Gov. Whitmer chides protesters for defying social-distancing measures, possibly spreading the coronavirus


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. - STATE OF MICHIGAN
  • State of Michigan
  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Protesters who swarmed the state’s Capitol on Wednesday to rally against Michigan’s stay-at-home order “may have just created a need to lengthen it,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said.

“They were in close proximity. They were touching each other,” Whitmer said at a press conference late Wednesday afternoon. “That’s how the virus is spread.”

Whitmer has drawn criticism from some residents — primarily Republicans — after expanding her executive order on April 9. The order requires non-essential businesses to stay closed until at least April 30 and directs residents to stay at home, except to exercise or get essential supplies like food.

Protesters insisted the order went too far by closing home improvement and gardening centers at big box stores and barring people from traveling to their cabins up north or visiting family.

Whitmer said she understands the frustration, but emphasized that the strict social-distancing measures are the only effective way to curtail the spread of “a dramatic, terrible virus that has been killing people in our state.”

With nearly 2,000 people dead, Michigan has the third highest death toll in the U.S., behind New York and New Jersey.

“The bottom line is, social distancing works, and it is working, and we need to stay the course,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical officer, said at the press conference.

Whitmer said she was “disappointed” with protesters, saying some of them had blocked ambulances and bus service. One man, she said, was handing out candy to children with no gloves.

“I’m trying to save lives here,” Whitmer said. “The enemy is the virus, not one another.”
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