Criticism of governor’s stay-at-home order ramps up


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Those critical of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order have grown increasingly vocal since the governor announced last week she was extending it through April 30.

A protest is now planned in Lansing Wednesday, an online petition is circulating to recall the governor, and a Facebook group entitled Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine garnered more than 290,000 members in a few days.

A screenshot from the Operation Gridlock protest Facebook event page. (April 13, 2020)

“(Business owners) went from patient to really, really upset about this extension. It was something that happened very, very quickly,” Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan, told News 8 Monday evening.

Calley, who served as the state’s lieutenant governor under Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, agreed with critics who say the governor’s order should be revised.

“There are certain types of jobs that lend themselves well to operations in very, very low risk — especially those that happen outdoors, that happen in total isolation,” Calley said. “There are a few things — some modest steps — that could be taken in the short term.”

Calley said the SBA has been in dialogue with the governor’s office about the concerns in the small business community.

State Rep. Tommy Brann, R-Wyoming, has been openly critical of the executive order, too. The orders have shuttered the dining rooms at the Brann’s Steakhouse restaurants he owns. But he says that’s not his point of criticism.

A notice on a West Michigan restaurant explains how things work under the governor’s social distancing restrictions. (April 13, 2020)

“Look at my chairs here. I’m empty. But I understand that, I understand why,” Brann said in an interview with News 8 at his Division Avenue restaurant. “I understand my place being closed. The virus shut me down, the governor didn’t… But these places that can be open, they should be open. Give them the freedom to be open.”

Brann specifically referenced lawn service providers, landscapers, florists, and other outdoor industries.

“Business people are humans too,” Brann said. “I’m just asking the governor, just have more of an open mind.”

>>Inside Whitmer acknowledges economic hardships of order

Chad and Patti VanHuizen, who own a business called Decks in a Day in Jenison, feel that they have been closed unnecessarily. They run operations with no employees and without the need to have face-to-face contact with customers.

“Every day that goes by, we lose thousands of dollars,” Patti VanHuizen told News 8.

“(Gov. Whitmer) doesn’t understand how she’s impacting everybody’s life,” Chad VanHuizen added. “This is real.”

Calley said he saw hope for small business owners in Whitmer’s address Monday when she talked about reopening the state’s businesses.

“We were really quite relieved to hear that the door opened up a crack at least toward this discussion of where do we go from here,” Calley said.

But business owners like the VanHuizens say they can’t wait much longer to be allowed to operate.

“If it goes past two more weeks, I don’t know that we can recover,” Patti VanHuizen said.

President Donald Trump, who has traded public jabs with Whitmer, wasn’t critical when asked about the stringent stay-at-home order in Michigan.

“I think it’s very extreme but she’s doing it… It is strong. It’s a very strong position to take,” Trump said in the White House briefing room Monday. “They’re making a lot of progress in Michigan.”


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