LANSING, Mich. - Michigan will continue a staggered phase-in approach of its economy by shifting parts of northern Michigan into the "containing" phase.
Under newly relaxed restrictions, the upper peninsula and the Greater Traverse City area can now allow salons, movie theaters, and gyms to reopen on June 10. These reopenings are subject to safety protocols and procedures designed to minimize the spread of the pandemic.
Speaking during a Friday press conference, Whitmer was joined by Deputy Director of Labor Sean Egan and her chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.
For residents and businesses in the lower counties of the state, they'll have to have to wait until June 15 to see restrictions lifted on personal services, including hair, massages, and nail businesses. That's around the same time that restaurants and bars will begin allowing a limited capacity of occupants to dine inside.
Whitmer said "If the current trajectory continues," she could see the rest of the state moving into phase 5. Referring to the declining rates of new COVID-19 cases and deaths, lifted restrictions on businesses comes the same time the country's economy saw the first signs of improvement since social distancing rules started becoming mandatory.
"Today marks another milestone in the safe reopening of Michigan’s economy,” Whitmer said. “As we continue to slowly reopen different parts of our state, it’s critical that we listen to the experts and follow the medical science to avoid a second wave of infections. The good news is that we are headed in the right direction, and if the current trajectory continues, I anticipate we'll be able to announce more sectors reopening in the coming weeks. We owe it to our front line workers to keep doing our part.”
For the residents in northern Michigan, indoor social gatherings and organized events of up to 50 people will be permitted. Outdoor gatherings of 250 people are also allowed, as long as people who aren't family or don't live together maintain six feet of distance between each other. In addition, outdoor performance and sporting venues can host a larger capacity limit of 500 people.
Whitmer's Friday briefings usually carry a bit of news for residents across the state. Last Monday, she lifted the stay home order on the state and said restaurants and bars based in Michigan's more southern regions could reopen on June 8. Two weeks before that, she pivoted to a region-based approach for reopening the economy by allowing most places of business to return to work in the upper peninsula and the Greater Traverse City region.
Her previous extensions matched up with the state's first summer holiday as residents eager to break out of their self-quarantines eyed visits to residences further north for Memorial Day. With July 4 coming up next, Whitmer indicated she'd like to continue the process of reopening ahead of the summer holiday.
New COVID-19 cases have fallen and fewer deaths linked to the pandemic are being reported every day. The state has also eclipsed more than 15,000 daily tests, having screened more than 600,000 residents so far. To reach the "containing" phase will require more of the same - fewer deaths, fewer new cases, more testing, and contact tracing.
It's unclear how this week's protests will factor into the new cases. Even with the evidence of demonstrators wearing face masks, social distancing rules have not been applied during each gathering of people.
Health officials have said it usually takes a couple of weeks to see the impacts of new protocols linked to the virus, which means experts likely won't know what the effects of mass protests will have until days after the first one took place.
The protests have occurred at the same time retail outlets were allowed to reopen and small gatherings of people were permitted. While many local health officials, and some scientists at the federal level like Dr. Anthony Fauci have warned a second surge of cases could come in the fall, it's not out of the realm of possibility that a spike in more coronavirus cases comes sooner - especially in Detroit which had both the worst outbreak in previous months and some of the largest protests this week.