GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — One day after thousands of people protested Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s extended and expanded social distancing mandates in Lansing, the leader of the state Senate said he and his caucus are working on a plan to open the state for business.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey. R-Clarklake, said it’s time to give those who were laid off and small business owners some type of a roadmap for what reopening might look like.
He said the protest in Lansing was born out of the frustration of not knowing what is going to happen next. He also said that safety will have to be the guiding principal in reopening.
“I think that protest was primarily based on the fact that people didn’t have, they’re having a dearth of hope,” Shirkey said. “They need an indication to say, we know we had to take some actions but when is it going to end and when can we count on that. And that message was not getting through very much and that caused them to react like they did.”
He said that Thursday and Friday, Senate Republicans will release recommendations for “systematically, surgically, incrementally rolling out the opportunity for people to go back to work safely.”
“There’s no more important word in that definition than the word safely,” he noted. “We’re going to be providing a guideline for a phased approach and it will include geographic differentiation, it will include an intimate relationship between the employers and their responsibility to design safe workplaces and equal importance on employees and those that are associated with those businesses to practice safe behaviors.”
Shirkey said he supported the governor when she took a broad approach to social distancing when the coronavirus outbreak began to grow.
Now, he said, there is more data and more information about COVID-19 that he thinks will allow some businesses to safely reopen.
In addition to safety, the senator said he would also support regional approaches, perhaps county by county.
One area specified in the release sent out by his office suggested those who work with little or no contact with others, like landscapers or those spraying for insects, could resume work sooner rather than later.
Shirkey said he hopes to present some of the recommendations to the governor as early as next week. How she will respond remains to be seen.