Violating Michigan’s coronavirus stay-at-home order could cost you $1,000, health department rules

Michigan is serious about stopping the spread of the coronavirus: violating Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order could now result in a $1,000 fine.

Previously, violations of Whitmer’s executive order — which called on all Michigan residents to stay at home for three weeks, except to conduct “essential” business — was a misdemeanor punishable by $500 and up to 90 days in jail.

But on Thursday, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services director Robert Gordon issued an Emergency Order setting a civil penalty of up to $1,000 for violations of the order.

The penalty also applies to executive orders that prohibit large gatherings of people and “non-essential” businesses.

“A person can have coronavirus without knowing it,” Gordon said in a statement. “They can spread the disease to others who can spread it to others. The only way to stop the spread is social distancing. A civil penalty and potential licensing actions send a strong message to Michiganders that social distancing is essential to saving lives.”

Businesses that violate the order could face additional penalties from their relevant licensing agencies. Churches and places of worship are exempt from the ban on large gatherings, a move that has drawn criticism for being “not only dangerous but also unconstitutional.”

The executive order allows essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, carry-out restaurants, gas stations, utility companies, and medical centers to stay open. Residents are still permitted to go outside to exercise or walk their dogs.

The order was set to expire on April 13. But during a Thursday evening town hall, Whitmer said she would likely extend it. On Sunday, the federal government called for Americans to stay home through the end of April — and possibly until June.

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