What's Safe to Open? - Paycheck

What’s Safe to Open?

  • Which businesses will reopen first and which will remain closed?
  • What’s with the six phases across eight regions?!
  • See Gov. Whitmer’s full “Michigan Safe Start Plan

Now that states and countries are beginning to reopen from the COVID shutdown, many Paychecks are wondering when they’ll be able to get back to work – or if they’ll even have a job to go back to. So what’s likely to reopen first?

The Michigan Safe Start Plan

When it comes to reopening the country, each state is making its own decisions on when/how to open and which businesses should take priority. In Michigan, it’s called the “MI Safe Start Plan”. Gov. Whitmer’s plan says it will “outline how we will begin to re-engage while continuing to keep our communities safe.”

Shifting from “Stay at Home” to “MI Safe Start” is definitely just that — a start. But it’s being promoted as a way to help get us to the finish line.

The MI Safe Start Plan has six stages each of the state’s eight regions must go through, and most businesses won’t begin to reopen until Phase 3 or 4. The phases are below, straight from Gov. Whitmer’s plan:

  1. Uncontrolled growth: Increasing number of new cases every day, likely to overwhelm the health system. Only critical infrastructure remains open.
  2. Persistent spread: Continue to see high case levels with concern about health system capacity. Only critical infrastructure remains open, with lower-risk recreational activities allowed.
  3. Flattening: Epidemic is no longer increasing and health system capacity is sufficient for current needs. Specified lower-risk businesses can reopen given adherence to strict safety measures.
  4. Improving: Epidemic clearly decreasing and health system capacity is strong with robust testing and contact tracing. Additional businesses can reopen given adherence to strict  safety measures.
  5. Containing: Epidemic levels are extremely low and outbreaks can be quickly contained. Health system capacity is strong with robust testing and tracing. Most businesses can reopen given adherence to strict safety measures.
  6. Post-pandemic: Community spread is not expected to return (e.g., because of a vaccine) and the economy is fully reopened.

Image from Gov. Whitmer’s Safe Start Plan

Gov. Whitmer said last week that Michigan is in Phase 3: Flattening, which is why she extended her stay home order until May 28. This order, however, allowed autoworkers to get back to work on May 11.

So who gets to open first?

Michigan’s bounce back plan closely resembles the three-phase “Opening Up America Again” plan outlined by the federal government, where restaurants, schools, and daycares can slowly reopen at limited capacity as testing continues to increase across Michigan and cases, hospitalizations and deaths decline. This will bring Phase 4, which will allow additional “lower-risk businesses” with strict safety measures (such as retail), such as capacity limits.

Below is a chart of the full MI Safe Start Plan from the office of Governor Whitmer:

We know essential businesses like manufacturing are already reopening. Gov. Whitmer has previously said that as industries reopen, each will be required to create a response plan and implement new infection control measures. When it comes to the rest of businesses reopening, it helps to think of what we absolutely need (like food) and what we can sometimes live without (like trips to a bar).

Although no one is really sure what happens next, the good news is that more people are taking personal responsibility for not spreading the disease. Over half of Americans now say they wear a facemask in public, and most Americans are taking social distancing seriously. As long as we continue to follow social distancing guidelines, practice good hygiene and wear face masks in public places like grocery stores and restaurants, we can help those displaced Paychecks get back to work.


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