By state Rep. Ryan Berman of Commerce Township
In a sign of the moment we now find ourselves in, I recently hosted a telephone-based town hall for the Oakland County residents I represent in the Michigan House. Their questions and concerns made a few things clear: they want to remain healthy and return to their livelihoods where it’s safe.
In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak this notion has been missed – or dismissed – in Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s recent extension of Michigan’s ‘stay home’ order, which now runs through April 30th. The governor has taken an approach of what she deems essential versus non-essential, as opposed to what is safe versus what’s not. There’s a difference, and not seeing it is making life more difficult for hard-working people across the state. I believe everyone’s job is essential. It pays bills and puts food on the table.
We have to protect public health and be reasonable at the same time. The governor had an opportunity to start putting in place an exit plan for what standard operating procedure in Michigan will look like as the case curve starts to flatten. Even the models the governor’s office is using show we are approaching that point. The goal from the beginning as our nation began to face this pandemic was to enact strict distancing guidelines – not to stop life until COVID-19 just goes away – and slow the spread in order to keep our health care system from being overwhelmed as it took in a surge of COVID-19 patients.
Instead of showing true leadership by formulating such an exit plan, the governor has doubled down with measures that are even more restrictive on people’s livelihoods. It doesn’t make sense to idle landscapers and workers in the construction industry who have no interaction with anyone around them and can use gloves and masks as they perform their work. The governor’s reaction to smaller, mom and pop shops not being able to compete with bigger box stores was to simply remove the ability for those larger facilities to sell those items too – further impacting job providers and sending more Michigan workers into unemployment.
The fact remains even here in Southeast Michigan – where the majority of cases in the state are – that our hospitals are not over capacity. Finding a balance will help ensure Michigan emerges from this public health emergency healthy and strong. Our constitutional values and individual liberties make us what we are. We cannot continue with draconian measures that force confinement – treating the coronavirus like a nationwide, biological hurricane that blows through and allows us to eventually step outside once again to clear skies. While we have seen projections of millions of deaths nationally if we had chosen to do nothing, a halfway approach doesn’t have to be half-baked, and it is sensible to open up areas of our state’s economy where it’s safe and strict protocols can be adhered to.
These arguments aren’t rooted in politics. They’re based in practicality, and I hope our governor sees it that way as well as we move forward.
State Rep. Ryan Berman, of Commerce Township, serves residents in the 39th District, which includes the city of Wixom, Commerce Township, a portion of West Bloomfield Township and the village of Wolverine Lake.
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