Tuesday marks the lifting of most of Michigan’s remaining COVID-19 restrictions. Michigan was supposed to end most indoor restrictions on July 1, but Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the accelerated opening last month. Michigan has vaccinated more than 61% of people ages 16 and older and 25% ages 12-15.
“People were not going to follow these rules much longer once the CDC guidance came out last month saying that the vaccinated did not need to wear masks indoors. And that created a lot of pressure for the governor to begin relaxing regulations.” –Jonathan Oosting, Bridge Michigan
The restrictions that are ending Tuesday include the statewide mask requirement and gathering capacities. Local entities and health departments are allowed to set their own policies. People are still required to wear a mask in classrooms, residential care facilities like nursing homes, indoor congregate settings like homeless shelters, and health care facilities such as hospitals as well as while participating in indoor contact sports.
The CDC also says people traveling on mass transit — such as planes, trains or buses — should wear masks.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is still suggesting, but not requiring, mask-wearing at crowded outdoor settings such as sporting events or parades, outdoor contact sports, and while in outdoor areas of residential care facilities.
Listen: Jonathan Oosting on Michigan lifting COVID-19 restrictions.
Jonathan Oosting is a Michigan politics reporter for Bridge Michigan. Oosting says Michigan is one of the last states to lift its restrictions. “People were not going to follow these rules much longer once the CDC guidance came out last month saying that the vaccinated did not need to wear masks indoors. And that created a lot of pressure for the governor to begin relaxing regulations,” he says.
He believes while Whitmer faced political pressure both from the national level and from the Michigan GOP, he points out that case rates in Michigan have been going down and hospitalization rates are at the lowest point since the beginning of the pandemic. “The numbers certainly back up what may have been a decision made with political considerations.”
Oosting thinks it is unlikely Michigan will go back into strict regulations, but says it is possible for some targeted orders to try and prevent variants, like the delta variant, from spreading. “I think that will be completely harder now that she has lifted these restrictions completely,” Oosting says. “[She’s] going to be facing re-election next year and she is going to want to tread lightly and not alienate residents, voters, and donors who might have an interest in things remaining open.”
Web story written by Dan Netter