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Restaurants to reopen at 50% capacity June 8, Michigan enters 'improving stage'

June 1, 2020
Fed Ex missed packages notices on a door in downtown East Lansing on April 1, 2020.
Fed Ex missed packages notices on a door in downtown East Lansing on April 1, 2020. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has announced the entire state of Michigan will be entering Phase 4 — the “improving stage" — of her “MI Safe Start” plan as COVID-19 case and death numbers continue to decline in the state.

As a result, restaurants can reopen — with 50% or less capacity — for indoor and outdoor seating June 8 as long as tables can be placed six feet apart from one another.

More businesses and retailers can reopen with capacity limits June 4, but must have strict safety measures to protect their workers and customers.

Additionally, effective immediately, groups of up to 100 people can gather outdoors, as long as they adhere to strict social distancing practices. Outdoor fitness classes, office work that cannot be performed at home, drive-in movie theaters and in-home services can also resume immediately, with best practices.

“The general rule is now we can safely reengage, except for ... particular things that are deemed a little higher risk,” Whitmer said.

The governor has also rescinded her stay-at-home order, “provided that Michiganders can continue to do their part wearing masks, social distancing, washing our hands and keeping COVID-19 from spreading again.”

Whitmer announced she plans to issue an executive order allowing the Upper Peninsula and greater Traverse City area to progress to Phase 5 of the plan, depending on how the numbers are looking in those regions. These regions were previously permitted to reopen businesses earlier than the rest of the state due to their low COVID-19 numbers.

The loosening of restrictions follows the continual decline of COVID-19 case and death numbers, the strengthening of the state’s healthcare system and improvements in testing, contact tracing and containment protocols.

According to Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, or MDHHS, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state has recorded 57,532 total cases of COVID-19 and 5,516 deaths, as of Monday. The state is recording roughly 12 new cases per million people per day, Khaldun said.

Statewide advancement to Phase 5 of the plan is expected once cases and deaths are at low absolute rates per capita and the healthcare system’s capacity is strengthened even more.

Despite the progression into a new phase, Khaldun stressed this does not mean the threat of COVID-19 is gone. 

“Let me be very clear — the threat of the disease has not gone away,” Khaldun said. “There’s no vaccine, there’s no antiviral treatment and we do not expect to have one for several months. … Just one person can still infect many, many more people.”

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