Heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition

Michigan’s Health Director on Lifting of COVID-19 Restrictions: “It’s the Right Time to Move Forward”

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Elizabeth Hertel, the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, says she’s optimistic the state has moved past the “emergency portion” of the pandemic.

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Michigan is lifting all indoor capacity restrictions and mask requirements 10 days early. The state’s main coronavirus order will expire June 22 instead of on July 1. The move ends 50% occupancy limits inside restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues, and indoor events like weddings and funerals. 

Elizabeth Hertel, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, says case rates have consistently gone down for the past eight weeks and vaccination rates continue to increase. She says it’s “the right time to continue to move forward.” 

We will continue to see COVID, it will never go away completely. But … I’m fairly optimistic that we have moved past the emergency portion of COVID.” —Elizabeth Hertel, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

The lifting of the orders comes amid rare bipartisan cooperation between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Republican-led Legislature, and in the past previous bills passed by the Legislature had tried to tie the governor and the state health department’s hands when it came to issuing new orders. Hertel says, “we base these decisions on what we’re seeing on the ground. And we’re really excited that we’re finally at this point that we can rescind pretty much all of the orders affecting the general public.” 

The state initially had a goal of a 70% vaccination rate, and Hertel is optimistic the state will reach that goal. Right now, she says the state’s vaccination rate is nearly 61% for individuals 60 and older who have received at least one dose, but among those ages 50 and up, the rate is 70%. Among 12- to 49-year-olds, she says the rate is around 43%. 

As people gear up for a summer that will look very different from last year’s, Hertel says she is concerned about the virus’ ability to mutate but now there are tools available to prevent transmission.  

And I think people are used to now living in an environment where COVID exists and they know how to mitigate their risk and they understand what the higher risk activities are. And I think people have been very deliberative about being cautious,” she says. “We will continue to see COVID, it will never go away completely. But … I’m fairly optimistic that we have moved past the emergency portion of COVID.” 


Listen: Elizabeth Hertel on why the state is rolling back restrictions now.


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Russ McNamara, Host, All Things Considered

Russ McNamara is the host of All Things Considered for 101.9 WDET, presenting local news to the station’s loyal listeners. He’s been an avid listener of WDET since he moved to metro Detroit in 2002.

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Dorothy Hernandez is Digital Editor for 101.9 WDET, creating digital editorial content. Her love of radio began when she had a radio show in college when she and her roommate played ‘80s music in the middle of the night.


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