So much for going back to work in a week or so. Two states critical to Donald Trump’s presidential chances in November just announced shelter in place orders, replacing earlier guidelines for social distancing. “This is not a recommendation,” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared, “this is an order,” and it will last at least three weeks:
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued Monday a “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order to stem the spread of coronavirus.
The order requires all Michigan businesses to suspend in-person operations from 12:01 a.m. Tuesday through April 13, unless the operations are part of the “critical infrastructure workforce” or those needed for “minimal basic operations.” Schools also will remain closed through April 13. …
“The goal here is simple: Stay home. Stay safe. Save lives,” Whitmer said during a Monday livestreamed press event. “This will be temporary. This intervention is important to buy time so we can create surge capacity in our hospitals, so we can ramp up testing and develop therapeutic drugs that may lower hospitalization and fatality rates.
“It’s been observed: If it were possible to wave a magic wand and make all Americans freeze in place for 14 days, six feet away from one another, the whole epidemic would sputter to a halt. It’s on all of us to do our part.
“Our ability to safely lift this order will depend on factors like data on COVID-19 infections and the disease’s rate of spread, depend on whether sufficient medical personnel, hospital beds and equipment exists to meet anticipated medical needs and the state’s capacity to test for COVID-19 cases and isolate infected people.”
The Detroit Free Press notes that this is a significant change in position for Whitmer. Just last Thursday, she told the newspaper that she wasn’t even considering a shelter-in-place order. By yesterday, however, Whitmer acknowledged that the situation was “moving fast” after the confirmed cases tripled in 72 hours. Despite some pushback from Republicans over the economic damage the order will do, Whitmer decided to proceed with it. Whitmer had already ordered schools, theaters, bars, and gyms to close and shut down dine-in service at restaurants, which means the economic damage was already significant — and it wasn’t sufficient to stop or slow the spread.
In Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers also finally ordered a shelter-in-place, calling it #SaferAtHome in his Twitter announcement. Evers also had earlier discounted the necessity for such a move, and also cited “rapidly evolving” developments on the virus’ spread:
As we’ve worked to respond to and prevent the spread of COVID-19, we've have been careful to listen to public health experts and to be mindful of the effects our proactive steps could and will have on our frontline workers and the most vulnerable in our communities.
— Governor Tony Evers (@GovEvers) March 23, 2020
Gov. Tony Evers on Monday said he is preparing to order Wisconsinites to stay in their homes starting this week to fend off the coronavirus outbreak that is ravaging populations worldwide.
The governor’s order will require nearly all workers in the state to work remotely or lose their jobs by closing all workplaces that aren’t deemed essential. Restaurants and bars may stay open but only for delivery and curbside pick-up orders.
The Democratic governor made the announcement on Twitter just three days after saying he did not think he would have to issue such an order but that he would do what is scientifically necessary.
On Monday, Evers’ spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said the governor changed course because of a “rapidly evolving” spread of the coronavirus, which has claimed four lives in Wisconsin and infected at least 400 people in the state.
Evers didn’t mention an end date, but the state’s primary is scheduled to take place on April 7. Best guess is that this order will force its postponement, or else force it to take place entirely by mail. Wisconsin Republicans haven’t yet reacted, but over the weekend they praised Evers’ response while warning against a shelter-in-place order as excessive.
With Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois mandating a narrowing of the public square, it seems only a matter of time before we get an order here in Minnesota, too. Governor Tim Walz has been more open to issuing an order than either Whitmer or Evers, and he has been public about his mulling of the necessity of delivering it. If Walz decides to issue the order, now he’ll have to do so from quarantine:
Gov. Tim Walz said Monday he will be quarantined at home for the next two weeks after coming in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
He will continue to oversee the state’s response to the pandemic from the governor’s residence, according to an announcement from Walz’s office.
“The most important thing Minnesotans can do to stop the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home,” Walz said in a statement. “I’m using this as an opportunity to lead by example. Though I’m feeling healthy and not showing any symptoms, I’m going to work from home and model the protocol we are asking all Minnesotans to follow.”
One of the members of Walz’s security team was found to have the virus Sunday night. The governor was in close proximity to that person late last week, according to a news release.
That’s not the only political leader in Minnesota dealing with a personal connection to the outbreak, although not in the state at the time. Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced earlier in the day that her husband had to be hospitalized with COVID-19:
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced Monday that her husband John Bessler has been diagnosed with coronavirus.
“While I cannot see him and he is of course cut off from all visitors, our daughter Abigail and I are constantly calling and texting and e-mailing,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “We love him very much and pray for his recovery. He is exhausted and sick but a very strong and resilient person.”
Klobuchar said her husband, who works as a law professor in Baltimore, had quarantined himself and stopped going to work after coming down with cold symptoms. After developing a fever and coughing up blood, he sought medical care and was hospitalized in Virginia due to testing that showed “very low oxygen levels.” Bessler, 52, has developed pneumonia and is on oxygen, but does not need a ventilator at this time, according to the statement. He received confirmation that he has coronavirus on Monday morning, five days after taking the test.
With Whitmer and Evers providing some political cover, expect to see Walz follow suit soon and issue a shelter-in-place order, especially with our own COVID-19 cases doubling over the weekend. We largely haven’t seen flouting of the guidelines here, though, at least not from my perspective in the first-ring suburbs of the Twin Cities. Grocery stores are relatively well stocked and operating orderly, and there isn’t much traffic besides that out here. Many of us have been more or less adopting a shelter-in-place attitude for the last week or more. (My wife is high risk as a transplant patient using immune suppressing medication, so we have tried to strictly adhere to the guidelines.)
This looks as though it will shortly become the norm rather than the exception as COVID-19 rolls across the country. Trump may change his mind about hunkering down, but governors control this process, and they will inevitably have the last word on this policy.