Put a mask on it
OK folks, we’ve had it. Put on a damn mask or stay out of retail stores. It’s simple. Assume you are an asymptomatic carrier of coronavirus. Every time you breathe, you are exhaling virus particles. The rest of us aren’t interested in breathing the virus particles you are expelling. We’re not asking you to wear a mask to protect yourself; we’re asking you to do your part to protect everyone else. Don’t be part of the problem. Put a mask on it. Although the lack of compliance is driven in large measure by the obstinance of those who think they are making a bold political statement by refusing to wear a mask, Governor Whitmer’s decision to exempt mandatory face covering from the misdemeanor penalties for violating her stay-home executive orders certainly hasn’t helped. Mixed messages from her office when the mask directive was launched led many to believe that wearing a mask is recommended but not required. We urge her to toughen up the order and make failure to wear a mask in enclosed public spaces a misdemeanor.
Safer shopping done right
We’re happy to tout Van Atta’s Greenhouse and Flower Shop for reopening the right way: The Haslett business requires 100% mask compliance or you are cordially invited to shop elsewhere. With effective social distancing protocols and thoughtfully designed, protective work spaces for their employees, it is about as safe a shopping experience as one could ask for under our present circumstances. Kudos to Van Atta’s for setting the gold standard for all retail businesses operating during the pandemic.
Reopening Up North
We previously opined that Governor Whitmer should avoid reopening different parts of the state at different times. Given that the coronavirus has had considerably less impact on rural areas of northern Michigan, we cautiously support her plan to allow restaurants, bars and retail stores to partially reopen later this week in the Upper Peninsula and Traverse City areas, with the caveat that a new spike in coronavirus infections in these areas should bring a swift reinstatement of restrictions.
COVID is driving one of the most rapid technology revolutions in modern history, the near-instantaneous transition of millions of employees from working at the office to working from home via ZOOM and other virtual platforms. The change could come with a sharp edge as corporations find out they can save an enormous amount of money on rent, utilities and related office overhead by operating their businesses from the homes of their employees. We predict a backlash, though, as people yearn for human interaction and as the well-known downsides of remote work manifest themselves on a broad scale. It’s much harder to create and sustain an effective, productive team in a virtual environment, and too many employees fail to set boundaries between their personal life and work life, giving new meaning to the term workaholic. For these reasons, we urge business owners to move forward cautiously in making work-from-home a permanent feature of their enterprises.
It’s not surprising that some businesses are asking Congress for a legislative shield against potential legal liabilities they could face due to the COVID crisis. We oppose any measure that would broadly release employers from COVID-related liability because it preemptively eviscerates the right of injured employees to bring claims against their employer for failing to maintain a safe workplace. Businesses that take reasonable precautions to keep their employees safe should not be subject to civil liability if someone gets sick. Yet letting all companies off the hook with a blanket waiver relieves the bad actors from being held accountable for their negligence. Under federal law, employers have a fundamental legal duty to provide a safe workplace for their employees. When they fail to do so, and the result is a wave of COVID-19 infections that could have been prevented, the doors should not be closed to employees pursuing legal claims. Adjudication of such claims should be guided by a close review of the actions taken by the employer to create and maintain a safe work environment.
Make Way for street cafés
Cities are inventing new ways to allow restaurants to operate safely by creating outdoor dining spaces on closed city streets. East Lansing leaders are moving forward in a serious way to adopt this strategy in their downtown. We urge Lansing officials to follow suit by closing portions of Washington Square, Turner Street in Old Town and South Washington in REO Town. Although we’re sure the move will draw complaints from those who can’t be bothered to walk a block or two to reach their final destination, we’re more interested in supporting the safe reopening of downtown restaurants. Bring on the street cafés.
Three cheers for LCC President Brent Knight, who on the eve of his retirement as one of the more memorable and impactful presidents in the college’s history, decided to shelve a controversial plan to build a massive new parking ramp next to the former Oliver Towers building on Capitol Avenue. The COVID pandemic certainly hastened the demise of the ramp since LCC officials have no idea how many students will be showing up on campus this fall, presumably reducing the need for a massive expansion of parking facilities. Organized opposition from neighborhood leaders and a new agreement with the City of Lansing that provides additional parking options for the college sealed the deal and put the ramp project on ice. The decision also respects the intent of the city’s master plan, which designates the targeted property as a “step down” zone that provides a transition from neighborhood scale structures to the dense development and steep verticals in the downtown core.