Michigan's last day of COVID-19 restrictions is here - what rules are lifting

Monday is the last day for COVID-19 restrictions in Michigan as the state prepares for a full reopening after more than a year of epidemic orders.

On Tuesday, the state's remaining coronavirus orders, including mask mandates for people not fully vaccinated and capacity limits on businesses will be lifted.

The reopening saga's next chapter comes about 470 days since Michigan confirmed its first case of COVID-19. While dates for returning to normal have moved up after successful rollouts of the vaccine, the human toll of close to 20,000 citizens dead from the virus represents a scar from the pandemic.

According to the health department's COVID-19 website, 893,164 people tested positive for the virus and 19,612 people died as a result of getting infected.

There are another 104,985 probable cases as well, meaning the state believes nearly a million Michigan residents were infected with COVID-19 - about a tenth of the total population.

Those numbers underscore the challenge that public health officials have needed to weather for a year-and-a-half.

They did it with business restrictions, limits on public gatherings, and orders about where to wear a mask. The bulk of those measures were gone by June 1. On June 22, the remaining orders will also be lifted.

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They also did it with the vaccine, which now covers almost 61% of the state. Nearly 5 million people 16 years and older have gotten at least one dose. While the state's unofficial goal of 70% coverage remains several hundred thousand shots away, many expect to reach it by the end of summer. 

The original plan was to open eligibility for the vaccine for non-essential workers who aren't immunocompromised or aging around that time, which is a testament to the dynamic nature of the state's response to the pandemic. Only months ago, the state had well above the highest infection rate as it faced a third surge of infections and hospitalizations. 

Michigan's elderly groups, those 65 and older and most vulnerable groups are nearly 80% covered by the vaccine. About 65% of adults 50-64 have also gotten at least one dose. 

Cases are decreasing by a fast rate in some of the most populated counties and at a slower rate in a majority of other jurisdictions. Last week, the state reported fewer than 200 additional cases for multiple daily updates - a far cry from the several thousand that were coming in early March.

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Here is a breakdown of the rules lifting tomorrow:

Mask mandates

Neither vaccinated nor un-vaccinated residents will be required to wear a mask, per state health orders. Previous restrictions required anyone who hadn't gotten a shot to wear a mask when they were indoors. 

Businesses may still restrict facial coverings if they choose, but the epidemic order mandating from the state will lift.

You can now go to most places - including grocery stores, to the gym, a bar or restaurant, movie theater, church, or more - without being required by the state to put on a mask.

Capacity limits lifted

Among the final hurdles that MDHHS kept in place for businesses between its final two reopening phases were capacity limits at restaurants and other indoor settings.

On Tuesday, limits of 50% will lift. 

"The hospitality industry received transcendent news today that will finally move it past 463 days of closure, capacity restrictions and elevated regulatory scrutiny that forced more than one in six Michigan restaurants to close their doors for good," said Justin Winslow, in response to the news last week. "The challenges ahead remain daunting for many, but this industry is resilient, adaptive and ready to meet this newfound opportunity head on."

Mandatory testing at hospitals and jails

Some lesser-known rules like mandatory testing at hospitals and juvenile justice facilities will also be lifted.

Staff in these settings were required to be tested while working during the pandemic. 

The rule was mainly used for new employees and anyone who had close contact with a positive case. 

Handling bodily remains

Someone with the responsibility of handling a dead body no longer must complete arrangements for the final disposition of its remains within 48 hours. 

The health department originally ordered health facilities or funeral directors to expedite the process of getting in touch with a family member of the body within 24 hours. That is no longer necessary.