Whitmer says COVID-19 restrictions will end when 70% of Michiganders get vaccinated

Apr 29, 2021 at 11:02 am
click to enlarge Gov. Gretchen Whitmer got her second COVID-19 vaccine dose on Thursday, April 29. - State of Michigan
State of Michigan
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer got her second COVID-19 vaccine dose on Thursday, April 29.

While Michigan still has the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the nation, Governor Gretchen Whitmer says the end of the pandemic is in sight.

On Thursday, Whitmer said that the state would lift most pandemic restrictions when 70% of Michigan residents get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Whitmer says the restrictions will gradually be lifted as part of her "MI Vacc to Normal Challenge." The phases are:

• Step 1 — 55% of Michiganders (4,453,304 residents), plus two weeks: Allows in-person work for all sectors of business.

• Step 2 — 60% of Michiganders (4,858,150 residents), plus two weeks: Increases indoor capacity at sports stadiums to 25%, increases indoor capacity at conference centers/banquet halls/funeral homes to 25%, increases capacity at exercise facilities and gyms to 50%, lifts the curfew on restaurants and bars.

• Step 3 — 65% of Michiganders (5,262,996 residents), plus two weeks: Lifts all indoor capacity limits, requiring only social distancing between parties, further relaxes limits on residential social gatherings.

• Step 4 — 70% of Michiganders (5,667,842 residents), plus two weeks: Lifts the Gatherings and Face Masks Order such that MDHHS will no longer employ broad mitigation measures unless unanticipated circumstances arise, such as the spread of vaccine-resistant variants.

So far, just 31% percent of eligible Michiganders age 16 and older have been fully vaccinated, and 42% have received at least one dose, according to the New York Times tracker.

Put another way, at least 5.67 million Michigan residents need to get vaccinated to meet the 70% goal, and so far 4 million have gotten at least their first shots.

Whitmer said Michigan is on track to hit Step 1 by the end of May.

click to enlarge Whitmer says COVID-19 restrictions will end when 70% of Michiganders get vaccinated
State of Michigan

Whitmer also took credit for her decision to call on Michiganders to voluntarily avoid behavior such as dining indoors at restaurants instead of ordering additional restrictions to bring COVID-19 numbers down, as critics have called for.

Since then, the number of daily cases has dropped from 649.9 cases per million to 439.3 cases per million, the percent of positive tests has declined from 18.3% to 13.2%, and the number of hospitalizations has fallen from 3,780 to 3,520.

"I want to thank all the people that stepped up and did their part by taking this seriously," she said. "Thanks to you, our numbers are starting to come down again. Two weeks later, our seven-day case average, hospitalizations, and ICU numbers are all coming down. While the daily case count, test positivity, and hospitalization numbers are not where we want them to be, we're heading in the right direction."

Whitmer did not say when she thought Michigan might hit the 70% goal.

"While I can't predict with certainty when we'll hit 70%, if we all do our part, I know we can get there together," she said. But the plan could be paused if vaccine-resistant variants of the virus emerge, she warned.

To encourage people to get vaccinated, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Protect Michigan Commission are launching new television spots this week featuring stories from Michiganders about why they chose to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The spots were filmed outside the FEMA vaccination center at Detroit's Ford Field.

Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist encouraged people who have been vaccinated to talk to people in their lives about why they should get vaccinated, too.

"We can end this virus on our terms by following the protocols we are putting forward, encouraging everyone in your life to do the same, and ensuring that everyone eligible to receive a vaccine gets one," he said. "What we have been observing across our state is that the thing that moves a person to choose to get vaccinated is hearing from someone they know about why it is so important, why they chose to get vaccinated. That means that every person who has not yet chosen to get vaccinated is one conversation away from making that choice."

Whitmer said people can find out how to get vaccinated at vaccinefinder.org.

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