These Michigan COVID-19 Restrictions are Changing Tuesday

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The Detroit News
May 31, 2021
Oralandar Brand-Williams

Many Michigan restrictions on businesses and gatherings aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 will be lifted or relaxed starting Tuesday.

Capacity limits for outdoor events and venues, such as Detroit Tigers baseball games and concerts, will disappear under a new state Department of Health and Human Services order that was released last week. Restaurants, bars, and other indoor venues can increase capacity for customers to 50% from the current 25% limit, and common areas for pool tables and dancing can reopen.

In addition, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration is loosening restrictions on COVID-19 workplace rules, making it easier for businesses to resume in-person work. Under the changes, employers may allow fully vaccinated employees to go without face coverings and social distancing indoors as long as they have policies to ensure non-vaccinated people continue to follow the state’s requirements.

The changes by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration to the state’s COVID-19 policies come as coronavirus cases and deaths have plummeted for seven straight weeks in Michigan and as the number of vaccinated state residents gradually increases. Republican legislative leaders have been urging the Democratic governor for months to ease restrictions and use voluntary encouragement to pursue mask use and other safety measures.

“It feels like we’re moving out of this pandemic and returning to a sense of normalcy,” Andy Johnston, vice president of government affairs for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, said last week about the order changes.

The Tigers had been limited to 8,200 fans through this past weekend’s series with the New York Yankees. When the team returns from its current road trip for a home series starting June 8 against the Seattle Mariners, the ball club is allowed to sell all of the more than 40,000 seats in Comerica Park.

DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston is scheduled to start its outdoor concerts July 25 with the band Chicago. Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit is scheduled to host an indoor non-televised Superstars of World Wrestling Entertainment event on Aug. 1.

In addition, indoor establishments can increase capacity starting Tuesday to 50%, up from the prior 25% limit. The heightened capacity limits apply to venues that handle weddings, graduation parties, and funerals, as well as restaurants and bars.

Face masks will still be required indoors for non-vaccinated individuals. People are considered vaccinated if it has been two weeks since they received their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

In a deal reached May 13 between Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Whitmer, the Governor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration agreed to withdraw its proposal to make COVID-19 workplace policies permanent.

Individual employers have some freedom regarding implementation of the state’s new rules, but must comply with them, according to the Whitmer administration.

The state has been under a variety of emergency orders for businesses and gatherings since March 2020 when the first COVID-19 cases were detected in Michigan.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s emergency powers to order COVID-19 restrictions, including stay-at-home orders, were struck down by the state Supreme Court in October as unconstitutional, so her Department of Health and Human Services has been issuing epidemic orders that placed restrictions on gatherings and businesses.

 “For the most part, life will be back to normal,” Gov. Whitmer said at a May 20 news conference at Dow Diamond in Midland, referring to the moves she plans to make Tuesday and July 1.

The state expects to lift the broad mask and gathering orders on July 1, Gov. Whitmer said at the same press conference. But she warned that one or more of the measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 could remain in place for the state’s most vulnerable populations after July 1 and that businesses will have the authority to maintain capacity restrictions or mask requirements.

Last week, the state added 3,778 cases and 158 deaths — far lower than 8,248 new cases and 464 deaths it added in the first week of May. The weekly record of 50,892 cases was set Nov. 15-21, while the weekly record of 808 deaths was recorded in mid-December. The testing positivity rate in Michigan also fell for the seventh consecutive week and now stands at 6.6%.

At least 58.6% of the state’s residents 16 years and old have had one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, whether in or out of state. A little more than 46% are fully vaccinated.

The de-escalation in restrictions even tripped up Whitmer, who apologized May 23 after a photo showed the governor at East Lansing’s Landshark with 12 other people gathered around tables that were pushed together, a violation of a then-existing health department epidemic order. The rule also ends Tuesday.

“Yesterday, I went with friends to a local restaurant, Whitmer said. “As more people arrived, the tables were pushed together. Because we were all vaccinated, we didn’t stop to think about it.

Through Saturday, Michigan has 887,719 confirmed COVID-19 cases overall and 19,163 deaths. The state is still encouraging those 12 years and older to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Gov. Whitmer has said she hopes 70% of the state’s adult residents get one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before the July 4 holiday.

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Related:

State Updates Return-to-Work Safety Guidelines, MIOSHA Emergency Rules for the Workplace

WATCH: Q&A on Updated MIOSHA Workplace Rules


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