Michigan has reached the first of four vaccine milestones that will trigger the easing of COVID-19 restrictions across the state. Here’s what you should know about the situation.
If you missed the announcement at the end of April, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer revealed the state will ease COVID-19 restrictions based on the percentage of Michiganders who have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
In short, certain restrictions will be softened or removed after the state reaches 55%, 60%, 65% and 70% of people with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
For each milestone, the restriction changes will go into effect two weeks later to allow for the vaccines to take effect.
On Monday afternoon, Whitmer announced on Twitter that Michigan has officially reached the first of the four thresholds, with 55% of residents age 16 and older having received a dose of the vaccine.
“I’m excited to announce that 55% of Michiganders have gotten their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine,” Whitmer tweeted. “This is a huge milestone in getting #MIVaccToNormal”
“MI Vacc To Normal” is the name of the state’s vaccine milestone plan. Reaching 55% of eligible people vaccinated means at least 4,453,304 Michiganders have received a vaccine.
So what is reopening, and when?
Since Michigan reached the goal on Monday, May 10, the first restriction changes will take place Monday, May 24.
On that date, MDHHS will allow in-person work to resume for all sectors of businesses in the state. Right now, employees are supposed to work remotely unless their jobs must be done in-person.
No additional details about that return to in-person work have been revealed, so it’s unclear what exactly it will look like. Current guidance requires employees to wear masks and socially distance.
“We know it’s going to be different, we know that not everybody is going to come back straightaway but this is the start,” said Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan.
While many people will be counting the days until May 24, Michiganders can now turn their eyes toward the next milestone -- 60%.
According to MDHHS, 4,858,150 residents need to get a dose of the vaccine to reach that 60% threshold. It’s likely to take some time to reach that mark because the state’s vaccination rates have been declining since April.
“We are very concerned about the future milestones -- especially 65% and 70% are just not achievable as we see the way vaccination rates have dropped down,” Calley said.
When that goal is reached, there will be several more changes to COVID-19 restrictions than for the first milestone.
Capacity for indoor sports stadiums, conference centers, banquet halls and funeral homes will be increased to 25%.
Capacity allowed at exercise facilities and gyms will rise to 50%.
The 11 p.m. curfew on restaurants and bars will be dropped.
If any of the state’s eight geographical regions have a seven-day case rate greater than 250 cases per million population when Step 2 is reached, MDHHS might delay the loosening of restrictions in that region.