Michigan's new Covid restrictions take effect today

Restrictions across Michigan for a slew of industries and gatherings are loosening following a brutal period of the pandemic during the winter. 

Following a Monday announcement from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, new capacity limits and curfews are restaurants, gyms, and movie theaters all went into effect today.

The state health department's order comes amid preparation for a sharp increase in vaccination supplies that are expected in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, infection rates have fallen to some of the pandemic's lowest numbers since it first arrived.

Beginning March 5:

  • Restaurant and bar capacity can operate at 50% capacity and have an 11 p.m. curfew
  • Gym and casino capacity limits were increased to 30%
  • Entertainment venues for bowling and watching movies had their capacity increased to 50%
  • Stadiums that seat more than 10,000 people can now host up to 750 individuals.
  • Private indoor gatherings at homes can now have a maximum of 15 people from three different households. while private outdoor gatherings can have up to 50 people

While the hard numbers offer some relief to businesses begging for more room to host customers, fewer restrictions also feel like a morale boost for some. 

"It's about that perception, it's about creating that comfort level," said Norman Mourad, manager of Shield's Restaurant Bar Pizzeria, "and people are now going to show up more because they have a better chance of being seated at 50% instead of 25."

The order will remain in place until April 19.

During Michigan's second surge in late fall last year, one of the most common kinds of exposure was between smaller groups that were gathering. Families meeting for the holidays or young people gathering were incidents the health department began tracking with more frequency as infections climbed.

The state's increase in capacity limits for private gatherings is significant as it indicates the level of concern that health officials have for allowing people to congregate together. The state hasn't adjusted those restrictions in months.

Part of the reason is the increase in vaccine coverage for seniors who could experience more severe effects caused by COVID-19. So far, almost a third of the state has been given at least one shot of either the Pfizer or Moderna treatment.

RELATED: Reopening Michigan: A timeline of COVID-19 restriction changes

About a quarter of all residents over the age of 75 are fully protected - while half have gotten at least one shot. The numbers are slightly less but still close for people ages 65-74.

With the arrival of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and announcements from the federal government about enough supplies by April, inoculation is going to ramp up fast. During testimony in front of Congress, executives from the vaccine producers said about 4 million more doses would be coming to Michigan by next month.

On Monday, eligibility for getting the vaccine will expand to people over the age of 50 with health issues. Two weeks after that, everyone over the age of 50 can get the shot.