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Gov. Whitmer announces new plan to remove COVID-19 restrictions

Some restrictions will end on June 1 and nearly all remaining measures are scheduled to end July 1
Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 11:57 AM EDT
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MIDLAND, Mich. (WJRT) - The future of Michigan’s COVID-19 restrictions no longer are tied to vaccination rates.

Instead, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a change to her MI Vacc to Normal plan Thursday that removes remaining restrictions on June 1 and July 1. She spoke during a press conference from Dow Diamond in Midland.

On June 1, Whitmer said the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will lift all restrictions on outdoor gatherings regardless of vaccination rates. That includes restrictions at outdoor stadiums, entertainment venues and events.

Indoor gathering capacity will increase to 50%, which includes restaurants, funeral homes and entertainment venues. Whitmer said weddings, funerals and graduation parties in June can happen indoors at half of the capacity for their venue.

The 11 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants to close also ends on June 1.

Face masks already are not required for anyone at outdoor events with fewer than 100 people and people fully vaccinated for COVID-19 do not need a mask in most indoor settings. But people who are not fully vaccinated for COVID-19 will need to wear a mask indoors through the month of June.

On July 1, Whitmer said the state health department plans to remove all broad COVID-19 restrictions in Michigan. That includes all indoor gathering limits and most requirements for wearing face coverings.

A limited health order to protect vulnerable populations from COVID-19 may remain in place after July 1. Whitmer said measures also may be taken if a COVID-19 variant begins spreading rapidly, but she doesn’t anticipate that happening.

“For the most part, life will be back to normal and we can have the kind of Independence Day that we are used to,” she said.

However, Whitmer said employers or businesses can still choose to require employees or customers wear a mask regardless of state health orders.

“After a year with living with COVID and masks and distancing and hand-washing, I know how jarring any change to our daily lives feel,” she said. “In this time of transition, I’m asking people extent to one another a little bit of grace.”

The previous MI Vacc to Normal plan relied on COVID-19 vaccination rates to remove restrictions. Michigan met the first on May 10, when 55% of all adults received at least one dose of vaccine. As a result, requirements for some employees to work remotely will end on May 24.

The new plan announced Thursday does not include any benchmarks related to COVID-19 vaccination rates. Whitmer said restrictions will end on June 1 and July 1 regardless of how many people receive the vaccine.

Michigan’s COVID-19 changes mostly follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which still recommends people fully vaccinated for the illness wear a mask in crowded indoor spaces like public transportation and jails.

Republican House Speaker Jason Wentworth was pleased with Whitmer’s change in the MI Vacc to Normal plan.

“I am glad there is finally a clear and growing consensus that Michigan can manage this pandemic and improve metrics across the board without taking away people’s paychecks, without holding children back for another year, and without cutting off critical state services,” he said in a statement released after Thursday’s announcement.

Wentworth said Michigan is making progress on repairing the economy after over a year of COVID-19 and related restrictions.

“Let’s keep it going and roll back all remaining limitations on Michigan families,” he said.

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