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Michigan Gov. Whitmer outlines vaccine benchmarks to lift COVID-19 restrictions

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a reopening plan that ties lifting COVID-19 restrictions to Michigan’s vaccination rate.

The “MI Vacc to Normal” plan will use four vaccination-based milestones for Michiganders 16 years or older who have received a first COVID-19 vaccine to dictate reopening. The state aims to reach its goal of vaccinating 70% of Michiganders ages 16 years or older.

“The MI Vacc to Normal challenge outlines steps we can take to emerge from this pandemic as we hit our vaccination targets together,” Whitmer said in a statement. “On our path to vaccinating 70% of Michiganders 16 and up, we can take steps to gradually get back to normal while keeping people safe. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to rise to the challenge and be a part of the solution so we can continue our economic recovery and have the summer we all crave.”

55% of Michiganders (4,453,304 residents), plus two weeks

  • Allows in-person work for all business sectors

60% of Michiganders (4,858,150 residents), plus two weeks

  • Increases indoor capacity at sports stadiums to 25%.
  • Increases indoor capacity at conference centers/banquet halls/funeral homes to 25%.
  • Increases capacity at exercise facilities and gyms to 50%.
  • Lifts the 11 p.m. curfew on restaurants and bars.

65% of Michiganders (5,262,996 residents), plus two weeks

  • Lifts all indoor % capacity limits, requiring only social distancing between parties.
  • Further relaxes limits on residential social gatherings.

70% of Michiganders (5,667,842 residents), plus two weeks

  • Lifts the Gatherings and Face Masks Order such that MDHHS will no longer employ broad mitigation measures unless unanticipated circumstances arise, such as the spread of vaccine-resistant variants.

Whitmer estimated the state might complete the first benchmark within 7-10 days, plus two weeks.

After having the worst COVID-19 numbers in the nation, the statistics are now improving. The percent of positive tests has declined from 18.3% to 13.2%, and the number of hospitalizations has fallen from 3,780 to 3,520.

“The safe and effective vaccine is the most important tool we have to reduce the spread of COVID-19” Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said in a statement. “By getting shots in their arms as soon as possible, Michiganders can protect themselves, their families and their communities and help end this pandemic as quickly as possible.”

Bars and restaurants also welcomed the plan.

“Having a set plan to get establishments fully reopened is promising. Michigan’s bars and restaurants have long-awaited an indication of the end of the pandemic,” Michigan Licensed Beverage Association Executive Director Scott Ellis said in a statement. “The hospitality industry appreciates the public support we’ve received throughout the past year and we encourage those interested in getting vaccinated to do so as soon as possible to help our struggling businesses get back on their feet.”

But for Michiganders whose livelihoods depend on the wedding, funeral homes, and catering industry, lifted COVID-19 restrictions can’t come fast enough. They are all capped at an indoor capacity limit of 25, even though other indoor venues such as bowling alleys, movie theaters, and more can have up to 300 people inside.

One hundred and six days into 2021, Grand Rapids-based Above and Beyond Catering owner Kim Smith recorded her first sale this year.

Smith has been in business for 31 years, but during the 14 months under Whitmer’s restrictions, she lost 37 employees, and revenue is down 97% in 2021. Now, 11 employees must handle sales, bookkeeping, cooking, cleaning, operations, and logistics.

Smith said she’s lost millions of dollars.

Michigan Chamber President & CEO Rich Studley gave his preliminary reaction to the news, saying he’s “encouraged.”

“It’s time to move forward and end the office ban and reopen Michigan safely,” Studley said.

He said they will watch and see if state departments’ actions match the plan outlined today.

“If there’s a challenge here, it continues to be that other states are moving forward more quickly and seem to have more confidence in their residents, employees, and employers to make decisions about when to go to work and how to go to work,” Studley said.

This article was originally posted on Michigan Gov. Whitmer outlines vaccine benchmarks to lift COVID-19 restrictions

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