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People stand near the Michigan State Capitol to view a protest in Lansing, Mich., on April 15, 2020, over a stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in response to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP) People stand near the Michigan State Capitol to view a protest in Lansing, Mich., on April 15, 2020, over a stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in response to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP)

People stand near the Michigan State Capitol to view a protest in Lansing, Mich., on April 15, 2020, over a stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in response to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher April 15, 2020

Michigan's COVID-19 order doesn’t ban gardening or sale of seeds and fruit

If Your Time is short

  • An executive order by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer does not prohibit gardening or the sale of any particular product.

  • Stores in Michigan larger than 50,000 square feet must close areas that sell carpet or flooring, furniture and paint, as well as garden centers and plant nurseries.

In a regular feature called "How the Left Destroys the Nation," a website founded by the leader of a far-right group posted this headline about one state’s coronavirus response: 

"Michigan Governor Bans Gardening, Sale Of Fruit and Vegetable Seeds, Gardening Supplies Prohibited."

The attack on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who has been touted as a potential running mate for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

That’s because it’s wrong. Whitmer has issued orders directing people to stay home and limiting some commercial activity, but this claim goes too far. 

The headline appears on the Geller Report, a website by Pamela Geller. She is an activist who co-founded Stop Islamization of America, also known as the American Freedom Defense Initiative.

Below the headline is an article that originally appeared in The Daily Caller, a conservative-leaning publication, that reports on an executive order issued by Whitmer in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The article does not say that the order bans gardening, but that it does restrict the sale of gardening supplies.

In reality, executive order 2020-42, which went into effect April 9, 2020, requires larger stores to block off certain areas of their sales floors as a way of limiting the number of people in those stores. The order does not ban gardening or the sale of any product, including, as we mentioned in a previous fact-check, American flags.

The numbers of coronavirus cases in Michigan have surged in recent weeks. As of April 14, the Wolverine State ranked fourth — behind New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts, according to the New York Times. 

Nearly half of Michigan’s cases are in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, according to Johns Hopkins University. Both the state and the county have a COVID-19 fatality rate of 6%.

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It’s in that climate that Whitmer issued this order, subtitled the "Temporary requirement to suspend activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life," which extended and added to a stay-at-home order issued March 23.

Tiffany Brown, a spokeswoman for the governor, told PolitiFact that Whitmer’s order does not ban Michiganders from buying any item.

The order says that stores larger than 50,000 square feet must close areas — "by cordoning them off, placing signs in aisles, posting prominent signs, removing goods from shelves, or other appropriate means — that are dedicated to the following classes of goods: Carpet or flooring, furniture, garden centers and plant nurseries, and paint."

Referring to that restriction at a news conference announcing the order, Whitmer said: "If you’re not buying food or medicine or other essential items, you should not be going to the store."

As to gardening, a frequently asked questions document released by the governor’s office states: "The order does not prohibit homeowners from tending to their own yards as they see fit."

Grocery stores, of course, remain open. And neither the order nor the FAQs mention any restriction on the sale of fruit or seeds.

Our ruling

A headline shared on social media inaccurately describes an order that Whitmer issued in response to the coronavirus. 

The order does not prohibit gardening or the sale of any particular product in Michigan. Stores in Michigan larger than 50,000 square feet must close areas for garden centers and plant nurseries, as well as those that sell carpet or flooring, furniture and paint.

We rate the statement False.

Our Sources

Geller Report, Michigan Governor Bans Gardening, Sale Of Fruit and Vegetable Seeds, Gardening Supplies Prohibited, April 12, 2020

The Daily Caller, Michigan Governor Deems Gardening Supplies — Including Fruit And Vegetable Seeds — ‘Non-Essential,’ April 11, 2020

Email, Tiffany Brown, spokeswoman for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, April 13, 2020

Mlive.com, Michigan’s updated coronavirus stay-at-home order will close garden centers and other parts of grocery stores, April 9, 2020

Rev.com, transcript of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer news conference, April 9, 2020

Office of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, "Executive Order 2020-42 (COVID-19)," April 9. 2020

Michigan.gov, "Executive Order 2020-42 FAQs," accessed April 14, 2020

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More by Tom Kertscher

Michigan's COVID-19 order doesn’t ban gardening or sale of seeds and fruit

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