Gov. Whitmer hopes to start reopening sectors of economy on May 1

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LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday that she hopes to begin reopening parts of Michigan’s economy on May 1 that have been shut down to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Whitmer did not specifically identify which businesses may be allowed to open but said relaxing restrictions will come in phases. The Democratic governor’s stay-at-home order, among the nation’s toughest in a state hit hard by the new coronavirus pandemic, is scheduled to expire April 30 and prompted protests this week at the Michigan Capitol that drew thousands of people.

“I am hopeful that come May 1, we will make some steps forward,” she said during a tele-town hall hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber. She said she will talk more in multiple news conferences next week about her thought process on restarting economic activity in a “smart way,” noting she wants to avoid a second wave of cases.

President Donald Trump told governors on Thursday that restrictions could be eased to allow businesses to reopen over the next several weeks in places that have extensive testing and a marked decrease in cases.

The number of people in Michigan with the coronavirus rose 4% to 29,263, the state said Thursday, although many of them have long recovered. Deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, increased by 172, or 9%, to 2,093. The state noted that 65 of those deaths could have occurred days or weeks ago.

Whitmer said she is speaking with business leaders to work through safe practices. She also is studying the “real risk” geographically — noting Michigan has many regions, types of businesses and places where people travel more than others to get to work.

“These are all factors that enhance or bring down risk,” she said. “So as we are determining which might be the first wave of openings, they’re being driven by these types of factors and what actions that employers can take to mitigate that risk, both to their employees as well as their customers.”

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