Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has modified that state’s stay-at-home orders from March 23 and 30 with a new order issued April 24, thereby allowing the state’s green industry businesses to resume operations immediately — provided they follow “enhanced” social distancing rules, as required by the state.
Although the state’s stay-at-home mandate was extended through May 15, several types of green industry businesses were included on a list of “resumed activities” that are now permitted. They include garden stores, nurseries, lawn care and landscaping operations.
“We are still in a pandemic and we must be diligent in following safety protocols in order to keep everyone in our industry safe,” the Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA) posted on its website. “If you cannot work safely, then please do not go back to work.”
The MNLA lobbied successfully so that the green industry can resume operations, and was assisted by other green industry trade groups, both state and national. MNLA also filed a lawsuit in federal court on April 18 seeking to reopen the industry, arguing that the stay-in-place order was unconstitutional.
“While we fully support the Governor’s focus on keeping people safe, ours is an outdoor industry and one that can get Michiganders back to work safely,” MNLA Executive Director Amy Upton stated in a press release when the lawsuit was filed. “Every state in the nation except Michigan recognizes our ability to work safely and allows our industry to stay open. The other states’ approach makes sense. It’s easy to mow the lawn, trim trees, install plantings, and sell plants and seeds for curbside pickup without person-to-person contact. We can keep workers employed without increasing the public-health risk.”
The social distancing requirements include a ban on gatherings where people can’t maintain six feet of distance from one another, limiting in-person interaction between clients and patrons, providing personal protective equipment, adopting protocols to limit the sharing of tools and equipment, and ensuring frequent and thorough cleaning of tools, equipment and frequently touched surfaces.
Stores with less than 50,000 square feet of space must limit entry to 25 percent of the total occupancy limits set by the fire marshal. Larger stores are limited to four people per 1,000 square feet of customer floor space. Both must create markings so that customers are standing six feet apart while waiting. Alternatives to lines, such as allowing customers to wait in their cars for a text or a call, are encouraged.
The stores also are required to create at least two hours per week of shopping time for vulnerable populations, such as people over 60, pregnant women and those with chronic conditions.
Stores are also encouraged to offer curbside pickup.