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Whitmer issues stay-at-home order

In a pool photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tells Michigan residents to stay at home, in her most sweeping order of the coronavirus crisis, Monday, March 23, 2020 in Lansing, Mich. The governor warned that a million people could need hospital beds if they keep mixing with each other and spreading the illness. Whitmer talked about dire results akin to those seen in Italy if people don't follow her order. (Julia Pickett/Michigan Office of the Governor via AP, Pool)

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a three-week shelter-in-place order Monday morning, saying it was necessary to prevent an Italy-like trajectory for the state that would overwhelm hospitals and leave patients without the resources they need.

The order directs all Michigan businesses and operations to suspend in-person operations that are not necessary to sustain or protect life. Michigan residents who are not part of the workforce for those essential business and operations should also stay home. Excepted activities include being engaged in an outdoor activity, performing tasks necessary for their health and safety, acquiring necessary supplies. such as filling prescriptions or providing care for the vulnerable.

Groups of essential employees listed include health care workers, law enforcement, first responders, food workers, critical manufacturing and public works employees. In a statement Monday afternoon, Whitmer’s office clarified that K-12 school food services are also considered critical infrastructure.

It takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, and continues through April 13.

People who do leave their homes should still follow CDC guidelines, such as washing hands frequently and staying six feet away from other people, Whitmer said.

Last week, Whitmer barred gatherings of 50 people or more. Monday’s order tightens that to bar any public or private gatherings involving people outside a single household.

“Stopping the spread of this virus is really the most important tool that we have right now to keep our communities safe,” Whitmer said at a press conference Monday. “That means without aggressive additional measures more people will get sick, more people will die, and our economy will suffer longer.”

Businesses that stay open must still promote remote work where possible, keep employees six feet away from each other and restrict the number of workers on-site.

Whitmer’s order, including the full list of critical services and exemptions from the stay-home order, is available at michigan.gov/coronavirus.

Several other states, including California, Ohio, Illinois and New York, have issued similar orders in the past week.

Grocery stores will remain open, and the entire supply chain will stay accessible, Whitmer said.

“Do not panic,” she said. “Do not hoard. These services will remain open.”

As test capacity increases in the state, the number of positive diagnoses will continue to rise, Whitmer said. As of Monday morning, there were 1,232 confirmed cases in the state, and 15 deaths, said chief medical executive Joneigh Khaldun. All have come in the past two weeks.

Sunday, the state announced the first presumptive positive case in the Upper Peninsula, a man in Chippewa County.

Western Upper Peninsula Health Department reported 50 tests have been conducted in the five-county area as of Thursday, the most recent data announced. None were positive, though the Health Department is counseling residents to act as though the coronavirus has already arrived in the area.

Testing at state labs is now up to 1,000 people a day and growing, Khaldun said.

“If we do nothing, rough models estimate the number of cases in Michigan could increase fivefold in the next week,” Khaldun said. “We are acting right now to decrease that number.”

Because of Monday’s order, the closure of K-12 schools has been extended by at least a week. Whitmer said she would have more to say soon.

Whitmer said she was meeting with the Secretary of State and legislative leaders to work on conducting May elections by mail.

Houghton previously had a non-binding resolution on the May ballot regarding public input on the Lakeshore Drive redevelopment project. That petition has been moved to the August ballot, the city announced Monday.

In the order, Whitmer said she would look at several factors in determining whether the order needs to be renewed. That includes rate of spread, the amount of medical resources available, economic conditions, and the availability of tests for COVID-19.

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