The year 2020 was strange and difficult for many different people and many different reasons.
From protests over racial injustice to catastrophic dam failures to a divisive presidential election, the last 12 months have thrown curveball after curveball.
But 2020 will ultimately be remembered for COVID-19. In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the pandemic has been one of the hottest topics since the beginning of March.
This virus won’t disappear when the clock strikes midnight and calendars turn to 2021, but it’s still an appropriate time to look back on how Michigan dealt with COVID-19.
Here’s a look back through the last 10 months of coverage.
Feb 28: Michigan activates state emergency operations center
Michigan opened its state emergency operations center at the end of February to prepare for COVID-19 outbreaks popped up in other states.
“Right now, we’re harnessing all of the resources of state government to help people prepare and keep themselves and their families safe,” Whitmer said at the time. “By activating the State Emergency Operations Center, we’re ensuring that every branch of state government is on alert, and actively coordinating to prevent the spread of Coronavirus if it comes to Michigan. We are taking this step out of an abundance of caution. We will continue to take every necessary precaution to keep Michiganders safe.”
March 10: Michigan confirms first 2 cases of COVID-19
The two cases were in Oakland and Wayne counties. An Oakland County woman had traveled internationally, while a Wayne County man had traveled domestically.
Both were hospitalized.
March 13: K-12 schools shuttered
On March 13, Whitmer announced the closure of all Michigan K-12 schools, including public, private and boarding, in response to the confirmed cases.
The closures began March 16. Schools were scheduled to reopen April 6. Whitmer said the decision was made in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“This is a necessary step to protect our kids, our families, and our overall public health,” Whitmer said. “I know this will be a tough time, but we’re doing this to keep the most people we can safe. I urge everyone to make smart choices during this time and to do everything they can to protect themselves and their families.”
March 13: First gatherings ban
Under the order, all events or gatherings of more than 250 people were banned in Michigan. That meant everything from concerts to sporting events to political rallies.
The governor made it clear that violating the ban was a misdemeanor offense.
March 15: Price gouging
As demand for certain products rose in Michigan because of the pandemic, Whitmer issued an order to crack down on price gouging.
Executive Order 2020-8 stated that if a business or individual acquired any product from a retailer, the business or individual must not resell that product in Michigan at a price that is grossly in excess of the purchase price of the product.
“In these challenging times, we need to come together as Michiganders,” Whitmer said. “This order will help protect consumers from price gouging. Additionally, I’m working jointly with the Attorney General to enforce these orders, to protect consumers, and to hold bad actors accountable. We will get through this together.”
March 16: Restaurants, entertainment venues shut down
Business shutdowns and restrictions due to COVID-19 was and remains one of the most controversial topics in the state throughout 2020.
It all started March 16, when Whitmer handed down restrictions on restaurants, cafes, coffee houses, bars, taverns, brewpubs, distilleries, clubs, movie theaters, indoor and outdoor performance venues, gymnasiums, fitness centers, recreation centers, indoor sports facilities, indoor exercise facilities, exercise studios, spas, and casinos.
Some of those businesses were shut down completely, while others faced limitations, such as carry-out only.
The restrictions were put in place through March 30.
March 16: Indoor gatherings decreased to 50
This ban did not include health care facilities, workplaces not open to the public, the state legislature, mass transit, grocery stores, or the performance of agricultural or construction work.
March 17: State reports first COVID-19 death
On March 17, Michigan confirmed its first death caused by the coronavirus.
The death was reported by Beaumont Hospital: A man being held at a Wayne County hospital who tested positive for COVID-19.
On this day, the state also climbed over 100 total confirmed cases.
March 17: Michigan approves $125M for COVID-19 relief
Michigan lawmakers approved $125 million in emergency relief to fight the coronavirus outbreak, including $50 million to help expand the health care system’s capacity amid rising cases during the pandemic.
The bill cleared both the Senate and House unanimously and was sent to Whitmer for her signature.
Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said the money is designed to help slow the spread of COVID-19 by addressing “immediate and pressing needs.” Much of the funding was put in reserve or not specified to give legislators and the Whitmer administration flexibility depending on federal aid to the state.
March 18: Big 3 automakers shut down
The trio closed plants through the end of the month so facilities could be cleaned and sanitized.
A worker got sick that day at the Ford Truck Assembly Plant in Dearborn, and another tested positive for coronavirus. Ford closed the plant to clean and disinfect.
FCA suspended production at its Sterling Heights Assembly Plant after it was announced an employee had tested positive.
March 18: Whitmer summons National Guard
Whitmer called on the Army National Guard to help with COVID-19 supplies.
Guard members were asked to assist the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to assemble critical personal protective gear, such as gloves, gowns and face shields.
“The Michigan National Guard has been involved with the COVID-19 response from a planning and coordination standpoint since the SEOC was stood up,” Whitmer said.
March 19: Unemployment expanded to include residents affected by COVID-19
Michigan expanded its unemployment benefits to people who had been affected by the closures.
“We can confirm that the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency is currently experiencing an average 550% increase in claims compared to normal anticipated activity this time of year,” Unemployment Insurance Agency spokesperson Erica Quealy said.
Enormous demand led to major issues with the application process, some of which have lingered all the way to the end of the year.
March 19: Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration
The U.S. Small Business Administration approved Whitmer’s request for a statewide Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration.
The disaster loan declaration meant small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and nonprofits that had substantial economic losses as a result of the pandemic could apply for low-interest loans.
Congress made $1 billion in funding available to the SBA.
“This designation unlocks critical financial resources for small businesses across the state impacted by the tough, but necessary steps we have taken to mitigate the spread of coronavirus here in Michigan,” Whitmer said. “While access to these loans is vital, we are continuing to look at every resource available to support our businesses, communities and entrepreneurs around the state impacted by coronavirus.”
March 21: Salons shut down
Whitmer signed an Executive Order shuttering a number of personal care establishments.
Hair, nail, tanning, massage, spa, tattoo, body art and piercing services, and similar services that require individuals to be within 6 feet of each other were ordered to close.
Business were expected to remain closed until at least April 14, but the closure would ultimately last much longer and spark a passionate back-and-forth between salon owners and the state.
March 21: Canadian border closes
The Canadian-US border closed to all non-essential traffic in an effort to prevent international spread of the virus.
Both the United States and Canada agreed to shut down the border. It did not apply to healthcare workers, trade and people going to work
March 23: Stay-at-home order
Whitmer issued a statewide stay-at-home order on March 23.
Starting March 24, for at least three weeks, Michigan residents were told not to leave their homes except under very limited circumstances.
March 28: President Trump approves Michigan’s disaster declaration
President Donald Trump declared that a major disaster existed in Michigan and ordered federal assistance to supplement state, tribal and local recovery efforts in the areas affected by COVID-19.
Trump on Whitmer: ‘We’ve had a big problem with the young — a woman governor’
The president’s action made federal funding available for crisis counseling in all areas of Michigan.
March 30: Whitmer suspends executive branch hiring
Whitmer temporarily suspended hiring within the executive branch of the state government and restricted discretionary spending.
Whitmer signed two executive directives, the first of which temporarily suspended hiring, creating new positions, filling vacant positions, transferring and promoting within the executive branch of state government.
The other executive directive temporarily restricted discretionary spending by state departments and agencies while they work to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan.
March 30: Michigan dedicates additional $150M to response efforts
“Residents across the great state of Michigan need to know that the Executive and Legislative branches of state government are working together to do whatever is necessary to ensure an effective response to COVID-19,” Whitmer said.
Whitmer said state officials signed two supplemental budget bills to provide the funding.
March 30: Michigan expands unemployment
The state, under the federal CARES Act, signed an agreement between Michigan and the U.S. Dept. of Labor to implement Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Compensation programs that grant benefits to workers who did not already qualify for state unemployment benefits. Workers included self-employed, 1099-independent contractors, gig, and low-wage workers who could no longer work because of the pandemic.
The agreement also increased weekly benefits for all unemployed workers by $600 a week for up to four months and extended benefit payments from 26 to 39 weeks
April 1: State of disaster
Whitmer formally declared a state of disaster at the beginning of April due to the economic, educational and civic issues caused by the coronavirus.
“Since Michigan announced our first confirmed cases of COVID-19 three weeks ago, we have taken some of the most aggressive measures in the country to mitigate the spread of the virus and protect Michigan families,” Whitmer said. “Today’s action will allow my administration to respond more effectively to every facet of this crisis.”
At that time, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state was nearing 10,000.
April 2: School year cut short
Whitmer officially suspended in-person learning for the rest of the school year at K-12 schools across the state.
The executive order closed all K-12 school buildings for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year and set guidelines for remote learning.
All Michigan high school seniors were given the opportunity to graduate so that they could make a successful postsecondary transition, Whitmer said.
Teachers and school employees were paid for the remainder of the school year.
April 9: First stay-at-home order extension
The number of coronavirus cases in Michigan continued to rise in early April, and in response, Whitmer extended her initial order through the end of the following month.
While maintaining the previous restrictions, this extension also prohibited any kind of travel and put limits on how many people could be inside essential stores at a time.
“Large stores must limit the number of people in the store at one time to no more than four customers for every 1,000 square feet of customer floor space,” the order said. “Small stores must limit capacity to 25% of the total occupancy limits (including employees) under the fire codes.”
Whitmer’s extension kept the stay-at-home order in effect until May 1.
Michigan confirmed 21,504 cases of COVID-19 and 1,076 deaths that day.
Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield opposed the extension. He said Whitmer should be looking at which jobs and activities can be done safely, rather than issuing a blanket stay-at-home order.
“The government shouldn’t be deciding who is essential,” Chatfield said. “Everyone in Michigan is essential. We need to make safety the deciding factor and allow people in low-risk communities and workplaces to begin getting back to normal. We can do all of that and still prioritize public health as the deciding factor.”
April 9: Travel between residences prohibited
In one of the most controversial moves of the pandemic, Whitmer prohibited travel between properties that people own in the state, including vacation rentals.
“Every single exception you make to a stay home, stay safe order makes this more porous and makes it less likely to work,” Whitmer said. “It means more people are gonna get sick, more people are going to die and our economy is going to suffer for longer.”
April 15: Stay-at-home order protested in Lansing
The extended stay-at-home order for Michigan was the reason for a loud protest April 15 in Lansing. The plan was to circle the Capitol with as many honking vehicles to protest the stay-at-home order.
The residents protesting said they believed Whitmer went too far in extending the stay-at-home order.
April 19: Border closure extended
The United States and Canada extended the border closure for non-essential travel.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the border would stay closed another 30 days. Trudeau said the agreement would keep people on both sides of the border safe during the pandemic.
April 24: Second extension loosens restrictions
A week before the stay-at-home order was set to expire, Whitmer extended it for a second time. It was now in effect through May 15.
About an hour after this extension, Michigan officials announced 1,350 new daily coronavirus cases and 108 additional deaths.
Whitmer’s new order came with some concessions. Businesses linked to outdoor activities, such as golf and motorized boating, were allowed to reopen.
Landscaping, which had been a topic of debate throughout Michigan, was allowed to resume. Restrictions on plant nurseries, bike repair shops, stores selling nonessential supplies and garden centers were loosened.
April 24: Mask mandate
As part of the stay-at-home order extension, Michiganders were required to wear masks in public places, such as grocery stores.
The previous order encouraged residents to wear face coverings in enclosed places, but this mandate made it a requirement.
April 27: Whitmer introduces ‘MI Safe Start Plan’
Whitmer introduced the “MI Safe Start Plan” near the end of April, providing an outline of what the reopening process could look like.
“We’re in a position to start thinking about what the future looks like,” Whitmer said.
The governor said her plan to open businesses would be based on data, as well as the risk level of restarting work.
April 27: Whitmer requests 28-day extension for state of emergency
Whitmer revealed she would be requesting to extend the state of emergency by 28 days.
It was set to expire just three days later. Whitmer said she thought it should be extended even longer than 28 days, but the letter she sent to the Legislature asked for that amount.
April 30: Legislature plans to let state of emergency expire
Legislators revealed at the end of April that they planned to let the Michigan state of emergency expire at midnight, as protesters demanded the state reopen for business.
Whitmer had asked the legislature to extend the state of emergency, but said she didn’t need their approval. Legislators disagreed.
April 30: Whitmer extends state of emergency on her own
Whitmer signed an Executive Order extending the state of emergency through May 28.
“Today I signed new emergency and disaster declarations using independent sources of statutory authority to make sure our health care workers and first responders have the tools they need to save lives and protect Michiganders,” Whitmer said.
Whitmer used the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945 to extend the order. She also extended the state of disaster through May 28.
May 1: Whitmer blasts Trump, Michigan lawmakers
Trump sided with protesters of the extension, sending a tweet that said, “The governor of Michigan should give a little and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”
Whitmer tweeted a Michelle Obama meme captioned, “Our motto is, ‘When they go low, we go high.’”
May 5: AG says Whitmer’s executive orders are enforceable
Attorney General Dana Nessel said Whitmer’s COVID-19 executive orders were enforceable by law enforcement officials.
Nessel said lawmakers opposing the orders caused confusion and frustration throughout law enforcement agencies in the state.
Nessel reviewed the order and found the governor’s orders to be valid under the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act. Nessel asked law enforcement agencies to continue their enforcement efforts.
“COVID-19 has created a public health crisis of unprecedented gravity in our lifetime,” Nessel said. “To date, the most effective means to contain an infectious pandemic is to keep people away from each other. In promulgating Executive Order 2020-69 and Executive Order 2020-70, the Governor has done just that by placing restrictions on certain activities to limit social interactions. The absence of these restrictions would open gateways for the virus to reach every family and social network in every part of the State.”
May 5: Whitmer, lawmakers critical of armed protesters
Whitmer and fellow lawmakers voiced their disapproval of gun-toting protesters who swarmed the state capital to rally against the stay-at-home order.
Gun-toting militia protesters joined a larger group demanding the governor reopen the state’s economy. The protest then spilled inside, and one of a number of armed protesters was at the front of the line, confronting police officers and demanding to be allowed onto the House floor. They never made it.
“They carried nooses and Confederate flags and swastikas, and yet while we’re focusing on their open carrying automatic rifles -- that is legal in Michigan,” Whitmer said. “It’s not advisable. It is contrary to all the CDC best practices. It’s contrary to what the Trump White House is saying that we should be doing, and yet, they are out there to demonstrate.”
May 6: Lawmakers sue Whitmer
“We firmly believe the governor is acting beyond her authority and has left us no choice other than to seek clarification from the court,” Shirkey said.
May 7: Controversial third extension
When Whitmer extended her stay-at-home order for a third time, it was met with mixed reactions. Some residents were still afraid of what reopening could mean for the spread of COVID-19, but many were frustrated that the economy was still shut down.
This extended the stay-at-home order until May 28.
Whitmer announced manufacturing workers, including at Michigan’s Big 3 auto companies, could resume work May 11 as part of her “MI Safe Start Plan.” This was intended to give the struggling economy a much-needed boost.
The MI Safe Start Plan would become the guideline for Whitmer’s decisions going forward. It outlined six phases of reopening, concluding with the state going back to normal.
Republican legislators, who were already planning to sue Whitmer for extending the state of emergency without their approval, heavily opposed the extension of the stay-at-home order.
Meanwhile, the state reported 592 new confirmed cases and 93 additional deaths that afternoon.
May 11: Manufacturing resumes for Big 3
Whitmer announced the resumption of manufacturing, including the Big Three automakers .
Manufacturing workers could return to the job May 11. The announcement came after she loosened restrictions on landscapers, golf and motorized boating.
Manufacturing companies were required to take steps to protect workers from the spread of COVID-19, which included daily entry screenings for everyone entering the facility, a questionnaire covering symptoms and exposure to people with possible COVID-19 and temperature checks as soon as no-touch thermometers can be obtained.
May 14: More protests
The restrictions were enough to spark another protest at the state Capitol. The protest was eventful. Police said they confiscated an axe, and there were a couple of skirmishes. Gun-toting protesters were visible, but nobody was arrested, officials said.
Michigan State Police troopers were more visible as protesters huddled in the driving rain throughout much of the morning
May 15: Whitmer, Republicans trade jabs in court
The lawsuit between Michigan legislators and Whitmer came to a head May 15, when the two sides traded virtual jabs in an online court room.
“This is about her depriving us of the legislative tools that we would otherwise possess to help manage this pandemic,” said attorney Michael Williams, the lawyer for the Republicans.
But the assistant solicitor general Chris Allen said Whitmer was left without a choice after Republicans blocked an extension of her executive orders.
May 15: Panel to determine if, when students can return to school in fall
Whitmer formed a panel of students, parents and experts to help the coronavirus task force decide if and when students could return to school in the fall.
The Return to Learning Advisory Council made recommendations on how to safely, equitably and efficiently reopen schools for the fall. It was made up of students, parents, front line educators, administrators and public health officials.
“It’s critical we bring together experts in health care and education, as well as students, educators and families to think about how and if it’s possible to safely return to in-person learning in the fall and how to ensure the more than 1.5 million K-12 students across Michigan get the education they need and deserve,” Whitmer said. “This panel will use a data-informed and science-based approach with input from epidemiologists to determine if, when and how students can return to school this fall and what that will look like.”
May 20: Whitmer considers major change to controversial nursing home policy
With Whitmer’s contested executive order concerning nursing homes and the coronavirus set to expire, she signaled that she was considering a major change to the policy, which came under heavy legislative scrutiny.
When the governor ordered COVID-19 positive seniors to recover in nursing homes where there were patients who tested negative, medical officials told the Senate Oversight Committee there was chaos and confusion.
The order said those patients would be separated with ramped-up care and heightened levels of personal protective equipment, but testimony showed in many cases, that didn’t happen.
Officials said there was a mad scramble inside Michigan’s nursing homes and the regional hubs where the COVID-19 positive patients went.
May 21: Whitmer lifts medical restrictions statewide
Whitmer lifted the restrictions on health care providers who had to delay some nonessential medical, dental and veterinary procedures.
Those procedures were allowed to resume May 29.
“I know that as medical professionals begin offering nonessential procedures again, they will do everything in their power to protect patients and their families from COVID-19,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive of MDHHS, said. “I will continue to work with Gov. Whitmer and our partners across Michigan to protect our families and lower the chance of a second wave.”
May 21: Court of Claims sides with governor
The Michigan Court of Claims ruled Whitmer has the authority to keep the state under a state of emergency without legislative approval.
“Today’s decision recognizes that the governor’s actions to save lives are lawful and her orders remain in place,” Whitmer’s office said in a statement. “She will continue to do what she’s always done: Take careful, decisive actions to protect Michiganders from this unprecedented, global pandemic. We owe it to our front line heroes who have been putting their lives on the line to pull together as a state and work as one team to stop the spread of this virus.”
The claims court said challenges to Whitmer’s authority to issue executive orders were meritless.
May 21: Michiganders allowed to gather in groups of 10
Whitmer announced residents were allowed to gather in groups of as many as 10 people.
Michiganders had been restricted from visiting others and coming into contact with anyone outside their household, except in essential circumstances.
May 22: Northern Michigan reopens
Northern Michigan got the green light to resume operations, with bars and restaurants opening at 50% capacity and retail also resuming.
“Based on what we have seen in the upper part of the Lower Peninsula, and the Upper Peninsula, we are able to move forward with the next phase of reopening in those areas,” Khaldun said. “Both of those regions, as the governor mentioned, have sustained a low incidence of cases per day.”
May 22: Memorial Day weekend extension
Just before 5:30 p.m. the Friday leading into Memorial Day weekend, Whitmer once again extended the stay-at-home order, this time until June 12.
She also extended the state of emergency at the same time, doing so through June 19.
This extension was discouraging for many Michigan residents because two regions outlined in the MI Safe Start Plan -- the Upper Peninsula and Traverse City Region -- had been reopened earlier in the week.
Whitmer allowed Michiganders to gather in groups of 10, effective immediately.
May 26: Retail resumes
Retail businesses reopened in Metro Detroit with the uncertainty of changes designed to protect workers and customers from COVID-19.
Salespeople were wearing masks and practicing social distancing. Signs were posted that told customers they had to call for an appointment.
May 26: Whitmer’s husband and the boat queue
Whitmer said her husband’s comments about moving up the boat queue -- in which he asked if being married to the governor would help him move up in the line -- were simply a “failed attempt at humor.”
A boating company in Northern Michigan posted on social media last week that Whitmer’s husband, Dr. Marc Mallory, asked if being married to the governor would help him get his boat in the water despite a long backlog of residents trying to do the same over Memorial Day weekend.
While speaking during a press briefing, Whitmer addressed the story.
“I do feel compelled to address the most recent one about my husband, Marc,” Whitmer said. “My husband made a failed attempt at humor last week when checking in with the small business that helps with our boat up north, knowing it wouldn’t make a difference. He jokingly asked if being married to me might move him up in the queue.
“Obviously, with the motorized boating prohibition in our early days of COVID-19, he thought it might get a laugh. It didn’t, and to be honest, I wasn’t laughing either when it was relayed to me, because I knew how it would be perceived. He regrets it. I wish it wouldn’t have happened, and that’s really all we have to say about it.”
May 26: Testing made more available
Whitmer issued an executive order to make it easier for residents in the state to get tested for COVID-19.
Whitmer said Michigan was ready to expand COVID-19 testing across the state, so she modified the testing guidelines.
“One of the most powerful tools that we have in the fight against the virus was the Weinstein tactic,” Whitmer said. “We need to keep working to expanding having other people who test positive isolate from others. We can prevent that community spread. It’s crucial that people who are at risk of catching this virus get tested.”
May 27: Salon, barbershop owners speak up
Michigan barber shops and salons came together to ask Whitmer to allow them to reopen, even creating an eight-step plan to do so safely.
More than two dozen cosmetology salons, spa and barber shop owners and workers, representing more than 350 facilities across Michigan, delivered a letter Wednesday, formally asking Whitmer to lift the statewide ban on their services.
This was the beginning of a long push from owners of self care businesses, who wanted Whitmer to allow them to resume operations with safety guidelines in place.
Whitmer had reopened some sectors of Michigan’s economy, but salons and barber shops across the state remained closed at the time.
June 1: Stay-at-home order lifted
Whitmer lifted the stay-at-home order on June 1 and moved the entire state to phase four of her reopening plan.
Restaurants and retail businesses are allowed to resume under safety restrictions. People can gather outside in groups of up to 100 people. Outdoor fitness classes and athletic events are allowed, as long as social distancing practices are followed.
“What you’ll see (in the executive order) is a list (of businesses that) cannot reopen, and that’s precisely what we’re trying to do here,” Whitmer said. “Before we have said the mass majority need to stay home except for a handful of exceptions. We’ve grown at this point we’re saying, ‘You can return to some more normal life unless you are in this particular part of the economy.’ So we’re trying to flip our mindset here.”
Many of the updated guidelines, including restaurants opening at 50% capacity, go into effect June 8, as Whitmer loosens restrictions in phases.
Her list of businesses that remain closed includes amusement parks, arcades, bowling alleys, fitness centers, gyms, hair salons, nail salons and tattoo parlors.
June 2: Salon owners angered by Whitmer’s comment
Michigan salon owners were furious with Whitmer for “disrespecting” them by telling residents to “Google how to do a haircut” instead of reopening their businesses.
“As if being closed wasn’t impossible enough, Gov. Whitmer made matters worse by disrespecting Michigan’s highly-trained licensed cosmetologists in saying that people can simply Google how to do a haircut,” said Kevin Lent, president of BAMF X2, LLC and member of Safe Salons for Michigan. “Michigan’s licensed cosmologists and barbers are well-trained, educated professionals who have spent years honing their abilities. On behalf of the entire salon industry, we ask Gov. Whitmer for an apology.”
The coalition is referring to Whitmer’s response when asked about Michiganders taking their money across borders to Ohio or Indiana for haircuts.
“I’d tell people if you’re like me and you need a haircut that desperately, a couple more weeks of this and we may be back in a place where we’re able to do that safely,” Whitmer said. “If you’re one of those people going to Ohio, I hope and pray you are doing your part not to bring COVID-19 home, and that if you haven’t, Google how you do a haircut or throw your hair into a ponytail and get through the next couple of weeks so we can resume some of these things.”
June 2: Whitmer admits flaws in nursing home policy
Whitmer admitted there were flaws in her controversial plan to put positive and negative COVID-19 patients together in the same nursing homes.
“We, I think, learned a great deal in the last 10 weeks,” Whitmer said. “I think if we could go back in a time machine and do some things differently, sure, there are things we would improve upon, but every action we took was based on the best science and the best information available to protect people and save lives.”
June 5: More restrictions lifted Up North
She announced the Upper Peninsula and Traverse City Region will move to the “Containing” phase of her plan, starting June 10.
June 5: Hair, nail, massage businesses to reopen
Hair, nail and massage businesses across the state of Michigan would soon be allowed to reopen, Whitmer announced.
“Today marks another milestone in the safe reopening of Michigan’s economy,” Whitmer said. “As we continue to slowly reopen different parts of our state, it’s critical that we listen to the experts and follow the medical science to avoid a second wave of infections. The good news is that we are headed in the right direction, and if the current trajectory continues, I anticipate we’ll be able to announce more sectors reopening in the coming weeks. We owe it to our front line workers to keep doing our part.”
June 8: Restaurants reopen
Restaurants in Metro Detroit and around the state of Michigan were allowed to reopen for the first time in months, with new safety guidelines and restrictions.
June 12: Restrictions lifted for overnight summer camps, school sports
Whitmer lifted some restrictions on overnight summer camps and K-12 school sport activities.
“As we’ve worked together to bend the curve and protect our families from COVID-19, our kids have lost time in the classroom and missed out on playdates, birthday parties and graduations,” Whitmer said. “That’s why I’m glad they’ll have an opportunity to spend a week or weekend away at camp.
This order affected overnight residential, travel and troop camps.
Camps were required to follow guidance from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
The guidelines were developed in collaboration with representatives from the camp industry and public health officials.
June 15: Salons reopen
Hair salons, barbershops and spas finally reopened for the first time since they were shut down in mid-March.
Employees of personal care businesses weren’t just busy cutting hair and taking care of customers. They were also working to maintain all the new safety guidelines that had been put in place.
June 16: Canadian border closure extended
The United States and Canada agreed to extend the border closure another 30 days, putting it in place until July 21.
Trudeau made the announcement during a news conference.
June 16: Whitmer defends nursing home policy
Whitmer spoke with Local 4′s Rod Meloni and doubled down on her policy, saying there’s not a strong alternative.
“We’ve made decisions on the best science available in the moment,” Whitmer said. “I don’t know if you can ask anyone to do better than that.”
Whitmer said she wasn’t changing her policy, instead ordering all nursing home patients and staff members to get tested.
She said she’ll also keep her regional hubs.
“That appeared to be the best practice with the science information we had, and that is why we pursued it,” Whitmer said.
June 18: Whitmer extends state of emergency
“The aggressive measures we took at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have worked to flatten the curve, but there is still more to be done to prevent a second wave,” Whitmer said. “We owe it to the heroes on the front lines to keep doing our part by wearing a mask when in public and practicing social distancing. Now is not the time to get complacent. We must continue to stay vigilant and flexible in order to reduce the chance of a second wave.”
June 18: Michigan lawmakers pass resolutions against nursing home policy
Michigan lawmakers continued to line up against Whitmer’s nursing home policy, passing resolutions calling on Whitmer to end her policy.
“Cross-contamination between patients and health care providers is a significant risk,” Dr. Rebecca Cope said.
A bill looked to end regional hubs and prevent COVID-19 patients from entering nursing homes.
June 19: Federal judge rules indoor gyms can reopen
A federal judge ruled indoor gyms in the state of Michigan could the following week. This was a major ruling for gym owners and Michigan residents who wanted to get back to the gym to exercise.
The ruling was made by U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney in the Western District of Michigan after a lawsuit was filed by the League of Independent Fitness Facilities.
The judge granted a preliminary injunction against Whitmer’s executive order that closed gyms across the state.
June 20: Whitmer appeals gyms ruling
Whitmer appealed the ruling allowing gyms to reopen.
The ruling included stipulations that gyms follow safe coronavirus (COVID-19) protocols, such as social distancing.
An appeal was filed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit by Whitmer and Robert Gordon, the director of MDHHS.
June 25: Professional sports allowed to return
Whitmer signed an executive order allowing professional sports to return to the state without fans.
The announcement came just two days after Major League Baseball announced it would begin a 60-game season in late July.
“Good news, sports fans: We are now ready to gradually and safely allow professional sports to resume in Michigan,” Whitmer said. “While this is an encouraging step in the reopening of our economy, it is critical for athletes to continue social distancing and taking precautions to stay safe. We want to keep our momentum going and keep moving forward, so it’s incumbent on everyone doing their part to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
June 30: Whitmer reveals return-to-school plan
Whitmer revealed her plan to help schools across the state return to in-person learning in the fall.
The “MI Safe Schools Return to School Roadmap” was a 63-page document that outlined safety protocols for each phase of Whitmer’s reopening plan.
“Our students, parents and educators have made incredible sacrifices during our battle with COVID-19,” Whitmer said. “Thanks to our aggressive action against this virus, the teachers who have found creative ways to reach their students, and the heroes on the front lines, I am optimistic that we will return to in-person learning in the fall.”
July 1: Indoor bar services shut down
Michigan shut down indoor bar services throughout most of the state amid a spike in COVID-19 cases.
This was Michigan’s first step backward throughout the reopening process after reaching phase four of the governor’s reopening plan.
Indoor bar service in six of the state’s eight geographical regions were shut down, excluding the Upper Peninsula and Traverse City Region -- the only two regions in phase five of reopening.
July 1: Bars granted delivery rights
Michigan bars and restaurants were allowed deliver alcoholic beverages, sell them to-go and offer two-for-one deals, according to a package signed by Whitmer.
The package allowed licensed bars and restaurants to serve drinks to-go and via delivery until Dec. 31, 2025. Small distilleries could sell mixed drinks to-go and provide samples.
Drinks have to be served in a sealable container that holds no more than one gallon of liquid. Bars and restaurants can’t fill containers before to-go drinks are ordered, but they must be fully sealed and closed off after orders are placed.
July 1: License, registration renewal deadline extended
Whitmer extended the deadline to renew driver’s licenses, ID cards and vehicle registrations to the end of September.
“I am pleased to continue to work with the Legislature to codify significant Executive Orders that help Michiganders cope with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Whitmer said. “These bills will give Michigan residents peace of mind and reduce the amount of person-to-person interaction necessary when renewing licenses and registrations.”
July 8: Water shutoff ban extended
Whitmer extended her executive order protecting Michigan residents from having their water shut off through the end of the year.
“As Michigan families grapple with the impacts of COVID-19 on public health and our economy, our administration is taking proactive steps to ensure that no one has to worry about having access to clean drinking water or losing power during this unprecedented crisis,” Whitmer said. “Extending these protections is the right thing to do, and I remain committed to working with the legislature and our partners in the federal government to develop long-term policy solutions to make water affordable for every family in Michigan.”
July 9: ‘Mask up’
Whitmer threatened to impose stricter mask laws amid a spike in COVID-19 cases and mounting evidence that some residents weren’t taking precautions seriously.
“Over the past week, we have seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases in Michigan, and over the holiday weekend, we saw countless Michiganders gathered in large groups to celebrate Fourth of July without a mask,” Whitmer said. “I think a lot of people saw this video footage from Cass County, Diamond Lake. Right now, the law requires that anyone in an enclosed public space has to wear a mask, and that means every store you’re going into. We’re reviewing that requirement and considering whether or not we need to take this a step further, to strengthen compliance, because we cannot let our guard down.”
July 10: More mask rules
Whitmer signed a new Executive Order requiring masks in indoor public spaces and crowded outdoor spaces as COVID-19 cases spike in the state.
Executive Order 2020-147 reiterated that individuals were required to wear a face covering whenever they are in an indoor public space. It also required the use of face coverings in crowded outdoor spaces, where you cannot maintain proper social distancing.
The order required any business that is open to the public to refuse entry or service to people who refuse to wear a face covering, with limited exceptions.
July 14: State of emergency extended
Whitmer extended the Michigan state of emergency until Aug. 11 as COVID-19 cases rose across the state.
Every region in Michigan had seen an uptick in new COVID-19 cases over the previous three weeks, Whitmer said.
The state of emergency was previously scheduled to expire July 16, but it was extended nearly four weeks to Aug. 11.
“COVID-19 has now killed more than 6,000 people in Michigan,” Whitmer said. “That’s more than 6,000 of our parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors, and the rising numbers we’ve seen over the past few weeks prove that this virus is still a very real threat in our state.”
July 30: Casinos can reopen
Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-160 and Executive Order 2020-161, amending Michigan’s Safe Start Order and issuing revised workplace safeguards amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Casinos would be allowed to reopen at 15% capacity, starting Aug. 5.
Aug. 6: Children, workers required to wear masks
Whitmer signed an executive order requiring children and workers to wear face masks at Michigan childcare centers, camps.
Executive Order 2020-164 was issued in response to coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreaks at these types of locations, Whitmer said.
Health experts said there was mounting evidence that children could contract and spread the virus.
All staff members and children ages 2 and older were required to wear face coverings on school buses and other transportation. Staff members and children ages 4 and older have to wear face coverings in all indoor common spaces.
Staff members and children ages 12 and old have to wear face coverings in classrooms, homes, cabins and similar indoor small group settings.
Aug. 7: State of emergency extended
Whitmer extended the state of emergency through Sept. 4, citing an uptick in cases and the looming return of in-person learning at schools.
“We are in a crucial time in our fight against COVID-19, and we must do everything we can to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and the brave men and women on the front lines of this crisis from a second wave,” Whitmer said. “Today, I signed new emergency and disaster declarations using independent sources of statutory authority to continue saving lives. I will continue to use every tool at my disposal to protect Michiganders from the spread of this virus.”
Aug. 21: Court of Appeals sides with Whitmer
The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Whitmer in a Republican-led lawsuit challenging her authority during the pandemic.
The Michigan Court of Appeals panel ruled 2-1 for Whitmer in the lawsuit.
“We hold that the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency, her extension of the state of emergency and her issuance of related executive orders fell within the scope of the governor’s authority under the EPGA,” the opinion read.
Aug. 26: Feds ask for nursing home data
Officials wanted to find out if state orders requiring nursing homes to admit COVID-19 positive patients are responsible for the deaths of residents.
In a letter addressed to Whitmer, Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, said, in part, “I write to request information regarding COVID-19 and nursing homes run by, or for, the state of Michigan. ... The Division is evaluating whether to open a (Civil Rights of Institutionalized Parsons Act) investigation of (nursing home) institutions that are ‘owned, operated or managed by, or provide services on behalf of (the state).’”
Sept. 2: Huntington Bank announces $5 billion commitment
The five-year lending, investment and philanthropic plan aimed to help improve financial opportunities for Michigan businesses, consumers and communities. It was part of a $20 billion community plan Huntington Bancshares announced Sept. 1.
Sept. 3: Gyms, pools to reopen
Both practices and competitions could resume throughout the state, though there were strict protections in order to limit the spread of COVID-19.
Gyms and pools could start reopening Sept. 9 with certain safety measures. Gyms had to require masks at all times, including during exercise, and create workout stations or implement protocols to allow six feet of distance between everyone inside.
Sept. 8: Whitmer signs bill to cover $300 weekly unemployment bonus
The bill appropriated $2.8 billion in supplemental funding from revenues awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“This is good news for the thousands of Michiganders who are still without work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s still a short-term band-aid that falls short of what’s needed,” Whitmer said. “We need the president, Mitch McConnell, and Congress to put partisanship aside and pass a bipartisan recovery package that will help us save lives and get people back on their feet. Michigan families, frontline workers, and small business owners are counting on the federal government to do the right thing and work together on their behalf.”
Sept. 22: Whitmer reflects on first 6 months of pandemic
Whitmer released a conversation that she had with her top advisors about Michigan’s battle with the COVID-10 over the previous six months.
In a YouTube video, Whitmer sat down with Khaldun and Chief Legal Counsel Mark Totten.
They spoke about the early stages of the pandemic, Michigan’s response to the virus and how the situation evolved over time.
“Michigan was hard hit by COVID-19 early in the pandemic, but because we took quick action and Michiganders did their part to slow the spread of the virus, we are in a much better position than many other states,” Whitmer said.
Sept. 25: ‘Downtown Day’
Whitmer declared Sept. 26 “Downtown Day” across the state of Michigan.
The goal was to get Michiganders to spend time and money in downtowns that have struggled during the pandemic.
Whitmer’s proclamation was requested by the Michigan Downtown Association to help all struggling downtowns across the state, not just in Metro Detroit.
Oct.2: Michigan Supreme Court strikes down virus orders
The Michigan Supreme Court struck down months of orders by Whitmer that were aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, saying she drew authority from a 1945 law that is unconstitutional.
The decision was an extraordinary development in a monthslong conflict between Whitmer and the Republicans who control the Legislature.
Coincidentally, the court’s opinion emerged on the same day that Whitmer’s critics submitted more than 539,000 signatures in a bid to repeal the 1945 law.
The governor said the 4-3 decision, with Republican-nominated justices in the majority, was “deeply disappointing.”
“Every state and the federal government have some form of declared emergency,” she said. “With this decision, Michigan will become the sole outlier at a time when the Upper Peninsula is experiencing rates of COVID infection not seen in our state since April.”
Republican officials said Whitmer should have continued to use a 1976 law, which gives lawmakers a say in any emergency declarations after 28 days.
Oct. 5: MDHHS issues COVID-19 order
In a trend that continues through the end of 2020, MDHHS took over the issuance of COVID-19 orders after Whitmer’s powers were stripped by the state’s Supreme Court.
MDHHS issued a new order restricting gathering sizes, requiring face coverings and limiting some businesses across the state, citing authority that wasn’t covered by the Supreme Court’s recent decision.
This order reinstated three aspects of Whitmer’s previous emergency orders:
- Masks are required at indoor and outdoor gatherings that involve people from different households.
- Specific gathering limitations.
- Bars must close indoor common areas, and indoor gatherings are prohibited in most areas where alcohol is sold.
This order was effective immediately and remained in effect through Oct. 30.
Oct. 8: Domestic terror plot targets Whitmer
On Oct. 8, FBI officials revealed a domestic terror plot that targeted the governor because of her handling of the pandemic.
More than a dozen people were charged in what the FBI is called a “violent” scheme involving residents from several different states. They wanted to kidnap Whitmer as a hostage and overthrow the Michigan government.
Oct. 20: Unemployment benefits extended to end of year
Senate Bills 886 and 991 codified part of Whitmer’s orders that expanded unemployment benefits to Michiganders. The bills were sponsored by Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth).
“No Michigander should have to worry about how to put food on the table or pay their bills, especially during a global pandemic,” Whitmer said. “These bipartisan bills are an important step in providing immediate relief for working families, but given the recent rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Michigan, I urge the legislature to take further action to make this permanent. Forty states, including all of our neighbors, automatically provide at least 26 weeks of unemployment relief. Michiganders deserve better than a short-term extension that expires at the end of the year. It’s time to work together on a long-term solution for working families.”
Nov. 5: Whitmer signs 6 COVID-19 bills into law
“Right now, Michigan is seeing a record number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, and these bills will help us protect each other as we continue to fight this virus,” Whitmer said. “COVID-19 is still a very real threat to our families, frontline workers, and small businesses, and I will continue to do everything in my power to save lives and will work with anyone who shares those goals.”
Nov. 9: UIA overhaul
Michigan announced plans to overhaul its unemployment office after the director’s sudden resignation.
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the Michigan unemployment office had worked through significant issues.
The UIA was flooded with calls, as more than 2 million Michigan residents had applied for benefits since the start of the pandemic. Early on, problems with the system made the process difficult for many people.
The system couldn’t keep up with demand, and many people were frustrated. They couldn’t get in touch with an agency and, as a result, struggled to get the help they needed.
Nov. 10: State passes legislation to reduce licensure barriers for veterans
Whitmer and state lawmakers announced legislation to reduce professional licensure barriers for veterans ahead of Veterans Day.
The legislation supports military personnel, veterans and their families by reducing barriers to professional licensure.
Nov. 12: Hospital leaders speak up
Leaders from the major hospital systems in Michigan got together Nov. 12 to talk about the alarming spread of the virus and its affect on the healthcare system.
You can read much more about this virtual discussion in the stories below.
Nov. 15: MDHHS issues new restrictions
Michigan officials announced stricter COVID-19 regulations involving restaurants, bars, high schools, colleges, in-person working and more.
MDHHS issued the restrictions Nov. 15, and Whitmer held a press briefing to make the announcement.
The restrictions, announced as a “pause,” were put in place for three weeks -- from Nov. 18 through Dec. 8.
“Right now, my team and I are following the numbers closely and strongly considering all actions that we can take to keep Michiganders safe,” Whitmer said.
Nov. 18: Epidemiologist dives deep into Michigan COVID-19 numbers
A state epidemiologist took a deep dive into Michigan’s COVID-19 numbers, including case spread, death rates, hospitalization trends and what to expect in the future.
Nov. 30: Andiamo owner urges restaurants to defy shutdown orders
The owner of Andiamo wrote a letter to Michigan restaurants urging them to defy Whitmer and the state health department’s COVID-19 shutdown orders and reopen.
Joe Vicari called on fellow restauranteurs to join Andiamo in reopening Dec. 9 if Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services extended the three-week “pause.”
As part of the restrictions in the COVID-19 safety order, restaurants were limited to carry-out and outdoor dining.
“We need to band together and fight this closure,” Vicari wrote. “Our industry cannot survive another long-term closure. We are stronger if we stand together and use our strength of fight back.”
Dec. 2: Whitmer responds to restaurants considering defying state order
Whitmer was asked about restaurant owners talking about defying the state order.
“You know, let me just say this: I understand the frustration,” she said, in part. “I understand the fear. None of these decisions that have had to be made over the last 10 months has been easy. Every single one of them has weighed heavily on me, on all of us.
“...I want these restaurants to succeed. I want to do everything in my power to help them through these tough times. That’s why I’ve asked our legislature to get this $100 million plan passed. That’s why I’ve been asking our federal government to take some action, but since they haven’t, I’m hoping that our legislature will work with me on this to give some relief to these restaurants.
“I don’t want them to have to make tough, awful decisions that could jeopardize their workforce and their customers, because I want them to be successful and I know they need help, and I’m trying to give that help.
“I would discourage people from willfully breaking the law, always -- no matter what the law is on any subject. I would strongly discourage that. But I think in this moment, we need to give one another a little empathy and a little bit of grace and recognize the gravity of the situation.”
Dec. 2: ‘Big Gretch’ beer
On a lighter note, a Michigan brewery introduced a new “Big Gretch” beer that shows the governor on the can wearing shades and a chain in the shape of the state.
“What’s more to say, it’s an absolute crusher of a beer with a label depicting our governor rocking some Cartier shades and a 231 Chain. It’s fun, it’s goofy, and it’s a great beer,” the company posted on Instagram.
Dec. 7: Restrictions extended 12 days
Michigan health officials announced an extension of COVID-19 restrictions in the state as deaths continued to rise and the state’s test positivity rate remained high.
Whitmer said MDHHS was extending the three-week pause for 12 days. MDHHS said the additional 12 days would allow the department to determine the full impact of the Thanksgiving holiday on the spread of COVID-19 across Michigan.
Dec. 12: Pfizer vaccine authorized
The United States granted an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
With the authorization, the vaccine shipped via FedEx and UPS, with the two carriers splitting the country in half. In Michigan, UPS rolled out of Pfizer’s Portage cold farm with 85,000 vials slated for the state.
“I’m very excited about the vaccine distribution. It means that the end of the pandemic is near and we are working diligently with partners across the state to distribute COVID vaccines,” Khaldun said.
Dec. 14: U of M health care workers get vaccines
The first Michigan Medicine front line health care workers at University of Michigan Hospital received the very first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Workers at U of M Hospital were some of the very first to get the initial vaccine shot. A second shot will be needed about three weeks later.
The moment was meaningful and historic. It came about 11 months after the first COVID-19 cases started showing up.
Dec. 15: Whitmer says restrictions are working
Whitmer shared her belief that the state’s stricter COVID-19 rules, were successfully slowing the spread of the virus.
“The department issued this order to prevent our hospitals from overwhelming, so that we can protect the brave women and men serving on the front lines of this crisis, so we can protect our small businesses who want to stay open and so we can, of course, slow the spread of COVID-19,” Whitmer said. “The good news is that we are making progress. It is working.”
Dec. 18: COVID-19 order revised, extended
Whitmer announced the state was revising its COVID-19 order to resume in-person high school classes, reopen certain indoor entertainment venues and allow non-contact outdoor sports and fitness classes.
The order was scheduled to expire Dec. 20, but the revised order is in effect until Jan. 15.
Dec. 19: Moderna vaccine authorized
The U.S. added a second COVID-19 vaccine to its arsenal, boosting efforts to beat back an outbreak so dire that the nation is regularly recording more than 3,000 deaths a day.
The Food and Drug Administration authorized an emergency rollout of the vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. and the National Institutes of Health.
Dec. 21: Current order takes effect
The revised MDHHS order took effect Dec. 21, and is currently till in place.
While some segments of the economy reopened, many remain shut down. Whitmer said the state would be willing to consider reopening other businesses earlier than Jan. 15 if the state continues to see progress with its COVID-19 numbers.
Dec. 22: Whitmer hints at resumption of indoor dining
Michigan restaurants are still fighting to resume indoor dining, but Whitmer hinted that some good news could be coming soon.
“My hope is that if people do what they did around Thanksgiving and not travel, and do the right thing and keep our gatherings down to a household or two, max, and wear masks, that we will be in a strong position right after the first of the year to take another step forward,” Whitmer said.
Whitmer said she wants to reopen restaurants as soon as she can.
Dec. 24: Vaccine distribution
Michigan officials revealed a new list of priority phases for distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine in the state.
MDHHS updated the phases for essential workers and residents at high risk of severe infection.
“Some essential workers are at higher risk of exposure or exposing others due to the nature of their work and older individuals, particularly those with underlying health conditions, are particularly vulnerable to the virus,” Khaldun said. “As new information is learned, this guidance will continue to evolve.”
Dec. 28: Vaccinations begin in nursing homes
The first nursing home patients in Michigan began receiving COVID-19 vaccinations earlier this week.
Nearly 140 patients and some of the staff at Rivergate Terrace Care Center were among the first to get their shots. Rivergate Terrace Care Center will also get another round of the vaccine on Jan. 4.
Dec. 29: Relief bill, unemployment extension
The bipartisan relief bill includes $55 million to help small businesses that have been affected by COVID-19. Grants of up to $20,000 will be available to Michigan small businesses that need support this winter, the state announced.
The relief bill also includes $3.5 million for grants of up to $40,000 each for live music and entertainment venues, according to Whitmer.
In addition, $45 million is available in direct payments for workers who have been laid off or furloughed due to the virus, the state revealed.
“I proposed this stimulus plan to the legislature in November because I know how much our families, frontline workers, and small businesses need relief,” Whitmer said. “This bipartisan bill will provide families and businesses the support they need to stay afloat as we continue working to distribute the safe and effective vaccine and eliminate COVID-19 once and for all.”
Whitmer also signed bipartisan Senate Bill 604, which extends unemployment benefits for Michiganders who have lost work because of COVID-19.
Those benefits have been extended from 20 to 26 weeks, the state announced. They are now available until the end of March 2021.
Dec. 29: COVID-19 trends and restrictions
Whitmer says the MDHHS order has greatly improved the COVID-19 situation in Michigan, but does that timeline actually line up?
We broke down the metrics and how they align with the most recent orders. Click here to read the full story.
Dec. 31: Whitmer reflects on 2020
In a video released on New Year’s Eve, Whitmer looked back at the full year of 2020, including her handling of the pandemic.