LANSING, Mich. – The entire state of Michigan is still under restrictions as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tries to stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), but many businesses have already started reopening, and the governor hinted more news could be coming early this week.
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Explaining current situation
On Sunday, the state announced 513 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, as well as an additional 28 deaths. Michigan has had a total of 57,397 cases and 5,491 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
As the daily rate of new cases and deaths continues to decline and overall testing ramps up around the state, Whitmer has started reopening certain sectors of the economy.
Her decisions are based on the six-phase model she released last month, called the “MI Safe Start Plan." In short, the model outlines how the state goes from a total lockdown due to the uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 to returning to normal.
The six phases are uncontrolled growth, persistent spread, flattening, improving, containing and post-pandemic.
Right now, only two of the state’s eight regions are in the “Improving” phase of Whitmer’s reopening plan -- the Upper Peninsula and the Traverse City Region.
Whitmer and Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun, the Chief Medical Executive for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said those two regions checked enough of the boxes required to move onto the fourth stage.
“Both of those regions ... have sustained a low increase of cases per day," Khaldun said. "I’ve seen a steady decrease in positivity rates for tests that have been completed, and they have a low average number of deaths each day, when you compare them to the state average.”
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Bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen at 50% capacity starting May 22. Groups are required to stay six feet away from each other and servers must wear masks.
Retail businesses were also allowed to partially reopen in those regions.
Other than the two regions mentioned above, the rest of Michigan -- the Detroit, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Saginaw, Lansing and Jackson regions -- have remained in the “Flattening” phase of Whitmer’s plan.
There’s been some confusion over the hesitance to reopen more of the economy in the rest of the state, so officials released an online tool to try to explain their decision-making. It breaks down how close regions are to meeting the requirements for the next phase of the plan.
Most of Michigan appears close to qualifying for the “Improving” phase, and both Khaldun and Whitmer confirmed that Friday afternoon.
“As we continue to aggressively increase testing and the downward trend in cases continues across the state, in the upcoming days, we will be able to move forward different regions of the state in the MI Safe Start Plan," Khaldun said.
“If we continue on the trajectory we’re on, we’ll be moving more regions of the state forward in the coming days," Whitmer said.
Trend of slowly opening Metro Detroit
Metro Detroit -- part of the Detroit Region, which includes Genesee, Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne counties -- has been in the “Flattening” phase since the MI Safe Start Plan was announced in early May. But restrictions have slowly loosened along the way.
Whitmer first loosened restrictions April 24, when she extended her stay-at-home order through May 15. She allowed some businesses linked to outdoor activities, such as golf and motorized boating, to reopen.
Landscapers, lawn-service companies, plant nurseries and bike repair shops were allowed to resume operating, subject to social-distancing rules.
On May 1, after again extending her stay-at-home order, this time until May 28, Whitmer reopened certain types of work that are typically outdoors, including construction work and real estate.
Michigan’s economy got a much-needed boost when Whitmer announced she would reopen manufacturing, including the Big 3 automakers. Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler would be allowed to reopen at the beginning of the following week, Whitmer announced May 7.
Whitmer announced May 21 that residents were allowed to gather in groups of as many as 10 people. Michiganders were previously restricted from visiting others and coming into contact with anyone outside their household, except in essential circumstances.
Retail businesses reopened Tuesday, as well as auto dealerships, by appointment. Retail businesses that reopen can have up to 10 customers inside at any time, Whitmer said.
Whitmer also lifted restrictions on health care providers who had to delay some nonessential medical, dental and veterinary procedures. Those procedures were allowed to resume Friday. Reopened health care facilities had to adopt strict protocols to prevent spreading the virus.
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More around Michigan
The state has seen more than just a pandemic over the last several weeks.
Thousands of residents in mid-Michigan were evacuated from their homes May 19 and 20 when the Edenville and Sanford dams failed, causing catastrophic flooding in and around Midland County.
“I feel like I’ve said this a lot over the last 10 weeks, but this is an event unlike anything we’ve seen before," Whitmer said. "We’ve got to continue to all work together to observe best practices, do our part to help one another and to wear our masks and continue to try to social distance in this moment.”
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The floods, which displaced more than 10,000 people but didn’t cause any confirmed casualties, ravaged roads and neighborhoods.
This weekend, Michigan was one of many states that saw protests related to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Detroit and Grand Rapids were among the cities that saw large protests against police brutality. While authorities said protests were primarily peaceful, there was some violence.
On Sunday, the third night of protesting in Detroit, more than 100 were arrested, including 28 Detroit residents and two people from out of state. The rest were from Metro Detroit suburbs.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced an 8 p.m. curfew to try to control the protests after dark, but officials said some people didn’t adhere to the curfew.
Police used tear gas on protesters at times over the weekend. There were more reports of police making aggressive arrests and targeting clearly identified media members as tensions rose.
Other smaller protests took place in Royal Oak, Livonia and Marquette.