State ties reopening plan to vaccination percentage
Tue, 05/04/2021 - 4:13pm caleb
MI Vacc to Normal Challenge offers four steps for lifting restrictions based on vaccine numbers in Michigan
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer – during an update to the state on Thursday, April 29 – announced that Michigan’s coronavirus numbers are still high but they’re improving, and the state is tying its reopening plan to the percentage of residents who have received the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Two weeks ago I stood where we are and we were facing a spike in COVID cases. It was caused by a variety of factors, including highly infectious variants, pandemic fatigue, and increased mobility. Our seven-day average was the highest it had been at any point during the last 15 months. We urged all Michiganders to voluntarily double up on their personal efforts to mask up, socially distance, and wash their hands,” Governor Whitmer said. “I also asked people to avoid dining indoors and encouraged a two-week pause for in-person learning for high schools and school sports and activities. I want to thank all the people that stepped up and did their part by taking this seriously. 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 still not where we want them to be, we’re headed in the right direction.”
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive, during Thursday’s update, also said numbers are improving but they’re still high in many areas.
“Our COVID-19 cases remain high but I’m pleased that we are starting to see key metrics trend in the right direction. As of this week, Michigan has 493 cases per million people. That’s 30 percent lower than it was two weeks ago but still four times where we were at the middle of February. Data still indicates that we have broad community spread. This includes spread of the more easily transmitted variants that have been identified across the entire state,” Dr. Khaldun said. “The percent of tests that are positive is about 13.2 percent, nearly three times where we were in the middle of February, but down by 4.3 percent from where we were just two weeks ago.”
“We’re also still tracking outbreaks. There are over 1,272 outbreaks in counties across the state and that number is holding steady. Nineteen percent of hospital beds are being used for COVID-19 patients and the total number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 is trending down. This is better but this is still not where we want to be. These are good trends in the right direction and I want to thank all of the Michiganders who are doing the right thing, wearing masks, socially distancing, and getting tested if you’ve been exposed or have symptoms, and getting a vaccine as soon as you can,” Dr. Khaldun said.
Governor Whitmer announced that the state had administered 6.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine as of Thursday’s update. Governor Whitmer also announced the “MI Vacc to Normal Challenge,” a four-step plan to lift restrictions in the state that is directly tied to the percentage of people age 16 and up in Michigan who have received their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
According to the plan, 48.8 percent of Michigan residents age 16 and up – as of April 29 – have received at least their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Step 1 of the MI Vacc to Normal Challenge says Michigan will “lift the state’s requirement for employers to require remote work when feasible” 14 days after the state reaches a 55 percent vaccination rate for people 16 and up.
Governor Whitmer expects the state to reach Step 1 soon.
“At our current rate we will likely reach 55 percent by the end of next week,” Governor Whitmer said.
Step 2 of the plan would go into effect 14 days after the state hits the 60 percent vaccination mark. Step 2 includes: “Lift indoor capacity of sports stadiums to 25 percent; Increase indoor capacity at conference centers/banquet halls/funeral homes to 25 percent; Increase capacity at exercise facilities and gyms to 50 percent; Lift the curfew on restaurants and bars.”
“For this step and the next, MDHHS may delay implementation in a certain region if the seven-day average of new cases is greater than 250 a day per million Michiganders. We believe this is unlikely but it’s an important safety valve if something unexpected were to happen,” Governor Whitmer said.
Step 3 of the MI Vacc to Normal Challenge becomes effective 14 days after Michigan reaches 65 percent vaccination. Restriction changes would include: “Lift all indoor percentage capacity limits, requiring only social distancing between parties (e.g. lifting 100-person cap on restaurants and 300-person cap on other facilities); Relax current limits on residential social gatherings.”
The final step – Step 4 – would take effect 14 days after the state reaches a 70 percent vaccination rate.
Step 4 includes: “Lift Gatherings and Face Mask Order. No longer impose broad mitigation measures during this pandemic, unless the virus threatens to overwhelm the medical system, or other unanticipated circumstances arise, such as the spread of vaccine-resistant variants.”
“We have to have a set of clear goals to accompany every step of this process,” Governor Whitmer said.