Michigan restaurants can reopen Feb. 1 with 25% capacity limits

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is holding a press conference Friday with an update on COVID-19 where she's announcing that restaurants can reopen for indoor dining on Monday, Feb 1 with restrictions.

The state has several objectives it is trying to meet amid its push to reopen following the state's second surge in 2020. Michigan schools have been told to have some form of in-person learning in place by the beginning of March. Restaurants are also able to reopen indoor dining on February 1st with restrictions of gatherings that are not bigger than ten people from two households, a 25% capacity limit, and curfew of 10 p.m.

Whitmer was joined by Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. These reopenings coincide with a decline in the hospitalizations, percent positivity rate, and the number of cases - the three metrics the state is using to determine decisions going forward.

"The pause has worked. The efforts we have made together to protect our families, frontline workers and hospitals have dramatically reduced cases and we have saved lives. Now, we are confident that starting February 1, restaurants can resume indoor dining with safety measures in place," said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. "Michigan continues to be a national leader in fighting this virus, and we must continue working to keep it that way. One of the most important things Michiganders can do is to make a plan to get the safe and effective vaccine when it’s available to you. And as always, mask up and maintain six feet of social distancing. We will end this pandemic together." 

Tests coming back positive are around 4.8%, a fraction of the near-20% that was coming in at the peak of November. The state's hospital bed occupancy sits at 73%. Michigan's 7-week average for daily cases is also hovering around 2,000 for the first time in months.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks on Wednesday, January 13 from Lansing, Mich. Image; Gov. Whitmer's office.

Earlier this week, Whitmer unveiled a $5.6 billion recovery plan that would funnel money to small businesses, schools, and vaccine distribution efforts. However, the state legislature will need to approve any spending bills, which could mean some future friction with the governor.

RELATED: Michigan's restaurants still set to reopen indoor dining Feb. 1 with restrictions

Likely on the minds of many health officials waiting to greenlight more reopenings is the presence of B.1.1.7 - the new COVID-19 strain that's considered far more infectious than the variant that Michigan is currently inoculating against. Thursday night, health officials reported two more cases of the strain in Washtenaw County. 

All three that have been confirmed are associated with the University of Michigan. 

Its emergence in Michigan has complicated plans to have 70% of the state vaccinated by the fall. Some believe it will require an even higher rate of vaccination to achieve herd immunity.

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe B.1.1.7 could become the dominant strain around the country be mid-March.