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Whitmer: Michiganders should not travel to second homes or cabins

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer conducted an interview with the Cadillac News via Zoom on Wednesday, April 8, 2020.

CADILLAC — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will announce an extension to the stay-home order, she told the Cadillac News on Wednesday.

"We will have to extend the "stay home" order. We'll be making that announcement tomorrow," Whitmer said.

The news came in response to a question about second residences.

Under the "stay home" order that is meant to slow the spread of COVID-19, Michiganders can travel to second residences such as cabins and cottages.

But they shouldn't, the governor told the Cadillac News via Zoom on Wednesday afternoon.

"It's contrary to the 'stay home stay safe order.' Frankly, the benefit from social mitigation is real. We're only a couple weeks into it and it feels like an eternity, I know," Whitmer said. "And it's hard for people to be physically distant from loved ones and friends and, and work, even."

"But the fact of the matter is, with a virus like this—that has no vaccine and no cure, that is highly contagious and is deadly, and we have too few, too little PPE for our nurses and doctors—the most valuable tool we have is social distancing. And they've seen that it makes a difference."

"I am confident that we will see it has helped and it will have helped save lives and it's too early to stop doing that. And so we will have to extend the stay home order we'll be making that announcement tomorrow," Whitmer said.

"And it will include you know, telling people if you're not traveling for, to the grocery store, or to the pharmacy, you really need to stay home."

Whitmer acknowledged that the existing "stay home" order allows travel to second residences.

"We did that with the thought in mind that ... if it was necessary, if you had a tree come through your your roof and you needed to go fix it ... those are essential activities," the governor said.

But visiting second residences isn't necessary to sustain life, the governor said. "People should stay home."

With Lake City's Greatest Fourth in the North festival downsized, the Cadillac News asked the governor what the anticipated impact of the "stay home" order will be on tourism in northern Michigan this summer.

"Well, we know that this is going to have a huge economic impact on us statewide," Whitmer said. Balancing the state's budget "is not going to be without some serious pain, unfortunately."

"Every state in the nation is confronting this," Whitmer said, citing a call Wednesday with Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin and other governors.

Local budgets will also take a hit, she said. But the state must protect public health.

"Not taking this seriously drags it out even longer. Believing that, you know, we're just going to return to life as normal—even after the stay at home order is lifted—would put us in a position where we might have to face a second wave of COVID-19 that would be devastating for our economy," Whitmer said. 

The Cadillac News asked what life would be like after the order lifts, whether people could congregate in large groups again.

"It'll have to be a very thoughtful reengagement," Whitmer said. "It's not going to be like flipping a button and we're all going to be in stadiums together and in bars or even in churches together the way that that we did."

The Cadillac News asked whether there would be long-term changes in the way that we live our lives.

She said it's too early to know and that she's listening to the best epidemiologists in the country, but that re-engaging too early could lead to another COVID-19 outbreak and another shutdown.

The Cadillac News asked the governor about a discrepancy between how much information local health departments release. Gov. Whitmer said she wished local health departments would share more information with the public but that access to information is one of her biggest frustrations at the state level.

"One of my frustrations at our level is that we have got a very localized public health system. And generally that's a good thing because the experts at the local level are the best people to investigate to know what is precisely happening," Whitmer said. "But when you're running a state, and you're in the midst of a global pandemic, and you want to be able to gather information and share it widely, it's incredibly challenging, to put it lightly."

Whitmer acknowledge that local health departments don't all have the same resources and is sympathetic to smaller departments.

"I share your interest in getting as much data as we can as quickly as possible. I think that that's ultimately the right thing, the best thing for us to do, especially as we're making decisions that really impact people's lives," the governor said.

Continuing social mitigation efforts could protect Northern Michigan from becoming inundated with COVID-19, the governor said.

"We know that there are people carrying COVID-19 right now, who feel fine, and think they're fine and probably are really unhappy that they've got to stay home. But the fact of the matter is, it's the right thing to do right now," Whitmer said. "The peaks will be different in different parts of the state."

Some hospitals in Southeast Michigan are already at capacity. Doctors and nurses there are getting sick and there's not enough PPE.

"Fortunately, as you get further north, that's not the case at this moment. That's why social distancing is so important," Whitmer said. "The longer we can keep Northern Michigan from having prevalent COVID-19 the better for everyone in our state, and that's precisely why we've got to continue to double down on these social mitigation efforts."