Whitmer: Vaccinations the key to lifting most business restrictions by summer
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer indicated Tuesday that Michigan may be able to lift most remaining COVID-19 business restrictions this summer if Michigan's vaccination rate increases, but said the state may take additional action to stop the spread of the virus through school and club sports.
Whitmer made the comments to CNN's Wolf Blitzer after he asked whether Michigan would follow California's lead and consider fully reopening businesses by mid-June.
California Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly said Tuesday the state would lift most business and workplace restrictions, with the exception of a mask mandate, by mid-June if vaccinations were sufficient and infection rates stable.
Whitmer said Tuesday that Michigan's restrictions would likewise depend on where the state was in relation to its goal to vaccinate 70% of individuals over the age of 16. The rate was 22.8% through Monday.
"I think its very possible that there is a path out of a lot of the orders that we've had to issue to keep people safe, but it all depends on getting to that 70% number of people who are eligible vaccinated," Whitmer said. "I think that's the key to returning to normalcy."
She later added, "If we're successful and people come in and do their part, we could very well be in that position this summer."
Nearly 3 million people or 36.7% of the state's population had received at least a first dose of the vaccine.
Michigan opened vaccine eligibility to everyone over the age of 16 on Monday after weeks of administering the medication by age group, profession and medical history.
The governor on Tuesday also expressed concern about the spread of coronavirus through school sports.
Whitmer noted the state has safety protocols in place around school sports, such as mask use, decreased attendance and required testing ahead of games and practices, but athletics remain a "contributor" to virus spread. An epidemic order issued last month required rapid testing for all youth athletes ages 13-19 beginning last Friday, a mandate that applies to middle schoolers through high schoolers as well as private to club sports.
"We are seeing the spread continuing in teenage sports and, frankly, it's something that we're very concerned about," she said. "And that's why we're doing even more testing and possibly going further than we have.
"...this may be one area that we've got to do more in," Whitmer said.
Michigan continued to lead the country in new cases by population Tuesday as it added 4,964 new cases and 58 deaths, bringing the state's total number of cases to 707,463 and deaths to 16,297 since the virus was first detected in March 2020.
Cases among kids ages 10 to 19 had risen for the last five weeks faster than any other age group as outbreaks continue to rise in schools and youth sports.
But an advocacy group last week sued Michigan's health director over the new COVID-19 sports rules and testing procedures, arguing they are "invalid" and violate due process rights.