The last week brought good and bad news for Michigan residents amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news: The pandemic appears to be nearing a conclusion as vaccinations continue. And for some, the bad news: It may also be time to abandon that cozy home office.
As of this week, at least 55% of Michigan residents ages 16 and older have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, triggering state officials to reel back precautions that will enable all in-person work to resume across all sectors of employment beginning on Monday, May 24.
Workplaces, of course, can set their own policies. But for some, the daily commute will resume.
“It puts us one step closer to getting Vacc to Normal,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement, a reference to the name of her latest plan to transition the state back toward pre-pandemic normalcy. “Everyone is eligible to get their safe, effective shots and it’s on all of us to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect ourselves, our families and our communities.”
The return to in-person work across all sectors marks the first milestone of the “MI Vacc to Normal Plan, triggered by at least 4.45 million residents having received both doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or one shot the Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Michigan.
Two weeks after the state hits about 4.86 million people, 11 p.m. curfews could be lifted at restaurants and bars. Indoor capacity at sports stadiums, conference centers, banquet halls and funeral homes could increase to 25%. Gyms and fitness centers could open at 50% capacity.
The plan also details plans to further relax limits on residential and social gatherings as well as lift all indoor capacity restrictions — instead only requiring social distancing — two weeks after about 5.26 million residents (or about 65% of the state population) gets their vaccinations.
State officials said the goal to vaccinate 70% of those 16 and older — about 5.67 million people — would then trigger the end of state-mandated restrictions unless “unanticipated circumstances” arise, like the possible spread of unseen vaccine-resistant variants of the coronavirus.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also loosened its restrictions on face masks, no longer requiring they be worn outdoors unless a gathering has 100 or more people. Additionally, anyone who is fully vaccinated and not experiencing symptoms is not required to wear a mask at residential gatherings, including indoors. New guidance for organized sports also no longer requires COVID-19 testing for fully vaccinated, asymptomatic participants.
The updated orders also allow for larger outdoor events, including festivals, fairs and golf tournaments. Residential outdoor gatherings are also now allowed to include up to 50 people.
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Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said Greater Lansing is nearing the same statewide milestone. As of Tuesday, about 53% of Ingham County residents have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine — including about 91% of senior citizens who live in the county.
Still, about 40,000 more Ingham County residents need to be vaccinated to hit the 70% mark.
Accordingly, Michigan State University has removed requirements that masks be worn outdoors unless a gathering garners 100 people or more. Masks must still be worn at indoor locations on campus. Lansing Mayor Andy Schor has also allowed staff to resume some work-related travel.
Still, the Ingham County Democratic Party hit the streets last weekend to encourage those 16 or older to get vaccinated. In coordination with County Commissioner Derrell Slaughter, volunteers dropped off literature from the Health Department to every home in certain areas of south Lansing, which have experienced comparatively lower vaccine participation rates in the city.