Health

Stay-home FAQs: Are you essential? What activities are allowed? Who could be punished?


March 24, 2020, 9:36 AM


(Graphic: U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency)

Michigan's three-week restrictions on who can work or travel outside the home and who shouldn't are complicated by fuzzy edges and judgment calls.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's "stay home, stay safe" directive, in effect at least through April 13, prohibits "in-person work that is not necessary to sustain or protect life."

Her office lists examples of workers who can carry on as needed, plus other guidance. This summary also has comments from the state police and media coverage, with links for more details.

Is my job critical?

"Critical infrastructure workers" in the industries above can go in, as can those at suppliers and distributors needed to keep them going. Also exempt are workers needed to assure "minimum basic operations" that let a business maintain value of inventory and equipment, care for animals, ensure security, process payroll and benefits and facilitate workers working remotely.

Small businesses are "very confused right now," says Charlie Owens, Michigan state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. The head of the state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity tweets:

What's allowed outside my home?

"Walking, hiking, running, cycling or any other recreational activity consistent with remaining at least six feet from people from outside the individual's household." Also shopping for groceries, fuel, prescriptions, takeout meals, even liquor and marijuana.

You can "seek medical or dental care that is necessary to address a medical emergency or to preserve the health and safety of a household or family member." It's OK to care for a family member or a relative's pet in another household, and of course you can pick up or drop off children to comply with shared custody agreements.

You can visit someone at a health care facility or residential care facility, if that place allows. It's permissable to attend legal proceedings as ordered by a court.

You can work or volunteer for businesses or operations that provide food, shelter and other necessities of life for economically disadvantaged or otherwise needy individuals.

What about golf?

Clubhouses must stay shut and food or drinks can't be served anywhere, but courses apparently can open under guidelines for safe distances and no touching (prepayments online, no carts, leave pins in cups). Still, Detroit's three city-operated golf courses -- Rackham, Rouge Park and Chandler Park -- won't open until an all-clear.

What could happen to violators?

For individuals, compliance depends on an honor system with no road checkpoints or police questioning about why you're out, though a "willful" or deliberate violation is a misdemeanor that could bring a $500 fine and or up to 90 days in jail. "This isn't martial law," says Lt. Michael Shaw, spokesman for the state police Metro Detroit post. "We don't want people calling" 911 to report rule-breakeres, he adds.

Businesses could face a fine or state shutdown order if the attorney general's office gets tough about flagrant scofflaws. For now, Whitmer appeals to a sense of duty and safety: "Don't play fast and loose with what is essential and what is not. Don't try to skirt the rules. If you’re not an essential business, you need to close and you need to protect your employees and we’re confident that the vast majority of people will do the right thing."

It's up to local law enforcement to investigate businesses that open when they shouldn't. Police and sheriff's departments can relay complaints to the attorney general for possible prosecution.

Are public buses affected?

Yes. Schedules are reduced both for Detroit and suburban buses.

The Detroit Department of Transportation cuts weekday service to run on a Saturday schedule and suspends eight express routes listed here by the Free Press. Most DDOT lines will run hourly; but major spokes such as Michigan Avenue, Gratiot and Grand River will run every 20 to 30 minutes. During the day, the Woodward line will run every 10 minutes.

The SMART system also began a reduced weekday schedule today because of lower demand, its deputy general manager tells the Freep.

What stays shut?

Hair and nail salons, tattoo and piercing shops, bars, fitness facilities, theaters, dine-in service at restaurants, libraries, museums.  

-- Alan Stamm



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