LANSING, Mich. (AP/WOOD) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted Michigan’s coronavirus stay-at-home order Monday, letting restaurants reopen to dine-in customers next week and immediately easing limits on gatherings while keeping social-distancing rules intact.
“We can’t let our guard down, but we are now in a position to move forward. And today, I signed an executive order to phase 4 of the (six-phase) MI Safe Start plan,” Whitmer said at an afternoon press briefing. “I have also rescinded the Safer at Home order, provided that Michiganders can continue to do their part — wearing masks, social distancing , washing our hands and keeping COVID-19 from spreading again.”
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The governor moved six remaining regions comprising 93% of the state’s population to phase 4 — “improving” — two weeks after she announced that two regions in northern Michigan could advance to that stage. Some businesses where close contact is necessary — gyms, hair salons, indoor theaters and casinos — will remain closed.
Retailers can reopen to customers without an appointment on Thursday and restaurants can offer dine-in service on June 8 — both with capacity limits. Day camps for children and pools can open June 8. Groups of up to 100 can gather outside with social distancing, up from a threshold of 10.
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In-home services such as housecleaning can resume. Gyms and fitness centers can offer outdoor activities such as classes, practices, training sessions and games as long as participants, coaches and spectators stay 6 feet apart.
Whitmer said it’s time to “flip our mindset” about restrictions — rather than listing a small number of permitted activities, the state is now listing a restrictions.
“Before, we have said the vast majority need to say home except for a handful of exceptions … At this point, we’re saying you can return to some more normal life unless you are in this particular part of the economy,” she described the paradigm shift.
Whitmer indicated she would like to sign orders further reengaging the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula (regions 6 and 8) later this week, though she noted that would depend on the data.
“Local leaders always retain the ability to keep restrictions in place if they think they need them,” Whitmer noted.
She said her goal is to shift the entire state to phase 5 — “containing” — before July 4.
“My hope is that we are fully reengaged by the middle of the month to the end of the month,” Whitmer said at the press conference, though she qualified, “We’re going to follow the numbers. And if we see things start to spike, we’re going to slow down. We may even have to take a step backward, and I know none of us wants that so that’s why everyone’s got to keep doing their part.”
TOP DOC: ‘ENCOURAGING TRENDS’ IN CASES
Data released Monday afternoon shows Michigan has recorded 25 more deaths linked to the virus for a total of 5,516. An additional 135 cases of the virus were confirmed Sunday for a total of 57,532.
In Wayne County, where the outbreak has been the worst, there have been 20,446 cases of the virus (31 more than the day prior) and 2,463 deaths (two more). Oakland County has had 8,407 cases and 992 deaths. Macomb County has had 6,707 cases and 814 deaths.
In Genesee County, where Flint is, there have been 2,015 cases and 252 deaths.
Kent County recorded four more deaths, bringing the total to 89. It has had 3,748 cases.
Berrien County recorded three more deaths for a total of 52. It has had 629 cases.
Kalamazoo County saw two more deaths for a total of 57. It has had 844 cases.
Within the Michigan Department of Corrections, the number of cases and deaths stand at 3,933 and 69, respectively.
“We’ve seen … encouraging trends, with rates of cases declining across the entire state,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s medical executive, said. “While there is still variability across regions of the state, overall, we are seeing about 12 new cases per million people per day.”
The state is still encouraging people to get tested for the virus so it can track the spread and contain outbreaks. People are also urged to track their wellness using the MI Symptoms webpage, which will help identify outbreaks.
On Saturday, the most recent day for which state data is available, labs in Michigan tested 13,304 samples for the virus and 3.7% came back positive. In the region of the state that includes Grand Rapids, 2,052 samples were tested and 4.4% were positive. In the region that includes Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, 1,059 samples were tested and 4.3% were positive.
“Across the state, about 12% of people tested have tested positive for the disease, but in the past two weeks, that number has been much lower at about 5%,” Khaldun said. “And because of these trends, we’re able to move regions of the state forward with next steps in the MI Safe Start plan. And if we all continue to do our part, we will be able to prevent people from getting sick and dying and we will be able to maintain the capacity that our health care systems have.”
While the stay-at-home order has been lifted, Khaldun stressed that the threat of the disease is not gone. She urged people to keep practicing social distancing, wearing masks and washing their hands. She also said those at highest risk for developing serious cases of the disease — primarily older people and those with preexisting conditions — should still consider staying at home unless they must leave.