Thursday, May 20, 2021

Whitmer says most pandemic orders to be lifted by Independence Day

Posted By on Thu, May 20, 2021 at 12:57 PM

click to enlarge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces a new timetable to lift pandemic restrictions at Dow Diamond baseball stadium in Midland. - STATE OF MICHIGAN
  • State of Michigan
  • Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces a new timetable to lift pandemic restrictions at Dow Diamond baseball stadium in Midland.

Last month, Governor Gretchen Whitmer unveiled a "Vacc to Normal" plan to lift COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in phases 14 days after the state achieves various vaccination rate benchmarks. But when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention abruptly announced last week that fully vaccinated people can ditch their masks and social distancing, it caught many by surprise, including Whitmer.

"As you can probably imagine, when the CDC came out last week with new mask guidance, we had to go 'vacc' to the drawing board," Whitmer said during a Thursday press conference at the Dow Diamond baseball stadium in Midland.

No one in the audience seemed to appreciate her pun.

"Come on. That's kind of funny," she said. "You're not paying attention. All right. We went back to the drawing board."

Whitmer said the state achieved the 55% benchmark earlier than expected, allowing workers to return to office buildings on Monday. Given the new guidelines, Whitmer says they decided to match the CDC's recommendations to allow fully vaccinated people to go maskless unless required by their work or business. She said they also decided to change the plan to eschew lifting mandates based on vaccination numbers in favor of time-based milestones.

Under the new plan, outdoor capacity limits will be lifted on June 1, while indoor capacity limits will be retained at 50%. Then, on July 1, the majority of the remaining pandemic restrictions will be lifted.

"We will lift the broad mask and gatherings order, and we'll no longer impose broad mitigation measures during the pandemic — unless of course, unanticipated circumstances arise. We do not expect that to happen," Whitmer said. "We look at this as the last moment of these types of orders. We will be able to sing at church dance at weddings, cheer at games, hug each other, and laugh together. I know that that is welcome news to so many."

Whitmer noted that some people may choose to still wear their masks, and businesses are within their rights to require workers and customers to wear masks if they choose to.

"We should recognize that everyone processes change at different speeds and in different ways, and so over the next few weeks and possibly months, some Michiganders will feel safer with a mask, even if they've been vaccinated," Whitmer said. "And that's OK. Other Michiganders who may have been vaccinated are ready to go mask-free, and that's OK too. Either way, there should be no shaming or guilt-tripping. Instead, I encourage people to have a conversation with their family doctor about the safe, effective vaccines, ask your questions, and learn more about how incredible they are and how they can help us get back to normal."

Whitmer said Michigan has administered nearly 7.9 million doses of the vaccines to more than 4.6 million Michiganders, with 57% of the eligible population receiving at least one dose. She encouraged people to get vaccinated if they have not yet done so.

"The way to put this pandemic behind us is for everyone to get their shot," she said. "The vaccine is the best way to keep you and your family and the most vulnerable among us safe from COVID-19."

Whitmer said people should still get vaccinated even if they've already had COVID-19 or received a monoclonal antibody treatment.

"There will ultimately come a day when masks will be distant memories, maybe in boxes in our basements," she said. "But until then, we've got to transition back to normalcy together and give each other some grace."

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