DETROIT, April 29 (Reuters) - Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer will allow the state’s construction industry to return to work on May 7 as the Midwestern state battles the coronavirus outbreak, a spokesman said on Wednesday.
“No one should be surprised that the governor would open a lower-risk field like she has said at previous press conferences,” Whitmer spokesman Zack Pohl said in a statement.
Whitmer on Friday extended her stay-at-home order through May 15, but lifted restrictions so some businesses can open and the public can participate in outdoor activities like golfing.
The measure also allowed use of motor boats and traveling between residences in the state, as well as allowing garden stores, nurseries, and lawn-care, pest-control and landscaping operations to resume business.
The new order by Whitmer, a Democrat, came amid criticism by some Michigan residents and Republican lawmakers that she had been too restrictive in her lockdown of the state to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. She has emphasized a phased approach to reopening the state, addressing regions and businesses that are less affected or better protected.
Whitmer has been mentioned as a potential running mate for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and has been a target of criticism from Republican President Donald Trump. Michigan, which Trump narrowly won in 2016, is considered a crucial swing state in the November presidential election and the state’s COVID-19 infections rank among the highest in the country.
Michigan is part of a coalition of Midwestern states that agreed to coordinate the reopening of their economies. Other states involved are Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Kentucky.
Ohio on Monday outlined its reopening plan, which included reopening the construction and manufacturing sectors on May 4. Whitmer has not set a reopening date for manufacturing yet, and the influential United Auto Workers union, which represents many hourly auto workers in Michigan and other states, has said early May is “too soon and too risky” to reopen. (Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; editing by Jonathan Oatis)