LANSING, Mich. (FOX 2) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted Michigan's coronavirus stay-at-home order Monday, letting restaurants reopen to dine-in customers next week and immediately easing limits on gatherings while keeping social-distancing rules intact.
The governor moved six remaining regions comprising 93% of the state's population to phase 4 — “improving" — two weeks after she announced that two regions in northern Michigan could advance to that stage. Some businesses where close contact is necessary — gyms, hair salons, indoor theaters and casinos — will remain closed.
Gov. Whitmer and Human Services Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun spoke from Lansing at 3 p.m. Friday.
Under the new order, retailers can reopen to customers without an appointment on Thursday and restaurants can offer dine-in service on June 8 — both with capacity limits. Day camps for children and pools can open June 8. Groups of up to 100 can gather outside with social distancing, up from a threshold of 10.
In-home services such as housecleaning can resume. Gyms and fitness centers can offer outdoor activities such as classes, practices, training sessions and games as long as participants, coaches and spectators stay 6 feet apart.
Whitmer said her goal is to shift the state to phase 5 — “containing" — before July 4.
Effective immediately, groups of 100 or less can gather outdoors with social distancing. Office work that was not possible to do remotely can now resume. In-home services, including housecleaning services, can resume operations.
Under Monday's new order, Gov. Whitmer is allowing retailers to reopen on June 4 without an appointment. Last week, retailers were able to open but only by appointment only.
Also in Monday's order, restaurants are allowed to prepare for a June 8 reopening with capacity limits. Day camps for children will also be allowed to open.
“The data has shown that we are ready to carefully move our state into the next phase of the MI Safe Start Plan, but we owe it to our brave frontline heroes to get this right,” said Governor Whitmer. “While Michiganders are no longer required to stay home, we must all continue to be smart and practice social distancing, and encourage those who meet the criteria to get tested for COVID-19. If we all do our part, our goal is to announce a shift to phase five for the entire state prior to the fourth of July. Stay smart, stay safe, and let’s all do our part.”
“While Michiganders are no longer required to stay home, we must all continue to be smart and practice social distancing, and encourage those who meet the criteria to get tested for COVID-19,” she said in a statement before a scheduled news conference.
Gov. Whitmer is expected to move the rest of the state into Phase 4 of her MI Safe Start plan during a press conference on Monday.
About two weeks ago, the governor shifted parts of the state into phase 4 after a sharp decline in COVID-19-linked cases and deaths had been maintained. Under the previous extension, the upper peninsula and the Greater Traverse City area had restrictions lifted on restaurants and bars.
With Michigan's gradual reopening reaching the "improving" phase of the state's plan, more businesses will be allowed to open their doors.
Gov. Whitmer has said the following factors will determine moving the state into Phase 4:
- Cases and deaths are declining more sharply, percent positivity decreasing
- Healthcare system capacity continues to strengthen
- Robust testing, contact tracing and containment protocols in place
The number of new daily cases and deaths certainly appears to be on the decline in Michigan, and the percent positivity also has been decreasing since the state reached its peak in mid-April.
The state has said they look at rolling averages for the death rates and cases.
Phase 4 also means healthcare systems are no longer overwhelmed. In April, the state and health officials scrambled to assemble a 1,000-bed temporary medical facility at TCF Center in Detroit. That was put on pause because it never had more than 40 patients at a single point in time.
On Monday, Henry Ford Health Systems reported 70 COVID-19 patients. The hospital had a peak of 752 in mid-April.
The third factor, testing, has exploded in recent weeks and last Friday, Detroit announced it would open up it's testing for everyone in Southeast Michigan.
Michigan's COVID-19 cases continue to trend downward with 513 new cases confirmed on Sunday and 28 deaths reported. On Sunday, Michigan reports more than 38,000 of the state's confirmed 57,397 cases have recovered from the virus.
The state also confirmed there are just 13,800 cases that are still active. That's the lowest it's been since April 4 - almost two months ago.
Last week, Gov. Whitmer hinted that more news regarding the reopening of the state could be coming early this week.
The cadence has been to allow more openings every two weeks, depending on cases, so there is a belief that Gov. Whitmer may announce more parts of the state can move into Phase 4 of the Mi Safe Start plan.
Phase 3 is the "flattening" phase, which means daily new cases and deaths are relatively constant but transmission rates have fallen to manageable levels. According to Gov. Whitmer's plan, Michigan's move into Phase 4 means the number of new cases and deaths has decreased for a period of time, and when new outbreaks can be quickly identified and contained.
Moving into Phase 4 means more lower-risk businesses can open, like retail and office spaces. Dining-in at restaurants won't be allowed until Phase 5 under her plan.
Last week, auto dealerships and retail shops were allowed to reopen - by appointment only.
Gov. Whitmer's press conference comes as the state and nation grapple with protests against police brutality. In Detroit, a majority of the protesters arrested were not from the Motor City. According to Mayor Mike Duggan, they came from Midland, Port Huron, Saline, Shelby Township, Piqua, Ohio, and Nashville, Tennessee.
Gov. Whitmer will likely discuss the protests at some point during her speech.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig said he was "very encouraged" by the department's response to weekend protests that unfurled following an explosion in racially-charged demonstrations across the country.