Gov. Whitmer, Midwest governors team up on plans to reopen state economies

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has criticized the federal government for a lack of coordinated response to the coronavirus pandemic, is teaming up with other Midwest governors to develop a regional plan for reopening state economies.

April 22 update: Michigan Gov. Whitmer wants to extend stay-home order past May 1
April 17 update: Whitmer to begin laying out economic plan next week

LANSING — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is teaming up with other Midwest governors to develop a regional plan for reopening state economies shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

The bipartisan team includes fellow Democrats Tony Evers of Wisconsin, J.B. Pritzker of Illinois and Andy Beshear of Kentucky, along with Republican Govs. Mike DeWine of Ohio and Eric Holcomb of Indiana. 

In a joint statement, the governors made clear their partnership does not mean each state will open its economy at the same time, or that each state will take the same steps. But phasing in sectors of the economy will be “most effective when we work together as a region,” they said. 

“We recognize that our economies are all reliant on each other, and we must work together to safely reopen them so hardworking people can get back to work and businesses can get back on their feet,” they said.

Later Thursday, President Donald Trump released to the states a recommended blueprint for “opening up America again.” The White House is proposing a three-phase process to restart state economies after each 14-day period in which there is a downward trajectory of cases, symptoms and hospital admissions. But it's leaving final decisions up to governors.

Under the first phase of the Trump plan, states or regions would continue to restrict non-essential travel but allow additional employers to begin calling workers back to the job. Schools and bars would remain closed, while movie theaters and sporting venues could only operate with strict social distancing protocols. By phase three, if there is no coronavirus rebound, businesses could operate all worksites without restrictions, although the White House would still recommend social distancing at large venues, extra hygiene at nursing homes and sanitation protocols at gyms. 

The Midwest team announced Thursday is the latest collaboration among governors, some of whom have complained about a lack of coordinated response to the global pandemic at the federal level. Two weeks ago, Whitmer revealed that Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois had formed a buying consortium in an attempt to obtain more personal protection equipment for medical providers.

“We’ve been working together as a geography for quite a bit,” Whitmer said April 6. 

The regional economic planning comes amid growing backlash over stay-at-home orders issued by Whitmer and other governors, including Wednesday protests in Michigan and Ohio, along with a Pennsylvania state Senate vote to partially end that state’s lockdown. 

Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan and a former lieutenant governor, said the idea of Midwest states working together on economic reopening plans “makes a lot of sense.”

Acting together would provide “a lot of comfort” to border community businesses in lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula who are concerned they could be disadvantaged if Michgian moves slower than neighboring states, said Calley, a Republican.  

It’s also a “smart approach” from a disease control standpoint, he suggested, noting the “integrated nature” of border states and citizen movement between them.  

Michigan has been among the hardest hit states by the public health crisis and ensuing economic crisis.  As of Thursday, Michigan had reported 29,263 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2,093 related deaths. The state also processed more than 1 million unemployment claims over the past four weeks. 

Whitmer and other Midwest governors, in their joint statement, identified four factors they will use to guide their decision making process on when to reopen their economies: 

  • Sustained control of the rate of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations 
  • Enhanced ability to test and trace the spread of the virus 
  • Sufficient health care capacity to handle a resurgence of cases 
  • And best practices for social distancing in the workplace

Those factors nearly mirror criteria Whitmer outlined in the extended and expanded stay-at-home order she issued last week, which sparked criticism from Republican legislators, conservative and business groups urging her to loosen restrictions in certain regions or sectors. 

The governors will make decisions based on “facts, science” and recommendations from experts in health care, business, labor and education, the Midwest governors said in the statement. “Our number one priority when analyzing when best to reopen our economy is the health and safety of our citizens.”

Michigan Senate Republicans on Thursday presented with Whitmer their own ideas to restart the economy, jumping out ahead of a bipartisan workgroup established for that same purpose last week by Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake. 

They envision a five-phase process, starting with re-opening of some businesses considered critical under a broader federal guidance Whitmer did not adopt, along with companies whose employees have “lower exposure risk” and could stay six feet apart or wear personal protective equipment.

Under the Senate GOP plan, sports areas and concert venues that attract large crowds could not open to the public until there is no active spread of the coronavirus for 30 days or until a vaccine has been available for 30 days, which may not happen any time soon.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, had predicted it could take 12 to 18 months to develop a vaccine but said this week it may be possible to “shave a couple months off that” timeline.


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Thanks, Gretchen
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 12:55pm

Your hard work is paying off. Under your strong leadership, our state has gone from third to fifth in the country for new cases. We can do this, if we stand together. United we Stand, divided we Die. Now we just need to get massive amounts of testing, so we can maintain the decline in cases and open our economy. Kudos, Gov! Keep up the great work!

Lexie Tech
Sat, 04/18/2020 - 10:35am

LOL.... this 'person' thinks she is doing a good job because we went from tied for last place with every state (no one had the virus) to a massive increase up to 3rd most (ahead of states on the coasts that were supposed to be the hardest hit) and then we slid to 5th most (although according to NPR we are once again 4th most and just a couple away from 3rd most).... this person ignores the massive increase over 2 months (Feb-March) and then thinks the Governor should get a medal because we went from 3rd to 5th.... so funny. And the logic behind their argument is 'stand together'- this person thinks the state forcing everyone to stand together without free speech or working is a good thing!

I can't tell anymore if posts like the one above are jokes designed to be funny because they are so moronic, or if they are real- that's kind of a sad commentary on my skills of observation, isn't it? I've been under house arrest too long.

Sat, 04/18/2020 - 5:52pm

Backed by wealthy conservative groups and promoted by Donald Trump, continues to take hold. The Michigan Freedom Fund, which said it was a co-host of the rally, has received more than $500,000 from the DeVos family, regular donors to rightwing groups.
Still don't get it? Your being used.

Marsha zamitala
Sat, 04/18/2020 - 7:44pm

You are right Lexie Tech!! Governor Whipmere is a socialist communist. Technically we shouldn't be quarantining healthy people! I say quarantine the sick, and everyone else use common the economy! This sets a bad precedence..that everytime someone sneezes we will close the economy! I'm done with this shit! Take care of your health and quit letting the government tell us what to easily they were able to corral us..kind of scary!

Bob Levin
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 7:59am

I don't remember Pelosi approving this. The constitution (Article 1 Section 10) clearly states that without the consent of congress, no state shall enter into any agreement or compact with another state. Is there any rule of law anymore?

Tom Downs
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 10:01am

Perhaps you should tell Attorney General Barr about this. Or maybe you could tell our President to do his job, so the states wouldn’t be tempted to do it for him.

Oh Dear!
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 12:36pm

I didn't even think of that. Let's rally against our governor for coordinating the reopening of the economy! LOL Trump can run the deficit and debt into a ditch and there are no consequences, no one is downgrading the country's credit worthiness, no one is marching in the streets in flamboyant revolutionary military wear with teabag hats. But God forbid our governor try to protect us from a worldwide pandemic and all the manly men get their panties in a bunch. I thought the Teabaggers wanted the economy opened quickly. Why can't these petulant losers make up their minds? It starts with the big orange diapered baby in the WH. Everyday he changes his mind. No leadership. No responsibility. Can't wait for November. So shameful.

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 1:28pm

I agree Gretchen seems to feel the constitution doesnt apply to her. She is only out for her own agenda. That is very clear

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 1:44pm

Anonymous - that you Betsy DeVos?

To silly
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 2:15pm

Yeah, VP. LOL

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 7:35pm

Gretchen is trying to protect the people of Michigan and she is doing a great job.

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 8:05am

The knuckleheads should be protesting the lack of testing available, instead of going out and spreading the virus with their traitorous confederate flags. Those reckless fools without masks or gloves were handing out candy to children. They should have been arrested for attempted murder.

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 9:00am

There's plenty of tests available. A company I'm very familiar with is supposed to send 40,000 of very standard PCR mass test kits to Detroit but they can't get the on ground operations in order so on hold. How many 10,000's do you want? I'll get you their number. The rest of the state is so low in occurrences, in spite of what the Gov wants us to think, so what's the point? The virus will likely be gone on this first phase before the tests are done. And don't blame Trump It's not a federal responsibility to maintain staff and operate a nation wide chain of bio-testing facilities. I checked in the Constitution and don't find it. Somehow there's thinking that the Federal government needs to be ready for every Black Swan that flies over! Not feasible or affordable.

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 12:43pm

Maybe about half the population, 5,000.000 tests, would be a good start. Try to debunk this:
I blame Trump because while he claimed "America First", he left us unprepared for this, has been slow to respond, and is still not invoking the Defense Production Act.

Anyone who really cares about this should look at the link to understand the complexities of the situation and contrast it with the simplemindedness of the Commander in Chief.

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 7:29pm

A perfect example of the stupidity you're pushing is your crowd's hyperventilating over not having ventilators! "We need to invoke the DPA to force production of more vents!!!", you lefties all said!!! Except ….. oh …. now we're not using them as we've gone onto other therapies! The fact you intend well doesn't cut it when you don't know what you don't know.

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 8:31am

It will be a great relief to folks living in the UP , Traverse City or Alpena that our governor will now be taking her cues from not just Detroit but now Chicago and Cleveland for deciding when they can start to normalize their lives.

Sam C
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 11:48am

Perhaps consider that Traverse City, and others you know, survive due to tourism that comes from all over the region but particularly from S.E. Michigan and Chicago, including even more so now that NYC and other areas of the Northeast have invested in vacation homes in those areas. And why do you assume she's "taking" cues? How about leading? You don't know.

middle of the mit
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 6:07pm

Yeah Matt,

Traverse City and the rest of Michigan will love it when our northern communities full of a bunch of retired republicans from downstate start getting an influx. They can't wait!

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 9:57am

Not good.

Michigan Biz owner
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 10:31am

People should always question the news, even more so nowadays. Blindly accepting Covid 19 "facts" because the TV said so is beyond naive. With that being said, I believe we all have born rights to choose how to handle it, regardless of what you believe. If you choose to close your business, fine. If you choose to stay home fine, but putting 10M Michiganders on house arrest and shutting down the economy is indeed tyranny. Never give up liberty for security. Never.

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 1:33pm

I totally agree she is power hungry and desperate to get into the White House. Can you imagine????? Well puts more clarity to the left's if we need more clarity .lol. we better stand up now because when our liberties are gone .they are gone

To witless
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 8:33pm

The VP doesn't live or work in the WH. Do you know anything about our government? Google Naval Observatory. If you knew anything, you'd realize there's more power as governor than VP because Trump doesn't do crap, takes credit, but not responsibility. Gretchen doesn't need to be VP. She will run for president on her own time. She's still very young. That said, she'd be a welcome change from Pence, if asked to serve, our loss, the country's gain.

Business Insider
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 2:22pm

You are not a real business owner and you talk about blindly accepting facts while not debunking those facts or providing your own facts. You just offer your dumb unsubstantiated opinion.

Otherwise you'd be in line with the Wall Street Journal and Forbes, instead of FUX News, Hannity, Limbaugh, Brietbart, and the evil ignorant Mammon lovers.

Business Leaders Urge Trump to Dramatically Increase Coronavirus Testing: During first call to discuss reopening country, executives tell president more testing is needed to convince public to return to work:

Is that Fake News or are you a Fake Business Owner? My guess is the latter.

middle of the mit
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 6:31pm

Michigan Biz owner,

I don't think MI Biz owners have thought this through to it's ultimate endgame.

See, if we do what you want, employees are going to contract this disease. Are you following me? And if those employees pass it on to other employees and family members, and some of them die, whether it's employees or family members, there are going to be these things called lawsuits. And I don't care if you don't believe the news reports. They are going to sue for wrongful death and putting employees in harms way.

And you are going to lose.

Why does a dummy liberal like me have to remind smart people like you of what reality will do once reality sets in?

I read the Detroit Free Press the day of the "demonstration" and there was a comment from someone who owned a multi-generational bizznizz. This person told the paper that they would rather die from COVID-19 than see that business go under.

Here's the problem with that philosophy. See, if you live, you will be able to restart the business, If you die? At least you won't be around to see the business that you care so much about die too?

What about your family?

Do they matter?

What about your employees?

And how will the economy function, let alone your own business, when your workers are sick BECAUSE OF YOUR DECISIONS THEY HAD TO ABIDE BY?

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 11:18am

Michigan Freedom Fund, a Lansing-based organization that advocates for conservative policies, has strong ties to the west Michigan DeVos family was directly promoting that protest. The same DeVos who'll privatize everything they can to further enrich their selves.
More than 2,000 have died from COVID19. We all want to go back to work, responsibly. Our Governor is saving lives.

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 11:49am

Cathy as I continually ask people making this charge, please show us your evidence of the riches the DeVos family has piled up for themselves from any of their efforts. It's easy for bitter nasty people to make stupid spurious accusations, so show us what you have. So far I've got Crickets. I'm damn grateful of what they've done.

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 1:50pm

Here's your crickets dear. Go to Politico, actual journalism, and do a search of the Devos family. Interesting and damming. Then do a web search at large and chose from a multitude of well sourced articles.

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 7:37pm

Since I don't subscribe to leftist rags as a rule nor take their biased stories too seriously, humor me and please paste the story or it's location. Thanks.

American Way? NO
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 2:28pm

Don't they make all their money from government contracts because they donate to Republicons? Betsy (is that a grown woman's name?) is smack on the welfare teat employed directly by Trump, doing nothing but promoting the privatization of our public schools by American Talibans and her unpatriotic brother of Blackwater mercenary fame fleeced our government treasury at the expense of our military.

Cootie Blue
Sun, 04/19/2020 - 11:22am

The Michigan Freedom Fund did not organize the protests. A group called Michigan Conservative Coalition did. The Michigan Freedom Fund spent $250 advertising for it on Facebook. The Devos family is a donor to the Michigan Freedom Fund, but not a donor to the Michigan Conservative Coalition. The Michigan Freedom Fund has many donors and a large budget. To suggest that Betsy DeVos was behind this protest is a laughable argument.

You're probably the same person who tried to push the hoax that Russia helped Trump get elected President because they had a $500 ad buy on Facebook for him? You're probably the same person who pushed the hoax that was the Steele dossier? And you're probably the same person who pushed the hoax that Bush was behind 9/11? And you're probably the same person who pushed the hoax that the Holocaust didn't happen?

Carl Rogers
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 11:52am

Where is the data? What science is she relying on? Over and over I hear her mock me on national shows she goes on, suggesting that my views are irrational and crazy because they are contrary to hers which are based on science and data... but where is the science and data that she is using? I have seen her executive orders- there are no footnotes with studies, models, or data charts in them. Where is the information that she is supposedly using that makes her think she is sooo much smarter than me?

She’s got nothing other than her partisan BELIEFS to back up her policies. She’s a half-wit partisan hack. She’s not better than you and me.

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 1:56pm

Carl, their is no shortage of actual science available on line. A simple search on line of COVID19 and you can source your own sites. Many of the most reputable are publishing.

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 2:30pm

The same science the successful business leaders of America rely on. Read the Wall Street Journal.

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 7:50pm

Go to pubmed and search "COVID-19 Michigan." These are research articles from from the actual scientists that are funded by the NIH and other world government, and have actually studied the virus. Yhey should have proposed guidelines for handling the virus. Some articles may be held behind a paywall, but there should be some on PMC that are free to read.

Carl who?
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 8:38pm

Carl, she was elected governor. You were not. BTW who the h.. are you? Never heard of you. Why would she even care what you think?

Gerry Niedermaier
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 1:51pm

Great job Governor.
The naysayers be damned.
It always boils down to teamwork, across the aisle and states lines.

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 2:46pm

I thought the number one purpose of the Fed. Govt. was to keep us safe. I must have misunderstood. R.L.

facts are annoying
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 2:53pm

Everyday the virus is not proving to be the crisis, but the actions people are taking to manage it and the media and democrats fanning the flames. Today, half of Michigan workers are unemployed and many needlessly. 1,000,000 and rising out of 2 million jobs prior this are not there right now. Many of those jobs won't come back or will go away because there will be no economic strength to revive them. We have never done this for any other yearly viruses like the flu and other respiratory viruses that have had a higher infection rate and has been more lethal which any can explore those stats for themselves. The results from this more poverty and the disparity in social economics breed more death than this virus will, ask those in Detroit.
News: honest china is upping the death toll in Wuhan so the media has more kindling for the fire.

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 8:43pm

Your comment reminds me of the donkey, Eeyore, from Winnie the Pooh, you know that sad character. Sorry, it's unreadable.

Fri, 04/17/2020 - 6:52pm

Why do we need to have another state hold our hand. Is Witless going to try to spread the blame as round for HER bad judgment?

To Mikeless
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 8:44pm

That's harsh, even for HER. LOL

Sun, 04/19/2020 - 6:25pm


Brad McCaughey
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 8:10pm

Every 1% hike in the unemployment rate will likely produce a 3.3% increase in drug overdose deaths and a 0.99% increase in suicides, according to data provided by the National Bureau of Economic Research and the medical journal Lancet. These are facts based on experience, not models. If unemployment hits 32%, some 77,000 Americans are likely to die from suicide and drug overdoses as a result of layoffs.

So it's kind of life and death how quickly she opens up the economy. The virus might kill 77,000 people nationwide when this thing is all done, especially with how they are gaming the numbers now to increase them. Trying to lower these numbers may or may not be working- there is no clear evidence that the policies undertaken have had any appreciable effect on lowering the death rate long-term.

But we know for a fact that actions by the Governor are leading to an increase in suicide and drug overdoses, and she does have the power to stop that from happening. Governor Whitmer, end your restrictions and stop killing innocent people with your misguided partisan policies.

L Jackson
Fri, 04/17/2020 - 9:01pm

We need to open our state with the exception of the Detroit area. I'm a Republican and I agreed with the stay at home during the first month. Gretchen did the right thing
Now we face new challenges if gretchen wants any chance of staying in her position she will start a strategic open michigan businesses plan that starts may 1st along with the automotive industry. If she extends the shut down til the 16th of may shes done and will lose all support of republican and small business in Michigan.