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Michigan governor says protests can lead to extension of stay-at-home orders

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Posted at 11:24 AM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 13:27:31-04

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday evening that the "irresponsible actions" of protesters in her state this week could lead to an extension of stay-at-home orders. Demonstrators descended on the state Capitol in Lansing Wednesday after Whitmer extended Michigan's stay-at-home order through April 30.

"It's that kind of irresponsible action that puts us in this situation where we might have to actually think about extending stay-at-home orders, which is supposedly what they protesting," Whitmer, a Democrat, said in an interview with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.

"When you see a political rally – that's what it was yesterday, a political rally – where people aren't wearing masks and they're in close quarters and they're touching one another, you know that that's precisely what makes this kind of disease drag out and expose more people," Whitmer said.

As of Thursday evening, Michigan had confirmed 29,263 cases of COVID-19 and 2,093 deaths due to the coronavirus.

The protest this week took place after a Facebook event titled "Operation Gridlock" called for people to drive around the Capitol building. "Come prepared for a traffic jam in Lansing! We WANT gridlock. Do not park and walk - stay in your vehicles!" said the Facebook event page, created by the Michigan Conservative Coalition and Freedom Fund.

Pictures showed protesters swarming the steps of the Capitol, calling the stay-at-home order in Michigan an infringement on their rights. Some carried signs and banners supporting President Trump.

In an interview with "Good Morning America" on Friday, Whitmer said she was alright with being the target of protesters' ire. She also said she understood that some county sheriffs are being more lenient in enforcing the stay-at-home order.

"Four sheriffs out of 83 sheriffs making a point, that's fine. You know what, I can take it. If it makes people feel better to take their frustration out on me, that's fine. All I ask is let's not get overly political here," Whitmer said.

Whitmer defended her decision to extend social distancing guidelines.

"The fact of the matter is: it's better to be six feet apart right now than six feet under and that is the whole point of this," Whitmer said. "We've got to save lives. Every life matters."

On Thursday, Whitmer announced that she and several other governors of Midwestern states would join together to coordinate reopening their state economies. Mr. Trump also announced guidelines on Thursday for states to ease coronavirus restrictions.