LANSING, Mich. — Governor Gretchen Whitmer is touting her “Vacc to Normal” plan and challenging more Michiganders to get vaccinated with the promise to fully reopen the state in the coming months.
The plan ties state vaccination rates to the easing of COVID-related restrictions, with a planned full reopening two weeks after 70% of adults are vaccinated.
Two weeks after 55% of Michiganders have received at least their first dose, in-person work will again be allowed for all sectors of business.
Then, two weeks after 60% of Michiganders have gotten at least their first dose, the state will:
- increase indoor capacity at sports stadiums to 25%- increase indoor capacity at conference centers, banquet halls and funeral homes to 25%- increase capacity at exercise facilities and gyms to 50%- lift the curfew on restaurants and bars
At 65% of Michiganders, plus two weeks, the state will:
- lift all indoor capacity limits, requiring only social distancing between parties- further relax limits on residential social gatherings
At 70% of Michiganders, plus two weeks, the state will:
- lift the Gatherings and Face Masks Order such that MDHHS will no longer use broad mitigation measures unless unexpected circumstances arise, such as the spread of vaccine-resistant variants.
The Protect Michigan Commission says the first benchmark, 55% of people vaccinated, could be reached by the end of this week or next and we could see the final 70% threshold, which by the beginning of July.
"I think we could be there as soon as July 4th, but then again it could take longer, its dependent on all of us, to help get our friends and family vaccinated," says Protect Michigan Commission Director Kerry Ebersole Singh
The Governor's plan was applauded by the Small Business Association of Michigan and other groups that represent restaurants, hotels and bars.
Justin Winslow, CEO and President of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, said, in part, in response to the Governor’s Thursday announcement, "We applaud the governor for implementing what the MRLA has been requesting for months — a metric driven plan that offers incentives rather than mandates to drive better outcomes and more opportunity for the imperiled hospitality industry.”
Republicans in the state meanwhile are concerned that the plan is solely based on vaccination rates, which are starting to level off.
“I think that we need a little more of a discussion on this metric of vaccines alone. I believe there’s a little more breadth that needs to be taken into consideration there,” Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said.
Nationally speaking, the Governor’s plan is unique.
The Demoratic Governors in California and New York, two states among the top five for most confirmed COVID-19 cases, have set more definitive and sooner dates for full economic reopening.
California is on track to reopen June 15, about a month before Michigan would likely reach 70% of adults fully vaccinated.
New York lands even sooner, their goal is a May 19 opening, but with masking and social distancing requirements still in place. New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio says he wants the city fully open by July 1.
Both plans are more conservative, in contrast to Republican Governors in the south.
Texas reopened fully in mid-March doing away with mask mandates. Florida did the same this week.
"My message is the vaccine protects you,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis. “Get vaccinated and then live your life as if you're protected. You don't have to chafe under restrictions infinitum."
Around Michigan, Indiana lifted state restrictions last month, leaving it up to local governments and businesses to decide how they want to handle things.
In Ohio, Republican Governor Mike Dewine says, they could soon be following a similar plan to Michigan but one that also considers the average number of cases they are seeing.
On Tuesday, Pennsylvania announced they would lift all statewide restrictions by Memorial Day.
Just over 50% of adults in Michigan have received at least one dose of the vaccine.