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Gov. Whitmer hints at possible return to workplaces by summer

Posted at 6:15 AM, Apr 07, 2021

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is hinting at a possible timeline for Michigan businesses to return to some sort of normalcy.

Speaking on CNN Tuesday night, the governor said continued progress on the COVID-19 vaccine front will be key to our state lifting its restrictions.

Thousands of offices have been collecting dust for more than a year as non-essential workers are still working from home if they're able to.

Tuesday was the first time we've heard the governor speak about a general timeline for when those people may return to the job, but it comes as Michigan stands out for its surge in cases.

“Travel, variants, few people with antibodies because we were so successful in the early days on top of the natural fatigue that comes with a year into this is making our jobs a lot tougher," Whitmer said.

Even as Michigan leads the nation in new COVID-19 cases, Whitmer said she doesn't plan to tighten restrictions.

“We still have a mask mandate, we still have restrictions on gatherings. We have not dropped our guard the way that many other states have," she added.

For the first time, we're hearing about a possible road to lifting restrictions in the workplace, with around 22% of the state's population 16 and older fully vaccinated.

In-person office work isn't prohibited, but right now, those who can work from home are advised to. The governor's goal is to reach 70% vaccinated before the remaining restrictions are lifted.

“And if we’re successful and people come in and do their part, we could very well be in that position this summer," Whitmer said.

Emergency rules for COVID-19 put in place by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) are set to expire in seven days, but the agency could extend those.

Last month, the state formed a "Return to Office Workgroup" comprised of union leaders, healthcare experts, lawmakers and workplace safety specialists to guide the health department and MIOSHA on its rules for a phased re-opening of in-person office work. The group meets weekly.

“I think it’s very possible there is a path out of a lot of the orders we’d had to issue to keep people safe, but it all depends on getting to that 70 percent number," Whitmer said.