Stay-at-home orders across the Midwest are being changed, extended or are ending in coming days as governors and their staffs try to balance safety and economic activity. Most Midwest states had already exempted construction as essential infrastructure during the COVID-19 pandemic. One noted exception is Michigan, where Gov. Gretchen Whitmer [D] is now signaling full construction may reopen there sooner than other activities.
ENR's Midwest coverage area includes the states of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin. State-by-state updates follow.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds [R] never issued a statewide stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order and construction there has continued throughout March and April. Limits on non-essential surgeries, farmers' markets and other non-essential business were lifted April 27.
On April 23, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker [D] modified and extended the Illinois stay-at-home order through May 30. Among the modifications was a requirement for individuals to wear face coverings over their noses and mouths when outdoors. The Illinois order already exempted construction as essential infrastructure and work has continued on most sites throughout the months of March and April. Pritzker's modified order lifted restrictions on state parks where off-season work was stopped when they were closed by the original order. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot [D] said Chicago's stay-at-home order would likely continue "well into May" regarding parks and work going on in them.
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb [R] said April 24 that he is still focused on reopening Indiana’s economy in early May if the state’s data supports doing so. Indiana's stay-at-home order is scheduled to expire April 30. Construction was exempted as essential infrastructure throughout Indiana's order.
Gov. Laura Kelly [D] said in most instances she would not extend statewide restrictions past May 3, when the state's original stay-at-home order is scheduled to expire. Kelly made the statements in court proceedings in a lawsuit over the state's stay-at-home order brought by two churches, which were barred from having residents attend church services under Kelly's order. According to court documents, Kelly said she would issue a new executive order that begins on May 4 with "less restrictions" on public gatherings. Construction was exempted throughout Kansas under the original order.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear [D] extended the state's stay-at-home order indefinitely on March 25. The state order exempts housing, buildings and construction as "life-sustaining businesses" and Beshear has made no announcement of when the indefinite order may be lifted.
On April 24, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer [D] extended Michigan's stay-at-home order through May 15. Michigan's initial order did not exempt construction as essential infrastructure but, rather, required public works projects to be approved to continue on a case-by-case basis by the governor's office. Major road projects such as the Interstate 75 reconstruction and the Gordie Howe Bridge have continued throughout March and April. In a press conference April 27 laying out a detailed reopening plan that includes opening different regions of the state at different times, Whitmer said that "some" construction and "outdoor enterprises" would be the next two activities allowed to reopen under her order.
However, on April 29, Whitmer's spokeswoman, Tiffany Brown, told the Detroit Free Press that, "It shouldn't come as a surprise that the governor would open a lower-risk field, like she has said at previous press conferences," and that residential and commercial construction in the state would reopen on May 7.
“I would anticipate in the coming days if our trajectory of hospitalizations continues to go down and our ability to test continues to go up that we will go into the next low-risk category,” she said at the April 27 news conference from Lansing. “That might include some construction, for instance. That might include some additional outdoor enterprises.”
Kevin Koehler, president of the Construction Association of Michigan, a trade group that represents 2,500 commercial and industrial construction contractors, told the Detroit Free Press his organization is urging the Whitmer administration and legislative leaders to deem all construction work as essential. Whitmer is also facing votes to restrict her ability to extend her order from the Republican-controlled Michigan House of Representatives in the coming days. Two bills were passed by the Republican-controlled Michigan Senate April 24 that would limit declarations of disaster or emergency to 14 days before the state legislature would be required to approve the measure. The current laws allow up to 28 days before legislative action is required. Whitmer has been acting under Michigan's Emergency Powers of the Governor Act passed in 1945 and Emergency Management Act of 1976. Whitmer has said she will veto the bills if they reach her desk.
A decision on whether to extend Minnesota's stay-at-home order, which is set to expire May 4, will likely be made by Gov. Tim Walz [D] in the coming days. Minnesota has broadly exempted construction under critical infrastructure and outdoor activities clauses in his order throughout March and April.
On April 25, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson [R] said he would not extend the state's stay-at-home order past May 1, but that he would extend an emergency declaration that will allow the state to apply for federal funds for projects related to fighting COVID-19. Construction was exempted as essential infrastructure throughout March and April.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts [R] never issued a statewide stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order during March and April and construction there continues. Ricketts, instead, issued a 21-day stay-at-home advisory that will expire May 1.
On April 27, Gov. Mike DeWine [R] announced details of Ohio's reopening plan which begins after the state's stay-at-home order expires May 1. DeWine's order exempted construction from closure as essential infrastructure throughout March and April, but, under the reopening plan, general offices, distribution centers, manufacturers and construction companies' offices can open on May 4. Social distancing is still recommended for all workers physically going to job sites and offices. Manufacturers of products in the in the construction supply chain such as steel and concrete are among those given the green light to reopen May 4.
On April 24, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers [D] extended his state's stay-at-home order through May 26. Construction was broadly exempted from the stay-at-home order as essential infrastructure throughout March and April.
Note: This story was updated at 4PM CDT on April 29 to reflect the construction announcement by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's office in Lansing, Mich.