Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) announced Friday that she is rolling back several of the more arbitrary and contentious restrictions in the state's stay-at-home order.
Whitmer received a steady stream of criticism after announcing the measure on April 9, with people inside and outside the state insisting her orders were overly restrictive and nonsensical. Among the more pilloried provisions was a ban on traveling between any two Michigan residences and a shuttering of lawn care services. It prevented big box stores from selling certain items like paint and plants, meaning establishments like Home Depot had to tape those aisles off from customers. It prohibited the use of motorboats, but it allowed the use of boats without motors.
Four Michigan sheriffs announced in a letter last week that they would not enforce parts of the order, which they said represented a violation of individual rights. "We write today to inform the public for our respective counties of our opposition to some of Governor Whitmer's executive orders," they said. "While we understand her desire to protect the public, we question some restrictions that she has imposed as overstepping her executive authority."
After that letter was made public, "Operation Gridlock" saw protesters assemble outside the Michigan Capitol, ditching social-distancing guidelines and throwing caution to the wind. Though many protesters displayed a dangerously blasé attitude toward social distancing measures, it's safe to say that Whitmer overplayed her hand in issuing such dramatic restrictions that simultaneously banned "all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring among persons not part of a single household," but still permitted the sale of lottery tickets.
Although Whitmer extended the stay-at-home order through May 15, all of those measures have been lifted "effective immediately." Residents may go back and forth between residences, as long as they aren't heading to vacation rentals. Landscaping businesses, garden stores, nurseries, and lawn care services are allowed to restart their engines, although they must abide by enhanced social distancing orders that ensure that only the minimum required workers are on the clock at the same time. Big box stores are no longer legally obligated to section off "nonessential" sections. Golfers can return to the course as long as they remain six feet apart.
"We will consider this the preliminary stage for economic re-engagement," Whitmer said at a Friday press conference. "If we continue to see our numbers decline, we can responsibly consider additional steps."
Michigan's COVID-19 cases began to show signs of abating this week, perhaps providing the impetus for Whitmer to reconsider. But the mounting pushback she saw from constituents and leaders in her community also likely proved influential in her decision.