Today is Good Friday. What a strange Easter this is going to be. Today’s “Random Thoughts” is going to be long. You probably have plenty of free time, so sit back and read through it!
According to the website put together by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, as of Thursday afternoon at 3 pm there are 21,504 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state of Michigan. That number jumped up by 1,158 in 24 hours.
Here in West Michigan, there are 233 confirmed cases in Kent County (up by 26), 59 in Ottawa (up by 4), 53 in Muskegon (up by 11), 19 in Montcalm (up by 1), 18 in Allegan (no change), 13 in Ionia County (up by 2), seven in Barry County (no change), and three in Newaygo County (no change).
We have had a total of 1076 deaths in our state due to COVID-19 (an increase of 117). We have had nine deaths in Kent County (up by 1), four in Muskegon County, one death in Ionia County, one death in Montcalm County, and one death in Ottawa County.
Stay Home, Wash Your Hands, and Social Distance Yourself! Please stay healthy.
STAY AT HOME ORDER EXTENDED THROUGH APRIL 30TH PLUS ADDITIONAL RESTRICTIONS
Yesterday afternoon, our Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a new Executive Order extending the “Stay at Home” order until the end of the month of April. The original order was to have expired next Monday. (You can read through the new Executive Order here.)
First let me get a few things out of the way… Yes, I understand the seriousness of this illness and how important it is to keep everyone safe and healthy. Second, I am making the following statements on the actions of our Governor. I don’t care what her political affiliation is. This is not a political debate for me — but rather just an observation of the actions she is taking during this time.
That being said, I think the Governor was wrong in implementing more restrictions into this newest Executive Order. While I don’t have an issue so much with the extension of the “stay at home” order, putting further restrictions on what people can do — and can not do — is a little hard to swallow.
I think it is time for us to all take on some personal responsibility for our own safety. Sure, I should stay at home if I don’t have to go out. I need to social distance myself and stay away from groups of people. I totally agree with that. However, if I do need to venture out, it is up to me to make sure I am protected by wearing a mask or gloves and keeping my distance from others. Everyone else needs to do the same. If you chose not to wear a mask…so be it. I have my mask and gloves on (if I so desire) to protect myself. It’s not up to me to protect you. I’m taking measures to protect myself and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In the new Executive Order, we are now restricted on travel for vacations or any other purpose. Do you have a second residence up north? Planning to head there to take advantage of your time with nothing to do. Under the new restrictions “travel between two residences is not permitted”. Also, “all other travel is prohibited, including all travel to vacation rentals.” This makes no sense. If I go from my home to my car, drive in my car, and then arrive at my other residence and stay there… how is that putting anyone in danger? I’m in my own enclosed area, more than 6 feet from everyone the entire time.
There are also restrictions now for shopping. This makes no sense to me for several reasons.
First, stores have already made many modifications to the way they do business to try to keep everyone safe. These new restrictions, in my opinion, do more to endanger people than help then.
Stores have already cut back on their hours and have put many measures in place to ensure social distancing of at least 6 feet. With the new restrictions, big stores must now “Limit the number of customers in the store at one time (excluding employees) to 4 people per 1,000 square feet of customer floor space. The amount of customer floor space must be calculated to exclude store areas that are closed under subprovision (2) of this subsection”. (I’ll get to what’s covered in subprovision 2 shortly).
So let’s do the math here. Let’s say a store has 1,000 customers a day. (I’m just grabbing a number out of the sky for demonstration purposes here. That number is not based on anything factual). If the store is open 24 hours a day (like some were in the past), that’s about 42 customers an hour. Now I know that people don’t all shop evenly spaced around the clock, but stick with me here. Many stores have now cut back their hours, so you are cramming the same 1,000 people into let’s stay 18 hours a day… or 56 people on average an hour. Aren’t you increasing the chances of there being a higher concentration in the stores now at any given time? Same amount of shoppers but less time to shop. I know when I used to shop late at night, there were fewer people in the stores. I’m now forced to shop in the morning when the stores are packed…increasing the number of people I have to be around.
Now, you limit the number of people in the store even more. This just causes panic and creates more urgency for people when shopping. Now we have to stand in line to get into the store. While shopping, I can easily distance myself 6, 8, 10, 12, or more feet away from people. Now I’m forced to stand in line, spaced 6 feet apart, with who knows how many other people. And that poor person that now has to check everyone in and out of the store. Aren’t you subjecting that poor worker to every person that is going shopping during their shift?
I can go to the park and be subjected to many people, but I can’t go shop and keep my distance from others on my own?
ESSENTIAL VS. NON-ESSENTIAL ITEMS
This one really gets my blood boiling!
As part of the new Executive Order, stores must “close areas of the store — by cordoning them off, placing signs in aisles, posting prominent signs, removing goods from shelves, or other appropriate means — that are dedicated to the following classes of goods: Carpet or flooring. Furniture, Garden centers and plant nurseries, Paint.” This is that subprovision referred to above.
This is ridiculous! Who decides what is essential vs. non-essential. What is important in my life, may or may not be important to you.
I’ve seen posts on social media of toy departments being roped off. If you have young kids at home, maybe even a sick child, someone has now determined that you can’t buy a toy or game for them to keep them occupied during this time. Maybe that person should come entertain the children for a few days and see if they still feel the same way about how essential this may or may not be.
Limiting paint and garden supplies? Really?!
I know that during this time many people are doing some home improvement projects to keep themselves busy. A 15 minute trip to the hardware store will get me enough supplies for a weekend project. Spending 15 minutes in a store, social distancing myself, will keep me at home the rest of the weekend. Seems like a good strategy to me. Instead, it’s OK for me to leave my house and go spend time in a park with everyone else, because the gyms and fitness centers are closed because they are non-essential businesses (more on that later!).
I’d rather see people working on their homes, improving the value of those houses, than stuck at home going crazy and getting depressed.
Oh, and that vegetable garden you were planning to plant this summer… if you didn’t buy your seeds to start your plants prior to yesterday — you are out of luck. The garden centers are now closed at the stores as well.
And don’t even get me started on how many greenhouses are tossing out millions of dollars of plants in the coming weeks. Think about all the Easter lillies that went to waste this year.
ESSENTIAL VS. NON-ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES
Once again I will ask the question…who gets to decide what is essential and what is not?
As many of you know, I am a licensed realtor here in the state of Michigan. The real estate business is considered “non-essential” at this time. Sure, we can still talk to clients over the phone. We can even still list their homes, however we can’t have professional pictures taken, no signs can be installed, and no showings are allowed. That really kind of limits just what can be done. If one wanted, they could still write an offer on a house they haven’t seen — but there will be a part of the Purchase Agreement that states the buyer can walk away from the deal once they finally do get to go and see the property. How many deals that are written now are going to fall through in the coming weeks? It seems like a lot of heartache for both buyers and sellers in the near future.
I have friends that own local businesses that are considered non-essential. Many of the businesses are just barely hanging on due to the large companies like Amazon. With all of our restrictions in the state of Michigan now, we are just forcing people to shop with the big mega-companies and killing the “Mom and Pop” stores we all shop at locally.
One friend owns and operates a store that sells pools and spas and the accessories necessary to maintain them. He noted that “most small specialty retailers never have more than one or two customers in the store at a time. It is far easier for us to be sure the store is properly sanitized”. He went on to say, “I cannot help my customers with their pools so their water is clear, safe and free of diseases… which can be very harmful as well.” What about someone who has a hot tub for therapeutic reasons…how to they maintain their spa? I guess the option is to either let the water get bad, or to order online from the big mega company.
Another friend owns a costume shop and tux rental business. She has lost a ton of business over the last month. No costume rentals for Easter pageants or even Easter Bunny costumes. As for the tux rental side of things…no one is renting tuxes with proms and weddings being cancelled. This is business she will never get back. Extending this order for two months out of the year is 1/6th of her yearly business.
No golfing. Another friend owns a golf course. According to the Governor, you can go spend time at the park with several other people, but you can’t be on a golf course. Sure, I can understand maybe not renting out golf carts, but I know many would walk the course if they could. This is a seasonal business that depends on as many nice days as possible during the season to stay profitable. Besides, they way I golf, I’m never close to anyone anyway!
I have a bike I’d like to be out riding for exercise, but it needs some repairs. That’s not going to happen, as bike shops are “non-essential”.
I have another friend that owns a greenhouse. They have invested to much time and money to grow plants that we can’t buy right now. Just how many millions of dollars of plants will go to waste nationwide this year? Before this new order only the big box stores could sell plants and garden supplies. Now NOBODY can.
How about the restaurants? I know of one restaurant up in the Rockford/Cedar Springs area that has thrown in the towel and won’t be re-opening. They just couldn’t make it with delivery only. Even some of the big national chain restaurants are closing their doors permanently. I get the not allowing people to eat in because of spacial issues, but this is killing the restaurant business.
As our “Stay at Home” order extends, the list of companies that won’t make it continues to grow. Every day becomes another nail in the coffin for many of these small businesses — some that have been around for decades — that just can’t make it through this.
RETURNING TO NORMAL
Think about this… what if someone would have told us around the first of the year that in a few months 233 people in Kent County would get sick with a virus and 9 people would die — and it would shut down the city and the county (and even the whole state). We would have never believed them. In 2017 the total population of Kent County was 648,594. So, those that have COVID-19 represent just .036% of the total population. That means over 648,000 people have not yet been diagnosed with the Coronavirus in Kent County.
As much as I hate to say it, we will never return to what we used to consider “normal”.
Instead many businesses that we patronized in the past will be closed — both big and small businesses.
Online shopping and home delivery will be the new normal as many stores just won’t be around locally anymore.
We will see a lot of empty store fronts. Many people will be unemployed and former business owners will be filing for bankruptcy. They will have lost everything. My heart breaks for those people that have put forth so much time and effort, only to lose it all.
So, to wrap this up…I don’t have a problem with extending the “Stay at Home” order. If you want to stay at home, and can work from home…please do.
For the others, if a business wants to open their doors…let them. Let the public decide if those businesses are essential or not. Trust me, if a company is open and gets no business — they will shut those doors again until this is over.
Let US decide what is essential and what is not.
Also, let US be personally responsible for our own health and safety. Let US social distance ourselves and wear any personal protection equipment we deem necessary for our own health.
Yes, we have to take this seriously. But we also have to realize how much this is hurting the economy and our future. Let US decide what is essential in our lives. Please don’t dictate that to us and take it upon yourself to be the person who tells me what is or is not essential.
With all that being said, just keep doing — or not doing — what you have been. We only have at least three more weeks of this.
Try to have a GOOD Friday. Remember the words of Rick Beckett: “Don’t Drink and Drive. Don’t Do It. Don’t be an Idiot!”
I will be on the air today from 3-7 pm — local and live — on 98.7 WFGR. Join me! (Plus next week we start giving away lots of MONEY! Tune in for details!)
If you have any comments on the above stories, please leave your remarks below…