State’s plan to reopen Michigan brings hope to struggling businesses

Vaccination thresholds will trigger loosening of certain restrictions

DETROIT – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a new plan Thursday that used metrics to give Michigan a real understanding of how the coronavirus pandemic ends.

MORE: Here are the Michigan COVID restrictions that will be lifted when we reach 4 vaccine goals

“It’s an opportunity for us to all join arms and to make sure that we get to this goal,” Whitmer said. “Now, it is dependent on people though. Of course, just like everything the last 15 months, it’s dependent on Michiganders availing themselves of this is incredibly important vaccines.”

The University of Michigan’s chief health officer and infection disease expert, Dr. Preeti Malani, believes vaccinations are the right answer to move Michigan back to normalcy and attaching metrics makes perfect sense.

“I’m really excited about what I see,” Malani said. “Getting back has been much harder and, to me, the governor’s plan really accounts for some of that difficulty in getting back. Getting back is much more of a dial than a switch.”

Whitmer acknowledged Thursday she worked with the Republican Legislative leadership, which as long pushed for specifics as how the pandemic ends.

“This product represents some of the best of the work that we have been able to do together,” Whitmer said.

Here’s how the plan works:

  • Step 1: Two weeks after 55% of Michiganders have gotten fully vaccinated, the state will allow in-person work for all sectors of business.
  • Step 2: Two weeks after 60% of Michiganders have gotten fully vaccinated, the state will increase indoor capacity and sports stadiums and indoor capacity at conference centers, banquet halls and funeral homes to 25%. It will also increase capacity at exercise facilities and gyms to 50% and lift the curfew on restaurants and bars.
  • Step 3: Two weeks after 65% of Michiganders have gotten fully vaccinated, the state will lift all indoor capacity limits and require only social distancing between parties, as well as further relax limits on residential social gatherings.
  • Step 4: Two weeks after 70% of Michiganders have gotten fully vaccinated, the state will lift the gatherings and face masks order so MDHSS won’t broadly mitigate it unless there are unanticipated circumstances (variants that resist the vaccine, etc.).

There is mixed reactions about the plan. Some businesses are adjusting to the change.

“We can all throw some burgers on the grill, catch a Tigers game and hit the lake with our friends. We can enjoy our Michigan summer,” said Willpower Fitness Group owner William McCray. “I’m happy, I’m ecstatic and I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

McCray said his gym has taken a beating throughout the pandemic and he has had to make costly adjustments in order to learn how to do fitness classes 100% online.

“There is some good news there,” McCray said. “I think that that was the right decision today to allow us to open to 50% capacity, which is gonna help out a lot of people, a lot of gym owners who have suffered for months and months.”

The suffering part is all Michigan Fitness Club Association vice chair and Burn Fitness co-founder Alyssa Tushman focused on.

“I can tell you as a local business owner, we are in trouble, big big trouble,” Tushman said.

She said her gym -- and others like hers -- have suffered irreparable harm operating at occupancy rates and now she has a lawyer ready to file bankruptcy due to COVID.

“We have followed Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s guidelines to a T,” Tushman said. “We wear face coverings, we do everything right and have been rewarded with bankruptcy.”

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