LANSING, Mich. - In Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's latest policy change during Michigan's COVID-19 crisis, businesses in parts of northern Michigan will move further into the state's reopening plan starting on June 10.
The move will affect regions 6 and 8 as defined by the Michigan Economic Recovery Council (MERC), which includes the entire upper peninsula and the greater Traverse City region.
Matching the region-based approach she deployed shortly before Memorial Day, Whitmer followed suit Friday when she further lifted restrictions on restaurants, bars, school, and travel in the Upper Peninsula and the Greater Traverse City area - two of the eight regions the state has been divided into as health officials work to tackle the pandemic in parts.
Phase 5 allows the reopening of salons, movie theaters, and gyms, subject to safety protocols and procedures designed to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
Gov. Whitmer also announced that on June 15, salons and barbershops will be able to reopen throughout the entire state.
Under the "containing" phase of MI Safe Start plan, cases and deaths would need to fall to "low absolute rates per capita," hospital capacity would need to be "very strong," and robust testing and contact tracing would need to be in place.
Under the next phase, indoor social gatherings and organized events of up to 50 people are permissible. Outdoor social gatherings and organized events are also allowed if people maintain six feet of distance from one another and the gathering consists of no more than 250 people. In addition, outdoor performance and sporting venues will be open with a larger capacity limit of 500, which will allow for some outdoor graduation ceremonies.
This week has seen Michigan's lowest numbers for newly-reported coronavirus cases and deaths, health officials reported the lowest daily total for new cases since the outbreak spiked more than two months ago.
The governor's decision to move the two sections of Michigan into the next phase follows the same formula she applied when moving them into phase 4. On May 18, she announced the same two areas of Michigan would move forward to the 'improving' phase. Two weeks later, the rest of the state was moved into the same phase and the Stay-Home order was lifted.
Whitmer's two-week methodology has followed suit, easing rules and opening more businesses periodically as the state tip-toes back into normalcy. It was only on Monday when the rest of the state joined its more rural counties in allowing restaurants and bars to reopen while stepping back enforcement on large gatherings.
During her Monday press conference, the governor told residents to expect more updates in the coming days. She also said she was hopeful the rest of Michigan would enter phase 5 by July 4, the second summer holiday benchmark the government has used to stagger loosening rules.
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.
Currently, 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.
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.