(The Center Square) – Fifteen months after the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a shuttering of the state's economy, some of those restrictions are being significantly relaxed.
Starting Tuesday, all outdoor capacity limits are lifted as fans can fill large festivals and sports stadiums.
"Because so many Michiganders did their part and stepped up to get vaccinated, we are able to return to normal more quickly," Whitmer said in a statement. "Our state is closer and closer to being back to normal. Now, Michiganders may celebrate safely with family and friends, with less worry of getting COVID-19. We have all been working hard for this moment for over the past year, and I am thankful for every Michigander who has gotten vaccinated to keep themselves, their family, and our communities safe. Thanks to them, we can take these final steps towards a return to the normalcy and build our economy back stronger than ever.”
Indoor gatherings are limited to 50% capacity, up from 30% capacity in many places. The new rule should help wedding, funeral, and caterers statewide who have been limited to 30 people indoors for over a year.
Non-fully vaccinated people still must wear a mask indoors until July 1.
Businesses can still impose mask mandates.
Restaurants can open indoor dining areas to 50% capacity and tables can seat more than six people, the same rule Whitmer was caught breaking last month.
The 11 p.m. curfew will also be lifted, letting bars stay open three hours longer.
Whitmer ditched her MI Vacc to Normal plan, which bound the end of Michigan’s COVID-19 restrictions to the state's vaccination rate, after updated facemask rules were issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and subsequent to her reaching a landmark deal with the GOP-dominated Legislature.
Michigan Chamber President & CEO Rich Studley welcomed the new rules but argued states like Indiana are “months ahead” in economic recovery.
“Job providers are anxious to reopen,” Studley told The Center Square in a phone interview. “Michiganders are looking forward to returning to work.”
He welcomed Whitmer dropping making COVID-19 rules permanent after thousands of Michiganders submitted public comment.
Studley pointed at $300/week boosted federal unemployment benefits through September as hampering Michigan’s economic, saying his members can’t find workers even after offering $19/hour jobs plus hiring bonuses.
“The fundamental public policy problem continues to be the state and federal government are paying people not to work,” Studley said.
About two dozen states have dropped the boosted benefits. On Sunday, the state reinstated work search requirements, which will require those seeking benefits to prove they’re searching for work, and recipients can lose benefits if they reject job offers.
Last week, Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA) Acting Director Liza Estlund Olson pushed back on the idea that boosted benefits encourage people to stay home.
“Folks aren’t staying on unemployment,” Olson told lawmakers. “They could max out at 79 weeks (over a year). We are seeing 15 weeks for regular unemployment and 24 weeks for PUA.”
Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.9% in April compared to April 2020’s peak rate of 22.7%.
Studley pointed out a disparity in private sector jobs returning to in-person work while UIA offices eye a June 12 in-person reopening date. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson aims to keep appointment-only service and next-day competitive appointments instead of walk-in service.