Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Gov. Whitmer’s order banned residents from buying seeds or plants. It has been revised to make clear that while Whitmer’s order does place certain limits on how some goods are sold, it does not ban residents from buying any specific item.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is coming under fire for an expansive new executive order locking down the state that includes banning gatherings “of any size” and requiring larger stores to close off areas dedicated to certain classes of goods, among them gardening and plant nurseries.
Whitmer, who has emerged as a top candidate to join Joe Biden on the 2020 ticket, signed the order, one of the most aggressive of any U.S. state issued since the pandemic began, on Friday evening.
“All public and private gatherings of any size are prohibited,” Whitmer said at a news conference Friday, noting that the stay-at-home order will run until at least May 1.
The Democratic governor’s extension of Michigan’s stay-at-home order also forbids residents from traveling “between residences” — although out-of-state people can still head to cabins and cottages they own in the state.
One part of Whitmer’s order requires larger stores – those of more than 50,000 square feet – to close certain sections of the stores. The order reads:
Close areas of the store—by cordoning them off, placing signs in aisles, posting prominent signs, removing goods from shelves, or other appropriate means—that are dedicated to the following classes of goods: (A) Carpet or flooring. (B) Furniture. (C) Garden centers and plant nurseries. (D) Paint.
The order’s inclusion of garden centers and plant nurseries in the sections of larger stores that are now required to be closed off has drawn fire from greenhouse and nursery owners, while many Michiganders have interpreted the order as effectively “banning” the purchase of fruit and vegetable plants, an interpretation Whitmer’s office has refuted.
Callie Gafner told Michigan Radio that “banning fruit and vegetable plants does not help limit the spread of COVID-19.”
“If you’re growing them yourself, you’re reducing the contact between people because you’re not going anywhere. You’re going out in your own garden and picking them up rather than going into the store and coming into contact with how many people?” Gafner said to the National Public Radio outlet.
“[I] just want us to be able to do curbside pickup and help our local customers to be able to do their own gardening and put the money back in the local economy,” Gafner said.
Michigan’s Republican Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield blasted Whitmer for making the “wrong call” that is “bad for Michigan families.”
“Instead of essential vs non-essential, we should think safe vs unsafe,” Chatfield wrote on Twitter on Friday. “In Michigan, these are currently not allowed: -Lawn care -Construction -Buying home improvement materials -Buying seeds & plants -Fishing if a motor is used (Just to name a few. All these are safe. But the Governor says no. We can ensure safety & be reasonable. Let’s do both,” he wrote.
In Michigan, these are currently not allowed:
-Buying home improvement materials
-Buying seeds & plants
-Fishing if a motor is used
(Just to name a few)
All these are safe. But the Governor says no. We can ensure safety & be reasonable. Let’s do both.
— Lee Chatfield (@LeeChatfield) April 11, 2020
The Speaker also mocked what Whitmer deems “essential” and “non-essential.”
“Essential in Michigan: -Marijuana, lottery & alcohol,” he said. “Let’s be safe & reasonable. Right now, we’re not!”
Michigan is a hot spot for the virus. As of Sunday, there were more than 24,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with nearly 1,400 deaths. More than 78% of the confirmed cases are in the three-county Metro Detroit region.
U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, an independent, also ripped Whitmer for the order.
“Sensible instructions to practice social distancing, wear masks, and stay at home already do most of the work to reduce the virus’s spread. By pushing too far, the governor undermines her own authority and increases the likelihood people will not follow reasonable guidelines,” the congressman wrote on Twitter.
“At the very least, government officials need to trust people with matters that are extremely low risk. There’s no compelling case for banning bicycle repair shops or landscaping services, or for prohibiting open retailers from selling items related to home and garden maintenance,” Amash wrote.
At the very least, government officials need to trust people with matters that are extremely low risk. There’s no compelling case for banning bicycle repair shops or landscaping services, or for prohibiting open retailers from selling items related to home and garden maintenance.
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) April 11, 2020