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Whitmer restarts manufacturing, extends stay-home to May 28

In this photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addresses the state during a speech in Lansing, Mich., Thursday, May 7, 2020. Whitmer said that auto and other manufacturing workers can return to the job next week, further easing her stay-at-home order while extending it through May 28 because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP, Pool)

LANSING,(AP) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday that auto and other manufacturing workers can return to the job next week, further easing her stay-at-home order while extending it through May 28 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Manufacturers — which account for 19% of the state’s economy — can resume operations on Monday, which is key for auto parts makers a week ahead of automakers’ planned phased-in May 18 restart. Factories must adopt measures to protect their workers, including daily entry screening and, once they are available, the use of no-touch thermometers.

“As we’ve done the risk assessment, we feel comfortable that with these safety protocols, we can safely reengage,” Whitmer told reporters. “This is truly good news for our state.”

Manufacturing will be the third major industry to fully reopen in the span of five days. Construction and real estate restarted on Thursday.

The Democratic governor, whose emergency powers are being challenged in court by the Republican-led Legislature, lengthened the shelter-in-place order to last nearly two more weeks in a state where more than 4,300 people have died from COVID-19 complications and where 1.3 million workers have filed for unemployment over seven weeks. The restrictions had been scheduled to expire May 15.

The state reported 93 additional deaths Thursday and 592 more confirmed cases, bringing the case total to about 45,600. The field hospital in a downtown Detroit convention center no longer has patients and has officially closed, Mayor Mike Duggan said.

While the rate of spread of disease is slowing, we still have spread in many parts of the state,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, who continued to urge people to not go out unless it is necessary.

“We are still safer at home,” said Whitmer, who outlined six stages in which the economy will be reopend. The state, she said, is in the third, “flattening” stage. If hospitalizations continue to drop and cases and deaths rise less rapidly, small gatherings and some office and retail work could be allowed in the next stage.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, of Clarklake, said Whitmer “released a Powerpoint that brings us no closer to understanding her decision-making.”

The order continues to limit travel, except for certain reasons like caring for a family member. Asked what she would say to people who want to visit their moms over Mother’s Day weekend, the governor said to send a card, do a Zoom video call and “go big” later when gatherings are OK again.

Michigan, home to the Detroit Three carmakers, has about 630,000 manufacturing workers who make up 13% of the state’s workforce. John Walsh, president and CEO of the Michigan Manufacturers Association, estimated that more than half were laid off because of the pandemic. He credited Whitmer for bringing together business and labor leaders “to ensure our workers can return to the job safely. The safety of our workers is our top priority, and I am confident that Michigan manufacturers are prepared to deliver on the worker protections included in today’s order,” he said.