Everything to know before COVID update: Michigan easing restrictions, Whitmer’s Florida trip

Governor’s office hints at easing COVID restrictions

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a May 12, 2021, COVID-19 briefing.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at a May 12, 2021, COVID-19 briefing. (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will hold a COVID briefing Thursday as restrictions are expected to be eased in Michigan and an investigation into the governor’s Florida trip continues.

Whitmer’s briefing is scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. Thursday (May 20). Here’s everything you should know beforehand:

COVID restrictions

Whitmer’s office revealed Wednesday that it intends to announce more steps toward normalcy in the coming days.

“With the CDC recommending that fully vaccinated people can safely return to normal life, we feel confident that our state can begin taking even greater steps to get back to normal now that a majority of Michiganders have received their vaccine,” her office said in a statement. “I would expect an announcement in the coming days or week.”

This statement came after the Center For Disease Control and Prevention updated guidelines for fully vaccinated people. The CDC’s new recommendations eased mask and social distancing rules for those residents.

Michigan is already set to allow everyone to return to in-person work Monday, May 24, because it reached the first MI Vacc To Normal milestone of 55% of people 16 and older getting at least one dose of the vaccine.

Most recent pandemic order update

During last week’s COVID briefing, Whitmer discussed MDHHS’s updated pandemic order, which eased restrictions on gatherings and masks.

“Going forward, fully vaccinated people do not need to mask up anymore when gathered indoors at a residence,” Whitmer said. “Outside the home, masks are only required at outdoor gatherings with more than 100 people.”

She said masks are still an important tool to protect everyone from COVID-19, especially indoors. If you aren’t fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends wearing a mask whenever you’re around people who don’t live in your households.

“Masks are still required in stores, for contact sports and indoors if you haven’t been vaccinated yet and are with people who aren’t a part of your household,” Whitmer said.

It’s possible these restrictions could be cut down even further in the coming days.

Whitmer’s Florida trip

The controversy surrounding Whitmer’s trip to Florida to visit her sick father continues to swirl.

LAST WEEKHere’s Whitmer’s full response to the controversy surrounding her Florida trip

On Tuesday morning, the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed that it is investigating the situation.

“We confirmed that Air Eagle does not have a Part 135 certificate,” an FAA spokesperson said. “It’s premature to conclude that a violation of federal aviation regulations occurred. The FAA is looking into the matter.”

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Monday (May 17) that Whitmer didn’t follow its guidelines when she traveled to see her father on March 12.

On Feb. 22, MDHHS had issued guidance telling Michiganders to get a PCR viral test 1-3 days before traveling and 3-5 days upon returning home. Residents were also told to self-quarantine for seven days after traveling.

Whitmer flew from Lansing to west Palm Beach in a private jet to spend the weekend with her father. She returned to Lansing on March 15.

Local 4 asked the governor’s office why Whitmer didn’t follow health department guidance, and the response was that it wasn’t an executive order and she followed all orders.

COVID metrics

Michigan has announced fewer than 2,000 new daily COVID cases for six straight days -- counting Monday’s two-day total of 2,230 as 1,115 per day.

The state revealed 1,560 new cases Wednesday afternoon, which was a slight bump from four straight days of fewer than 1,300 cases per day. But the overarching trend of cases has been positive, as the number of new cases on May 1 was 3,431.

That number has steadily dropped throughout the month.

As of the most recent update on May 11, Michigan’s case rate was at 253 cases per million people.

The percentage of COVID tests coming back positive was down to 9.8% at that point -- almost half of what it was at the April peak, officials said.

On May 11, 11.8% of hospital beds were being used for COVID-19 patients, and hospitalizations were continuing to decline.

Kroger mask rules

Kroger announced Wednesday that it no longer will require fully vaccinated customers and most employees to wear a face mask inside its Michigan stores starting Thursday (May 20).

That includes Kroger’s grocery stores, distribution centers, plants and offices.

“We have received feedback from and heard the valued opinions of thousands of associates regarding the CDC’s announcement,” Kroger officials said in a statement. “Based on the CDC’s science-based guidance and the input of our associates, we are updating our mask policy in a way that balances our values of safety and respect.

“Starting May 20, fully vaccinated customers and most fully vaccinated associates no longer need to wear a mask in our facilities, including stores, distribution centers, plants and offices, unless otherwise required by state or local jurisdiction. If there is a state or local mandate, we will adhere to that requirement and its timeline.”

Kroger is still requesting that non-vaccinated customers continue to wear masks. Non-vaccinated employees will be required to wear masks. Employees in the pharmacy and clinic locations will be required to continue wearing masks due to the CDC’s guidance for healthcare settings.

About the Author:

Derick is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.