Gov Condenses Vacc To Normal Plan To 2 Steps; No Longer Tied To Vax Rates
May 25, 2021
(MIDLAND) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has condensed the Vacc to Normal plan down to two more steps, determined by dates on the calendar rather than vaccination levels among the population.
By June 1, all outdoor capacity limits will disappear, and indoor gatherings can have up to 50% capacity. And by July 1, all indoor capacity regulations will go away, which will also see the broad lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, Whitmer said Thursday.
The state had previously said July 1 would see the lifting of the broad indoor mask mandate as well.
Neither of the updated benchmarks appear to be tied to specifically reaching certain levels of vaccinated people, as the original Vacc to Normal plan had called for.
As of Thursday about 57% of the eligible population have started vaccination. The state has been shooting for 70%, and just over 44% have completed their vaccinations.
Asked about reaching the 70% vaccinated mark, Whitmer told reporters she’s “hopeful” the 70% mark is made. She said the more people who get vaccinated, the better it is for everyone.
The Governor noted the state has aligned itself with new federal guidance that drops mask requirements for people who are vaccinated, regardless of whether it’s an indoor or outdoor setting.
Whitmer noted that when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) came out with that new guidance, it came as a bit of surprise, which she said forced the state to reassess its plans — or go “vacc to the drawing board” as Whitmer said Thursday.
The Governor said the CDC change was based on its latest understanding of the science.
Whitmer made the announcement Thursday on the field of Midland’s Dow Diamond baseball stadium with members of the press present. Both the Governor and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II appeared unmasked.
Not at the press conference was either Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun or Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Director Elizabeth Hertel.
Khaldun was later quoted in the Governor’s press release as saying that “The COVID-19 vaccine is the most important tool we have to reduce the spread of the virus. The vaccines are safe and effective and vaccinated people can do so many more things safely. We have made great progress with our vaccination efforts, but the pandemic is not over.”
Whitmer said DHHS orders will be forthcoming on the details of the state COVID-19 restrictions. The Governor said the changes announced may Thursday jarring to some, and she said some Michiganders may feel safer with a mask in the coming months, while others will be ready to ditch the mask. She said both are OK.
Whitmer also brought up that Ohio is doing a lottery prize for people who get vaccinated — $1 million each to five winners – and noted that people have been asking her about that.
The Governor said Michigan law bars such a practice, but her administration is “investigating” ways to encourage more people to get vaccinated.
The Michigan State Medical Society said in a statement that the Governor’s plan is “a tribute to the sacrifice of people and the willingness of so many to get vaccinated. But let this be clear: we still need to do more when it comes to vaccinations. While our numbers have slowed, we need to continue our progress in order to protect people and further our move back to normal.”
Abby Walls, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake), said the Governor still had not addressed what benchmark makes COVID-19 under control enough to end the state of emergency.
“She always leaves herself this back door to reinstate emergency measures,” she said. “This is literally Whitmer’s endless emergency.”
In response to the press conference, Shirkey said, “I want to know what science is behind the governor’s continued coercion of and discrimination against unvaccinated people –who may already possess antibodies — until July 1.”
House Speaker Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) said in response Thursday that he’s “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. 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.”
And the Michigan Republican Party argued “there is absolutely no reason to keep these lockdowns in place for half the summer,” taking beef especially with the indoor capacity requirement staying at 50% through June.
The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association said it “welcomes the clear guidance today from MDHHS towards Michigan’s full economic reintegration.” The Small Business Association of Michigan called Thursday’s news “an important step for small business owners everywhere.”
Over at the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association (MLBA) a.k.a. the bar owners, there was an initial upbeat reaction to the Governor’s latest COVID move, but until the CEO sees it in writing, Scott Ellis will withhold a final assessment just in case what he is hearing is incorrect.
“This is nothing against the governor,” he said, but with so much at stake, he wants to make sure this is a go. He wants to double-check whether this also means no restrictions on how many patrons at the table, and will dancing be allowed in the bars?
In her news event, Whitmer did say we would be dancing at weddings again, but that may or may not mean drinking establishments will also be included.
If all this is true, Ellis is willing to say “this is a gigantic step,” but he’ll wait until Monday to review the fine print.
With the press conference taking place in Midland, the Governor and her guests also touched on the one-year anniversary of the flooding in the area due to the dam breaks in Edenville and Sanford. Whitmer said she and Gilchrist took part in a Sanford community clean-up Thursday in recognition of the anniversary of the flooding.