Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer unveiled a new plan to tie vaccination rates to easing COVID-19 restrictions in the state whose case numbers are three times higher than the national average.
The plan revolves around getting the first doses administered, and reaching the goal of vaccinating 70% of residents 16 and older, as pandemic regulations remain a hot issue in the state.
Whitmer outlined four steps to gradually ease restrictions.
- Two weeks after 55% of Michiganders have received their first vaccine dose, the state will lift requirements that employers mandate employees work remotely where feasible.
- At 60%, the state will increase indoor capacity for sporting events, conference centers, banquet halls and other similar facilities to 25%. The state will also increase capacity limits at gyms to 50%, and lift curfews on restaurants and bars.
- At 65%, the state will lift all indoor capacity restrictions and relax limits on social gatherings.
- At 70%, the state will rescind the health department’s facemask and gathering order and stop issuing similar rules “unless unanticipated circumstances arise.”
While data shows community spread is broad, numbers are beginning to trend in a safer direction, with case rates in most counties improving or remaining stable.
Whitmer has resisted calls of national officials to institute more regulations, but has argued the availability of vaccines is the game changer. About half of the state’s residents have received their first shots, and 36% are fully vaccinated. Supplies of vaccines have now surpassed the demand, and vaccination clinics are now working in a walk-in capacity with no appointment necessary.
Legislative Republicans previously leveraged their control of billions in federal and state funding in an effort to force Whitmer and health leaders to roll back restrictions, suggesting Whitmer could also have a bigger say in how monies are spent if she and her administration agreed to lift restrictions.