Read My Lips: Michigan’s Governor Issues a Warning

Auto plants across the U.S. are a beehive of activity as workers (and their bosses) seek to make up for lost time. The two-month coronavirus shutdown drained inventories, yet the virus that sparked the unprecedented closure of workplaces across the nation hasn’t gone away.

As you read yesterday, the ongoing pressures reportedly forced one Detroit-based automaker to take desperate measures just to keep the taps running. So Detroit Three automakers probably reacted with trepidation after hearing the U.S.’s most car-heavy state isn’t afraid to pump the brakes once again.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a warning yesterday, saying that lockdown measures could return if residents don’t abide by a mask-wearing mandate designed to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“If Michiganders don’t mask up when we go out in public, cases could rise and we could be forced to close down more of our businesses, including auto manufacturing plants that employ thousands,” Whitmer said at a Lansing press conference, per Bloomberg. “A second wave of this virus could be absolutely devastating.”

It’s a scenario that would hit Michigan-based automakers hard in the wallet. The country’s best-selling vehicle, the Ford F-150, is assembled in Dearborn, along with a slew of other high-margin moneymakers assembled throughout the southeastern expanse of the mitten. And Whitmer’s liable to do it if things get bad if past actions tell us anything.

Following the reopening of businesses and the resumption of auto production, COVID-19 cases predictable rose again, though the case count hasn’t matched the first wave of the virus that swept through Michigan in March. State-level data (graph 2) shows a post-opening bump beginning in late June. New cases on July 15th were the highest recorded since mid-May.

Because things can get tout of hand in a hurry, vigilance and, yes, compliance is necessary to maintain some kind of quasi-normal society and economy. Businesses need to generate revenue, otherwise we’re all pooched.

Where exactly the line that Michigan can’t cross sits, triggering new preventative measures, remains to be seen. Or not, if things go well.

a version of this article first appeared on TTAC

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