Construction, Real Estate Activity Next Up for Reopening

She said it first on Wednesday, and on Friday Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made it official, signing an executive order that not only reopens the construction industry, but it adds real estate activity and work that is traditionally and primarily done outside.

Those industries are reopened effective Thursday.

“It will not be business as usual in Michigan for some time, but we are starting to turn that dial,” Whitmer said. “It’s going to be a step at a time.”

Friday’s action did not alter the governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe order, which remains in effect until May 15. Under this order, Michiganders still must not leave their homes except to run critical errands, to engage in safe outdoor activities, or to go to specified jobs. The new order also requires businesses to adopt measures to protect their workers against the spread of COVID-19. 

Pat Devlin, secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, said the council is “grateful for the governor’s commitment” to protecting working people and their families.

“Our dedicated building tradesmen and women are ready to get back to work, and we’re glad the governor has taken steps today to help ensure their safety,” Devlin said. “We are excited to continue working with (Whitmer) as she continues to take action on behalf of working families.”

Under the order, construction sites must adopt a set of best practices to protect their workers from infection. Those practices include:

  • Designating a site supervisor to enforce COVID-19 control strategies. 
  • Conducting daily health screenings for workers.
  • Creating dedicated entry points, if possible, or issuing stickers or other indicators to assure that all workers are screened every day.
  • Identifying choke points and high-risk areas (like hallways, hoists and elevators, break areas, water stations, and buses) and controlling them to enable social distancing. 
  • Ensuring sufficient hand-washing or hand-sanitizing stations at the worksite.

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“With an eye toward Michigan’s economic recovery, leadership representing the full spectrum of the construction industry has been working diligently and cooperatively to outline processes and practices that will allow us to safely get back to work,” said Ryan Maibach, President & CEO of Barton Malow and a member of the Michigan Economic Recovery Council. “The construction industry is entrenched in a culture of safety, and as we return to work, we are developing and implementing new best practices that further emphasize the well-being of our workers and Michigan’s citizens.” 

The moves are being made as Michiganders continue to be affected by the spread of COVID-19. While the rate of increase is slowing, the state is still experiencing growth in cases. Michigan reported 42,356 cases on Friday, up 977 from Thursday, and 3,866 cases, an increase of 77 from Thursday.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, noted that while the “vast majority” of cases are still in southeast Michigan, the rate of rise in western counties is significantly higher. For instance, cases are up 48% in Kent County, 41% in Muskegon and 23% in Ottawa County.

Still, the overall flattening of the curve has state officials “cautiously optimistic.”

“We continue to see a flattening in cases overall,” she said. “That’s why we are … able to take these incremental steps forward with reopening the economy and allowing some activities that are lower risk to public health.”

Whitmer said Friday’s executive order also includes the restart of manufacturing for the express purpose of producing items that help businesses that are modifying their workplaces to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As examples, she cited the manufacture of new partitions, cubicles and furniture “that will help keep people distant” when they return to their workplaces.

Whitmer said the easing of some of the restrictions are possible because the “vast majority of Michiganders” are “doing their part” to protect themselves and their families.

“That’s good, but we must keep it up,” Whitmer said. “I want to be clear: we must all continue to stay home and stay safe as much as possible. If we all keep doing our part, we can reduce the risk of a second wave and re-engage our economy safely and responsibly.”