Governor Whitmer to reopen construction, real estate, and other outdoor work Thursday

By Scott McClallen

(The Center Square) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday signed Executive Order 2020-70 to reopen construction, real estate, and other outdoor work starting Thursday.

Whitmer said those kinds of work had a low risk for employees to contract COVID-19.

“The vast majority of Michiganders are still doing their part to protect themselves and their families from COVID-19. That’s good, but we must keep it up,” Whitmer said.

“I want to be clear: we must all continue to stay home and stay safe as much as possible. If we all keep doing our part, we can reduce the risk of a second wave and re-engage our economy safely and responsibly.”

The state reported 42,356 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,866 deaths.

Whitmer’s stay-home order is active until May 15, 2020.

Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said data drove the decision to ease restrictions on those industries.

“The steps the governor is taking today will help ensure protections for workers and their families from COVID-19 while allowing for work in lower-risk fields to resume,” Khaldun said in a statement. “We will keep monitoring the data closely and work with our partners across state government to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

The order mandates construction sites to adopt the following practices:

  • Designating a site supervisor to enforce COVID-19 control strategies;
  • Conducting daily health screenings for workers;
  • Creating dedicated entry points, if possible, or issuing indicators to assure all workers are screened daily;
  • Identifying choke points and high-risk areas (like hallways, hoists and elevators, break areas) and controlling them to enable social distancing;
  • Ensuring sufficient hand-washing or hand-sanitizing stations at the worksite.

“With an eye towards Michigan’s economic recovery, leadership representing the full spectrum of the construction industry have been working diligently and cooperatively to outline processes and practices that will allow us to safely get back to work,” Barton Malow President & CEO Ryan Maibach said. Maibach is a member of the Michigan Economic Recovery Council.

Whitmer encouraged residents who have delayed medical care to schedule surgeries for ailments including knee surgery and tumors but didn’t rescind her Executive Order 2020-17 delaying elective medical care.

Whitmer dodged a reporters’ follow up question if that included elective medical procedures.

Hillsdale Hospital this week asked Whitmer to ease that restriction, saying in a letter that it, along with other hospitals, will otherwise be forced to close since electives constitute a significant source of revenue.

The Michigan Senate Tuesday adopted Senate Resolution 111, urging Whitmer to take the same action.

The first-term governor gave more details on her “Future for Frontliners” program that she says will provide all frontline workers “free” college tuition, including hospital, sanitation, grocery workers, and first responders.

She didn’t give a total cost estimate but said it would be funded through Michigan’s $3.8 billion given through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Michigan currently faces a $3 billion tax revenue shortfall for this fiscal year, with up to a $4 billion deficit next fiscal year.

About $800 million of that $3 billion is slated to fund five local units of government: the city of Detroit, and Oakland, Wayne, Macomb, and Kent counties.

Local state governments have also requested $1.1 billion of those funds.

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