by Scott McClallen
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced outdoor capacity limits will disappear after June 1, when indoor capacity limits will increase to 50% under updated public health restrictions.
The state will lift the broad mask and gathering orders July 1, Whitmer said Thursday at Dow Diamond In Midland.
“We look at this as the last moment of this type of orders,” Whitmer said after Michigan has battled COVID-19 for 14 months via a wide range of emergency orders.
Whitmer said some mitigation measures may remain to protect vulnerable people, adding that businesses can require customers to wear masks.
The governor’s plan is a “tribute to the sacrifice of people and the willingness of so many to get vaccinated,” the Michigan State Medical Society said in a statement.
“But let this be clear: we still need to do more when it comes to vaccinations,” society President Dr. Pino Colone said. “While our numbers have slowed, we need to continue our progress in order to protect people and further our move back to normal.”
Whitmer last week lifted mask requirements for fully vaccinated individuals.
The announcement was welcomed by businesses whose capacities have been restricted for roughly 14 months. Restaurants, retail stores, and other businesses are generally limited to 50% capacity.
Small Business Association of Michigan President Brian Calley called the announcement “an important step for small business owners everywhere.”
“The revised Emergency Epidemic Order accomplishes several important goals,” Carley said. “First it gives a date certain when epidemic emergency orders will end. Second, it makes near term changes that will allow banquet halls, convention centers and other indoor gathering facilities to start to ramp up operations in June. And finally, it will allow for many of the festivals, fairs and other community events that make our state so special to commence this summer.”
Calley said he looked forward to MIOSHA workplace safety rules that “hopefully” align with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instead of pushing permanent COVID-19 rules.
However, funeral homes, caterers, and wedding industries have been either shut down by the state or restricted to 25 people indoors, or 300 people outdoors for the last 14 months, which has limited revenue.
Grand Rapids-based Above and Beyond Catering owner Kim Smith previously said under the restrictions, her 2021 revenue is down 97%.
House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Clare, applauded the announcement.
“I am glad there is finally a clear and growing consensus that Michigan can manage this pandemic and improve metrics across the board without taking away people’s paychecks, without holding children back for another year, and without cutting off critical state services,” Wentworth said in a statement. “Now we are even making progress undoing the damage of previous restrictions. Let’s keep it going and roll back all remaining limitations on Michigan families.”
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.