Whitmer issues stay-at-home order

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued as stay-at-home order Monday morning. This photo was taken at an earlier announcement.

LANSING (AP) — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday issued a statewide stay-at-home order to curb the spread of the coronavirus, with exemptions for certain workers, outdoor exercise and trips to the grocery store or hospital.

Whitmer warned of dire results akin to those seen in Italy if people don't follow her order. More than 1 million Michigan residents, she said, could need a hospital bed if the virus isn't controlled.

"We have about 25,000 acute beds in Michigan. Think about that,” the governor said.

COVID-19 deaths in the state have climbed to at least 15 and the number of people infected with the cornonavirus has topped 1,200.

“This disease can’t spread person to person if we’re not out there. ... Too many people are still out and about unnecessarily so we must do more,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer's order, which takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, will prohibit employers from requiring workers to leave their homes unless necessary to protect life or conduct minimum basic operations. It also bars all public and private gatherings of any number of people occurring outside a single household.

Whitmer said schools will be closed until at least April 13, extending the shutdown by a week.

She said grocery stores, gas stations and pharmacies will be open, and people can run, walk, hike and ride bikes as long as they stay 6 feet from others.

Businesses deemed “critical infrastructure,” largely exempt from the order along with essentials such as law enforcement and health services, include:

Food and agriculture

Energy

Waste and wastewater

Transportation and logistics

Public works

Communications and infrastructure technology, including news media

Critical manufacturing

Hazardous materials

Financial services

Chemical supply chains and safety

Defense industrial base

Child care workers

Workers at designated suppliers and distribution centers

Workers in the insurance industry, only to the extent their work can not be done remotely

Other community-based government operations and essential functions

“Do not panic. Do not hoard,” Whitmer said.

The stay-at-home order comes after governors in California, New York, Illinois, Ohio and other states issued similar shelter-in-place orders.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.

Whitmer a week ago tried to reduce the spread by limiting crowds at popular gathering spots and closing schools. Bars, fitness clubs and theaters are closed, and restaurants can only prepare food for carry-out. Many church services have been canceled.

The Detroit Free Press contributed to this report.