'Is this America anymore?': Peeved Michiganders are slamming their governor after a statewide travel crackdown means they cannot go to their cottage up north

rpremack@businessinsider.com (Rachel Premack)
Northern Michigan.

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  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a stay-at-home order on Thursday that means residents will not be able to travel between residences.

  • It's a shock to many Michiganders, where owning a cottage in Northern Michigan is typical even among middle-class residents.

  • Meanwhile, Michigan has had the third-highest rates of the coronavirus nationwide, following New York and New Jersey.

  • What do you think about Michigan's stay-at-home order? Email the reporter rpremack@businessinsider.com.

  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is leading one of the states hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, has extended the state's stay-at-home order until May 1. 

The order also included some measures not seen in other states, like how big-box stores can't sell "nonessential" items such as gardening supplies or paint. But the chunk of the stay-at-home order that really isn't sitting well with some Michiganders is that travel "between residences" will also be banned as of April 11.

As summertime nears in the typically freezing state in the Upper Midwest, residents who own cottages in Northern Michigan — called "Up North" by locals — typically take a weekend in spring to reopen their cottage. (Save for skiing enthusiasts, most cottage owners steer clear of Northern Michigan during the winter because it's exceptionally cold.)

Others might have been planning to head to their second homes as the coronavirus slams much of Lower Michigan, particularly the Metro Detroit area. 

Owning a cottage Up North, or at least visiting one, is a timeworn tradition for most Michiganders. And unlike, say, the swanky reputation places like The Hamptons might have, owning a second home Up North isn't exclusive to Michigan's wealthy. Many chunks of the scenic region have low property values, so even middle-class folks in the state, including automotive factory workers, can save up for a cottage.

Following the news of the travel crackdown from Whitmer, many Michiganders took to Twitter to express their displeasure and confusion around the law.

"I feel like I live in a communist country with her restrictions," one Twitter user said.

This isn't the first time Michiganders have rallied against a politician to defend their rights to Northern Michigan. In September, the state lit up after Vice President Mike Pence brought a motorcade to Mackinac Island, a traditionally car-free zone.

"(This is) a true gem that has been assaulted in plain sight," Bitsy Jennings Govern, who grew up in Michigan and is now a Skaneateles, New York, resident, told Business Insider last year

Since September, Michigan has been in the headlines again as the coronavirus slams the Mitten State harder than most others. Michigan has the No. 3 highest rate of confirmed cases for the coronavirus, following New York and New Jersey. The fight has been particularly challenging in Detroit, where high rates of poverty and preexisting conditions like diabetes have made the population especially vulnerable

On April 2, the head of Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services said violators of the stay-at-home order will be fined up to $1,000 or be given a 90-day stay in jail. The inter-residence travel ban was announced a week later.

Whitmer was elected to the governor's role in 2018 in one of the highest turnouts for a midterm election in Michigan, a typically left-leaning state. Some supporters of Whitmer defended her on Friday — like Mark, a Detroit resident who wanted to keep his last name private.

"It's a good thing that it is now explicitly forbidden for Michiganders to travel to vacation homes Up North," Mark told Business Insider on Friday. "Many small-town health systems are under-equipped to provide medical care for their full-time residents under normal circumstances, let alone during a pandemic."

Whitmer called the increased restrictions "common sense," according to local outlet WDIV.

"Every single exception you make to the 'Stay home, stay safe' order makes this more porous and makes it less likely to work," Whitmer said. "It means more people are going to get sick, more people are going to die, and our economy is going to suffer for longer."

What do you think about Michigan's stay-at-home order? Email the reporter rpremack@businessinsider.com.

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