Whitmer assessing if businesses can open after long closures
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday that her administration is assessing the risk of reopening Michigan businesses that have been closed for five months under her orders to curb the spread of the coronavirus, saying she will have more to say next week.
Movie theaters, gyms and indoor pools are among the places that remain barred from operating in much of the state amid the pandemic. The Democratic governor told reporters her office is working with the state health department to “drill down” into businesses that are closed, “where we can do another assessment on risk mitigation and determine if we might consider making some improvements in the policy.”
Whitmer said other states have taken “bad” steps that “we don’t want to do,” but there are “perhaps some things that they have done and been successful.” She has come under criticism from the owners of theaters and fitness clubs — which are now open with capacity restrictions in many other states — for letting Detroit casinos reopen at 15% capacity about two weeks ago while keeping their businesses shut except in northern counties.
Other closed operations including amusement parks, arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, indoor climbing centers, indoor dance areas, skating rinks, trampoline parks, water parks and other similar recreational or entertainment facilities.
The governor made her comments after announcing that Michigan will allocate $60 million in federal virus relief aid to school districts where more than half of the students are economically disadvantaged. The money can be used to implement health and safety protocols, to buy laptops and devices for online instruction, to provide mental health services and to mitigate learning loss.
An additional $5.4 million will go to other education-related entities. The dollars come from an emergency education fund set aside for governors in the U.S. rescue package and are in addition to $530 million previously allocated to schools and teachers.
Districts’ funding will be based on their numbers of low-income, special education and English language learners. Whitmer and the Republican-led Legislature have yet to tell schools’ their funding for the fiscal year that starts in less than a month and a half, however, as they hold out hope for more federal aid while facing a projected $3 billion shortfall due to lower tax revenues.
Her administration and legislative economists will meet next week to revise budget estimates.
“If we do not get some help in the middle of this pandemic that has caused this recession, it’s going to be very hard for all of us,” Whitmer said.
The state reported nine additional deaths related to COVID-19 and 616 new confirmed cases of the virus. The total death and case counts are above 6,600 and 104,000 when probable infections are included. Over the past two weeks, the seven-day daily case average has remained mostly constant at about 741. The per-capita rate ranks lower than all but 10 other states, according to an Associated Press analysis of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
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