register their displeasure.  Representative Shane Hernandez is the chair of the state House Appropriations Committee.  The Republican from the Thumb area would like to see a regionalized plan to start to re-open Michigan with fewer restrictions in areas that are not seeing high numbers of known infections. 

“A lot of us have different ideas. We’ve all been talking to business owners. I’m waiting to see what this is going to look like. It’s hard to say whether this is going in the same direction or not.”

There are two measures on the House and Senate calendars.  One would create a bicameral committee to examine the state’s response to the coronavirus crisis.  The other would require the governor to seek an extension of a disaster declaration every 14 days, instead of the current 28 days. 
Democrats say the Friday session and the Republican measures are ill-timed in the thick of the crisis.  Not to mention, Governor Whitmer will almost certainly veto a bill sent to her desk that would restrict her ability to deal with this or any future crisis. 
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— Rick Pluta is the Managing Editor and Reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org

Rick Pluta is the managing editor for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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