Michigan and Oregon Issue Stay-at-Home Orders, More States to Follow

LANSING, Mich. (CN) – Governors in Michigan and Oregon ordered residents to stay at home Monday, adding to a growing list of other states locking people down to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, announced the stay-at-home order in a press conference Monday, requiring all nonessential businesses to stop any in-person services and transactions effective at 12:01 am Tuesday. The order is in effect through at least April 13.

An entire section of meat and poultry is left empty after panicked shoppers swept through in fear of the coronavirus at a grocery store in Burbank, Calif., on March 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

“In just 13 days, we have gone from 0 to 1,232 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, Covid-19,” Whitmer said. “It has doubled over the weekend. This virus is spreading exponentially.”

She acknowledged the significant sacrifices Michiganders will have to make, but said “we are doing this because it is absolutely necessary to protect the health of our people.”

“The goal here is simple: stay home, stay safe, save lives,” the governor said.

Monday’s order limits residents to leaving their homes only when it is absolutely necessary, with the exception that “businesses and operations that do work that sustains or protects life can continue performing that work in person.”

Critical services like grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, banks and credit unions will continue to operate, but Michigan schools will remain shut down for at least three weeks.

“I know this is hard,” Whitmer said. “I know this is going to be disruptive and it’s certainly going to be hard on our economy as well, but our actions will save lives.”

In Oregon, Governor Kate Brown  issued a statewide order on Monday directing the public to “stay home unless absolutely necessary.” Doing otherwise is now a crime.

The order came after days of mounting pressure from mayors, county officials and public health experts in Oregon calling for a measure to enforce social distancing. On Friday, Brown instructed the public to “stay home, stay safe.” But that directive was not legally enforceable.

Over the weekend, Oregonians flocked to coastal beaches and hiking trails in the Columbia River Gorge, prompting outcries from local officials who warned that their small towns did not have the resources to deal with the outbreaks that could be caused by a torrent of tourists.

Brown, a Democrat, said Monday that the order was partly a response to the public’s disregard for her earlier instructions.

“I started by asking Oregonians to stay home and practice social distancing,” Brown said Monday. “Then I urged the public to follow these recommendations. Instead, thousands crowded the beaches of our coastal communities, our trails, our parks, and our city streets, potentially spreading COVID-19 and endangering the lives of others across the state. Now, I’m ordering it. To save lives and protect our community.”

The list of businesses to be closed beginning at midnight includes gyms and yoga studies, theaters, hair salons, arcades and skating rinks. Restaurants and bars have been closed since March 17 except for take-out. Playgrounds, skate parks and basketball courts are closed.

“Essential” businesses may remain open. That includes grocery stores, pharmacies, golf courses and even cannabis dispensaries. Businesses whose employees can work from home are ordered to do so. Brown left the door open for retail businesses that can “adapt to take-out style shopping experiences” and those that “make robust plans” to enforce social distancing.

Daycare centers can care for only 10 children or fewer and must prioritize the children of nurses, emergency workers and other essential personnel. Outdoor exercise is encouraged, but six feet of distance must be maintained.

Though the order takes effect immediately, it does not have an expiration date. It remains in effect until Brown ends it.

“None of us have ever been through this before, and that means there is no way to know exactly what lies ahead,” Brown said. “We don’t know yet when this outbreak will end, or what changes this will bring for our state and for our country. But I want to make sure that we’ve done all we can to end it as quickly as possible.”

On Monday evening, Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced a “stay at home” order similar to those issued by other states, banning non-essential business and activities.

“Life will go on,” Inslee said. “This will not prohibit people from going out for a walk on a sunny spring day.”

The order will remain in effect for the next two weeks, then the state will reevaluate the restrictions.

Michigan, Oregon and Washington joined nearly a dozen other states that have ordered similar lockdowns in recent days, including California, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Ohio.

Wisconsin is expected to add its name to that list on Tuesday, as Governor Tony Evers announced on Twitter Monday that the Badger State will be implementing its own stay-at-home order.

Evers’ tweets offered few details but a formal order is expected Tuesday.

The gist of the governor’s tweets echoes the refrain from other states, though, in taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to slow the spread of the Covid-19 virus, which has left governments and societies around the world mired in a near-total standstill.

“And, folks, all hands on deck means you, too,” Evers tweeted Monday, setting the stage for the lockdown to come.

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CNS Reporter June Williams contributed to this report. 

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