by Bruce Walker
As Michigan adopts a new phase of government-imposed restrictions on businesses and personal behavior to stem the spread of COVID-19, residents and politicians are registering increased opposition.
Negative reactions stem from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders, which declared many businesses “nonessential” and threatened $1,000 fines for people violating the six-foot social distancing rules.
Those edicts took effect on March 24, and were set to expire on April 13. On Thursday, however, the governor extended her executive orders to April 30 – and added tighter restrictions on personal travel and businesses previously declared essential.
These include prohibiting travel to vacation homes and forcing the closure of businesses and store departments dedicated to lawn care and garden services and products.
For example, families with vacation homes are told they must stay in their primary residences for the remainder of the month. The order especially angers families who desired to spend Easter weekend together at their secondary homes.
Davison resident Robert Wright and his wife Nancy, for example, have been staying at their family cottage in Northern Michigan since Tuesday in preparation for their observance of the Easter Holy Week.
Wright said he and Nancy already had been resigned to spending the holiday without the presence of their children and grandchildren, but said he has no plans to return to Davison until after the weekend.
“I think it’s completely unnecessary,” Wright told The Center Square. “Traveling between residences doesn’t endanger anyone,” he said.
“If I don’t stop or don’t socialize between my house and my cabin,” he asked, “how am I endangering my wife or me or anyone else?”
State Rep. Julie Alexander, R- Jackson, is chairwoman of the House Agriculture Committee. In a statement, she said she’s worried Michigan nurseries and garden centers are not allowed to sell vegetable plants right now.
“The governor is completely shutting these needed services down,” Alexander said. “What about the people who want to plant a garden, grow their own food, and be self-sufficient?”
She added: “Timing is crucial as the growing season in Michigan is limited. The focus should be on businesses that can safely operate, providing important services and products to their community, not what is considered essential or non-essential – every job is essential to the family that relies on that paycheck.”
State Sen. Tom Barrett, R-Potterville, also says the governor’s COVID-19 response goes too far.
“I trust my constituents to practice safe habits in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak,” he posted on Facebook. “Parents, teachers, pastors, and others will take reasonable precautions without being threatened by the force of law to stay at home by the Governor.”
Barrett added, “I am very disappointed in the Governor’s decision to tighten restrictions in her most recent executive order. She refused to even allow single man lawn mowing operations, outdoor construction work, and now she has banned the purchase of gardening supplies.”
Barrett asked how the elderly and the disabled who use these services are supposed to mow their lawns.
“How will they stop the growth of pests, ticks, mosquitoes and other associated nuisances that carry disease?” he asked.
Barrett continued: “Many of my constituents rely on seasonal gardens to provide nutritious food for their families and livestock. Not to mention the fact that many people want to remain productive while staying home.” he said.
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Bruce Walker is a regional editor at The Center Square. He previously worked as editor at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s MichiganScience magazine and The Heartland Institute’s InfoTech & Telecom News.