YPSILANTI, Mich. — Governor Gretchen Whitmer says the state will extend the current COVID-19 restrictions for workplaces by another six months.
Whitmer made the comment Monday during a tour of a vaccine clinic at Eastern Michigan University. She cited the on-going surge in coronavirus cases across the state as a reason for the extension. The current restrictions require people to work from home when possible.
"I know that when we do extend them, which we will, people are going to think that that means they can't go to the office for another 6 months and that's not the case. By law, we have to give the second extension so that we've got some of the tools," Whitmer said.
The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration emergency rules are set to expire on April 16.
It appears to be the only executive action the office will take during the spike, despite one of the nation’s top doctors calling on the state to enact restrictions that would limit activity.
Last month the state formed a workgroup to make recommendations on a return, but has yet to present their guidance.
“We are working with the business community, we are working with labor, we are working with public health experts to promulgate what that back-to-work cadence looks like, but at this juncture, with our high positivity numbers, it’s really important that we extend for another six months so that we have the ability to work through what these protocols look like and get people back into the workplace when it’s safe to do so with the right protocols,” said Whitmer.
Business leaders in Michigan have spent the last month petitioning to re-open offices.
Rick Baker, Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce president, says businesses invest in their work spaces and remote work can affect productivity and morale. He adds nearby restaurants and shops miss out on the economic opportunity of an employee stopping in.
MIOSHA has argued the current policy does not prohibit in-person work, saying companies could bring in workers if they adjust their plans and enact safety protocols.
“Business depends on a stable, predictable environment,” said Baker. “They need to be able to plan, ‘How many people do I need to bring back?’ That kind of stuff. This has created not a very predictable or stable environment whatsoever.”
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