Whitmer says COVID-19 policy changes could be coming soon

Clinton Twp. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Tuesday that a measure of normalcy might be on the horizon soon for Michigan in its ongoing battle against COVID-19.

Whitmer noted cases in the state are beginning to decline and officials are monitoring updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as information on the virus evolves and officials learn more about the efficacy and longevity of vaccines.

In Michigan, 48.5% of the population has had at least one COVID-19 vaccination and about 2.8 million residents — or 35% of the adult population — are fully vaccinated. The governor’s goal is that 70% of adults in the state be vaccinated.

"I would anticipate forthcoming policy changes potentially that will feel a little bit more normal for all of us," Whitmer said following a worker safety news conference in Macomb County. "The more people that get vaccinated, the more things we'll be able to do. But, we are continuing to monitor what the CDC is recommending and our data here in Michigan."

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

The CDC said Tuesday that fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks outdoors unless they are in a large crowd of strangers, and those who are unvaccinated can go without a face covering outside in some instances.

The Democratic governor’s comments come as Michigan’s COVID-19 hospitalization and infection statistics have improved over the last two weeks. The state still leads the nation in new cases per population, as it has for nearly a month, but there’s optimism that a peak has been reached in the latest surge. 

Last week, the state reported 34,013 new cases, a 28% decrease from the week before. On Monday, there were 3,470 adults hospitalized with the virus across the state, a 17% decrease from a week earlier. 

The percentage of COVID-19 tests bringing positive results was 12.2% last week, which is a high rate but a four-week low in Michigan. 

Whitmer’s administration had been relaxing restrictions in Michigan in late January, February and early March before the spring surge gained strength. 

Orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services allowed restaurants to reopen indoor dining on Feb. 1, the governor pushed for schools to offer in-person learning by March 1, and the department eased restrictions on public gatherings on March 5.

As COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations increased in Michigan, Whitmer resisted calls to institute new restrictions to attempt to stem the spread of the virus. Instead, she called on residents to take voluntary steps, like avoiding indoor dining at restaurants. 

Whitmer on Tuesday continued her call for Michigan residents to stay vigilant in wearing masks, especially indoors, and to get vaccinated.

"...and if anyone gets a diagnosis of COVID, we want people to see if they are eligible for monoclonal antibodies so we can keep them out of the hospital," she said. "All of these are pieces of our ultimate goal of by 4th of July having a lot more normalcy."

Michigan on Tuesday added 3,676 new cases and 105 deaths from the coronavirus.

The latest figures bring the state's total number of cases to 829,520 and deaths to 17,429 since the virus was first detected in March 2020, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. Of the Tuesday deaths, 48 were identified during a delayed records review.

cferretti@detroitnews.com