Whitmer set to reopen hair salons, barbershops June 15; gyms, theaters to reopen in northern Michigan

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday she is allowing people throughout Michigan to get their hair styled or cut, their nails trimmed and their bodies tattooed starting June 15, while she is letting northern Michigan reopen movie theaters and hold indoor gatherings of up to 50 people starting Wednesday.

The governor's latest executive order, which also permits the statewide reopening of massage shops, is set to go into effect as long as there are no spikes in coronavirus cases and deaths that she and her health experts consider worrisome.

"That's right," Whitmer said at a Friday news briefing. "You can get a haircut."

Northern Lower Michigan and the Upper Peninsula — also known as Region 6 and Region 8 in the governor's reopening plan — will get a head start on the rest the state Wednesday on hair and nail salons as they move to the fifth phase of the governor's reopening plan. The fifth phase also allows the reopening movie theaters and gyms, subject to safety protocols and procedures designed to minimize the spread of COVID-19, according to Whitmer's office. 

The Upper Peninsula and Lower Northern Michigan are being treated differently because they have had relatively few COVID-19 cases and deaths compared with the rest of the state, Whitmer said.

Under the fifth phase, indoor social gatherings and organized events of up to 50 people are allowed, and outdoor social gatherings and organized events are also allowed if people maintain six feet of distance from one another and the gathering consists of no more than 250 people, according to Whitmer's office.

In northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, outdoor performance and sporting venues will be open with a larger capacity limit of 500, which will allow for some outdoor graduation ceremonies. The current limit in the rest of the state is for 100 or fewer individuals. Whitmer mentioned graduation ceremonies potentially being able to take place under the 500-person outdoor limit.

"We can start to think about and start to plan for that," the governor said.

Businesses that reopen will have to abide safety requirements. Movie theaters will face capacity limits, and hair salons should mark social distancing spacing in waiting rooms and add special hours for vulnerable populations, Whitmer said.

Northern Michigan businesses set an example for the rest of the state following the May reopening of restaurants, bars and retailers with safety protocols and capacity limits, the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance said in a statement.

“This announcement is welcomed by our rural northern Michigan communities and is a testament to our businesses’ commitment to keeping employees and customers safe during the reopening process,” said Stacie Bytwork, chair of the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance and president of the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce. “We look forward to more businesses having open signs in their windows,” she continued. 

While Regions 6 and 8 move to the fifth reopening phase, the rest of the state will remain in the fourth phase. She hopes the whole state will remove to the fifth phase in a few weeks.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration unveiled this graphic on Thursday, May 7, 2020, explaining phases for lifting COVID-19 restrictions in Michigan.

"If the current trajectory continues, I do anticipate the whole state will be in Phase 5," Whitmer said. "That is my fervent home."

"Please do not drop your guard now," she continued.

Barber Karl Manke, who refused to close his Owosso shop in defiance of Whitmer's restrictions, said Friday's announcement that barbershops can legally reopen on June 15 was "way overdue." He predicted an "overflow" of customers trying to get into the shops when they open their doors.

"It’s a beautiful day,” Manke said of Friday's news.

The Safe Salons of Michigan coalition also welcomed the development after one of its members sought and got an apology from Whitmer on Thursday for suggesting earlier in the week that people could “Google” how to cut their hair amid prohibition on haircuts.

“We appreciate Gov. Whitmer for listening to the concerns and safety plans of the salon industry and for announcing reopening dates for the industry,” said Mike Sarafa, CEO of the Alline Group that owns Supercuts through Michigan. “Today’s announcement is the green light the industry needed to get back to serving customers and contributing to the economy in a safe and sanitary environment.”  

The press briefing came as the state fell to No. 9 nationally in terms of cases and to No. 6 for the most deaths. Michigan's current total cases stand at 58,241 and deaths at 5,595. 

On Thursday, Whitmer participated in a civil rights march in Highland Park with hundreds of people who did not follow social distancing rules, including herself. The first-term governor has voiced concerns about other demonstrations potentially spreading COVID-19 in recent weeks.

"We couldn't always observe six feet apart," Whitmer said Friday when asked at the news briefing about it. "We were wearing masks the whole time. We had ample use of hand sanitizer. We never shook hands. We didn't high five or hug, the way we would normally greet one another."

"I thought It was an important moment to show my support," she said of her participation in the event.

On Thursday, Republican lawmakers requested Whitmer testify before a joint, bipartisan committee created to review her response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Whitmer said Friday she would decline the invitation as a legal fight between the governor and the Republican-controlled Legislature continues in the Michigan Court of Appeals over her emergency powers.

"We are in a legal battle, and I don't think testifying in front of the committee makes a lot of sense," the governor said.