CADILLAC — Since March 24, Michiganders have been ordered to stay at home and while a majority of Cadillac area residents are adhering to that order, some have not.
On Wednesday, Wexford County Prosecutor Jason Elmore said law enforcement has been responding to citizen complaints about businesses operating in violation of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Executive Order 2020-21. He said two different police agencies responded to complaints of businesses staying open despite the COVID-19. A third complaint was filed on Wednesday.
"It is a crime to not comply with this and other EEO's. We prefer not to charge anyone. We prefer to encourage compliance as we all work together," he said. "It takes all of us working together collectively and unselfishly to survive this as we know we can. If we receive complaints or notice violations, law enforcement will issue a letter to those businesses, not in compliance."
The letter states, "Respectfully, it does not appear that you, your business, and your employee qualify for an exception to EEO 2020-21. As the COVID-19 pandemic is a unique and unprecedented situation for us all, I appreciate that there may be some confusion and/or resistance. Please accept this letter as a warning that your continued activities could result in criminal charges under MCL 10.33."
Elmore also wanted to stress that his office will be working with businesses to whom the letter is issued. He also said some of the complaints are legit, some may be malicious and some may be explained.
While three businesses, as of Wednesday, have been issued these letters, Elmore said he also issued the first charges against an individual related to the stay at home order. He said like with the businesses, warnings were issued first before the person was eventually arrested and charged in Wexford County's 84th District Court.
Donovan Bigelow, 27, of Manton was charged Wednesday with malicious damage to property less than $200, trespassing and violation of an executive order for his connection with an incident on March 31. He pleaded not guilty to the charge and was released by the court on a personal recognizance bond.
Despite the charges, Bigelow is believed innocent until proven guilty.
"Most businesses, employers, and people are complying, some simply are ignoring the order and threat of COVID-19. We are concerned for all of our businesses and employers; however, we concerned first and foremost with the lives of our friends, families, and neighbors," he said. "This is an unprecedented situation. We have seen this virus spread across the world rapidly. We are all watching the numbers of those sick and dying increase daily."
Elmore said about 50,000 people call Wexford and Missaukee counties home and Munson Healthcare Cadillac Hospital has 60-80 beds and 11 readily available ventilators. Residents need to understand it is a crime to not comply with this and other executive orders.