Michigan COVID-19 restrictions

A Rite Aid store in Coloma, Mich., posts a sign of COVID-19 capacity restrictions on April 23, 2020. 

(The Center Square) – Out of the 12 Midwest states, Michigan is the only one with COVID-19 restrictions, and they won’t be lifted for another 16 days, the AARP says.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer picked July 1 to end most broad-ranging COVID-19 orders, including dropping the mask mandate for unvaccinated Michiganders.

State health officials and Whitmer’s office didn’t respond to why dropping restrictions July 1 is safer than June 20.

That’s likely not surprising to Michiganders who’ve watched their state government enact unprecedented and the most severe COVID-19 restrictions in the Midwest. Whitmer banned stores larger than 50,000 square feet from selling paint, advertising for “nonessential” goods, and home improvement supplies. Operating a motorboat could bring criminal charges, as could traveling to a secondary home.

Restaurants are limited to 50% capacity inside, as are crowd limits for weddings and funerals. Government restrictions have essentially shuttered the catering industry via a 25-person indoor cap for most of the last 15 months.

Michigan Chamber President & CEO Rich Studley told The Center Square the restrictions are hampering an otherwise spiking economic recovery. Even after hiking pay and offering signing bonuses, many employers can’t find workers.

An Alignable report polled 3,789 small businesses nationwide, with 55% of those companies responding finding workers is more difficult now than pre-COVID-19.

Continuing restrictions resulted in a 51st ranking for Michigan in nationwide COVID-19 economic recovery, WalletHub found.

Citing the study, Studley said Whitmer has “slow-walked” reopening the state and even “self-inflicted” economic harm via $300/week boosted unemployment benefits while the economy boasts of record open jobs.

“Part of the significant drop in public approval of the governor’s performance relates to a growing realization that Michigan was hit hard by COVID, but a lot of what the governor did in terms of unreasonable, unrealistic, impracticable, constantly changing restrictions on individuals and families and businesses made a bad situation worse,” Studley said in a phone interview.

Studley argued Whitmer’s initial actions to combat COVID-19 were reasonable, but unnecessary 15 months later.

Studley said a cocktail of boosted unemployment benefits and lingering COVID-19 capacity restrictions hurt economic recovery. About 26 states, including Indiana and Ohio, have revoked federal boosted unemployment benefits.

“People choose to stay home when they can make more money not working than when they can work,” Studley said.

Even with indoor capacity bumped from 25% to 50%, businesses still have limited hours and menus, citing the worker shortage.

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.