Whitmer administration expected to ease more Michigan COVID-19 restrictions

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration is expected to announce plans to relax additional COVID-19 restrictions this week as the state's metrics for tracking the spread of the virus continue to improve.

The governor will reveal the new policies by the end of the week, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the plans. Bobby Leddy, Whitmer's spokesman, said Wednesday he expects an announcement "in the coming days or week."

The adjustments will occur after a surge in infections ended this spring, as temperatures warm and as more Michigan residents get their COVID-19 vaccinations. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also continues to ease its guidance amid a pandemic that's lasted for longer than a year.

"With the CDC recommending that fully vaccinated people can safely return to normal life, we feel confident that our state can begin taking even greater steps to get back to normal now that a majority of Michiganders have received their vaccine," Leddy said.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at a press conference on Wednesday, April 14, 2021.

The state Department of Health and Human Services reported 11,991 new coronavirus infections last week, a 52% decrease from the total two weeks earlier. Similarly, the percentage of tests bringing positive results dropped to 6.8% last week, less than half the percentage in early April, when Michigan faced spikes in hospitalizations and cases.

Michigan led the nation in new cases per population for longer than a month beginning at the end of March, according to CDC data. However, now Michigan ranks 10th.

Michigan's spring surge peaked in mid-April with hospitalizations and case rates declining quickly over the last four weeks. As of Tuesday, 1,641 adults were hospitalized in Michigan with COVID-19, a 60% decrease from the tally four weeks earlier.

Whitmer's administration lifted mask requirements for fully vaccinated individuals on Saturday and revealed that the state's broad indoor mask mandate will expire July 1.

"With millions of Michiganders fully vaccinated, we can now safely and confidently take the next step to get back to normal," Whitmer said in a statement last week. "The message is clear: Vaccines work to protect you and your loved ones. If you have not yet received your vaccine, now is the time to sign up."

As of Wednesday morning, 56.5% of Michigan's adult population 16 years and older had received their initial dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while at least 43.3% were fully vaccinated. On April 29, Whitmer announced her "MI Vacc to Normal," which tied the relaxation of many of the state's gathering restrictions to vaccination rates.

Two weeks after 60% of the adult population have received their first dose, the state is supposed to lift the 11 p.m. curfew for restaurants and bars and ease capacity restrictions for stadiums, gyms and banquet halls. 

Currently, capacity at restaurants, retail stores and other entertainment establishments is generally limited to 50% normal constraints. At Detroit casinos and gyms, gatherings currently must not exceed 30% of normal capacity.