It’s a long weekend. Can you hug Grandma under Michigan’s stay-home rules?

The marquee of the historic State Theatre in Traverse City this weekend has a message for out-of-towners, after  Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted retrictions on businesses in northern Michigan. (Bridge photo by Alexandra Schmidt)

One day, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer relaxed restrictions that were put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus that has killed more than 5,100 residents.  The next, she extended her stay-at-home order until June 12.

Confused? There's a lot to digest over a long Memorial Day weekend, but Bridge has you covered.

Whitmer's Friday order extending her stay-at-home rules essentially leaves in place restrictions on businesses and gatherings for a few more weeks.

But those restrictions have been eased this week, as the pace of the pandemic has slowed in Michigan. 

Among other things, meeting in groups of up to 10 people, retail shopping and non-essential doctor’s visits are now legal again, while restaurants and bars are able to open with restrictions in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula because those areas have far fewer coronavirus cases.

Here’s what you need to know about the latest rules

Fire up that barbecue

Beginning immediately, groups of up to 10 people can get together for the first time since March 24.

But don’t give Grandma a hug at the family barbeque — people are still required to abide by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines with people outside of their household. 

That means staying 6 feet apart from others, covering your mouth and nose with a mask or other face covering, washing your hands frequently and sticking with outdoor spaces if possible.

Retail stores and auto showrooms are open 'by appointment'

Shopping in brick-and-mortar stores will be allowed statewide “by appointment” beginning on May 26, as long as stores are limited to 10 people at a time. 

Stores are also encouraged to offer curbside pickup to “mitigate outdoor lines,” Whitmer spokesperson Tiffany Brown said. 

Shoppers can call ahead to the stores they’re hoping to visit if they “want to be guaranteed that (they) won't wait in line to get into the store,” said Meegan Holland, spokesperson for the Michigan Retailers Association. 

But they don’t necessarily have to.

Most stores are interpreting the order to be like the appointment system at hair or nail salons, Holland said. Shoppers can go to the store without an appointment, and if there are already 10 people inside they may be told to wait outside or come back another time. 

Holland said stores that were deemed essential and open amid the lockdown, such as grocery stores and big-box stores like Walmart and Target, will continue to follow the rules from earlier executive orders: Four people per 1,000 square feet for big stores and 25 percent capacity for smaller ones.

You can go back get your teeth cleaned again

Beginning May 29, non-essential visits to the doctor, dentists and veterinarians are allowed statewide for the first time since March 21.

The Michigan Hospital Association said in a statement Thursday it has enough supplies and capacity to resume service. “Hospitals are safe; please don’t delay care of any kind,” CEO Brian Peters said. 

The rules are different in northern Michigan 

In 32 northern Michigan and Upper Peninsula counties, the rules are more relaxed. 

Restaurants and bars are open at 50 percent capacity, though they’re also required to abide by enhanced safety regulations, social distancing and mask-wearing. Local governments are allowed to further restrict rules in their towns, so some areas may only allow outdoor seating or other variations.

However, hotels and vacation rentals still aren’t open Up North. That means those who go north this weekend should be staying in privately owned cottages and residences, but Whitmer asked residents to “think long and hard before you take a trip” north to avoid spreading the virus.

While retailers in the rest of the state have to wait until after the long weekend to open, shops in the northern counties will be open.  Retailers have to mark 6-foot distances for lines and remind customers that they have to wear a mask. 

Office buildings for those whose work can’t be done remotely are also open in the northern counties.

For the rest of the state, much remains the same 

Some things haven’t changed: People can still leave their homes to exercise, walk pets, go golfing, running, biking or boating. 

Fishing and hunting allowed and most state parks are open for day use. Camping is not allowed in state parks until at least June. 

People can go to grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and other places considered essential to sustaining human life. Those who work in essential industries such as agriculture, energy production, sanitation, healthcare and more are allowed to go to work in person. 

People can travel between their houses, move to a new house or state, and return to their home in Michigan. 

Before May 26, shoppers can buy things from retail stores, restaurants and bars for curbside pickup. The construction, landscaping, real estate and manufacturing industries are open for in-person work as long as people follow CDC social distancing guidelines. 

Whitmer did not say Thursday when bars and restaurants in the lower half of the state might reopen for in-person dining or when salons, gyms and other personal care services would come back.

Things can change 

Whitmer has said that health officials will closely monitor how the coronavirus responds to changes in how people are allowed to work and play. If cases start rising again, officials may reinstate some restrictions.

“We want to continue turning this dial, but we are going to stay tethered to the data and the epidemiology to know when it is safe to do that,” Whitmer said. “As you are re-engaging in some of these activities, be smart, continue to do your part. We can't drop our guard and run the risk of a second wave.”

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Fri, 05/22/2020 - 5:50pm

Businesses in Traverse City are opening , while those in Ludington are forced into bankruptcy. Lake County is treated the same as Kent. An X on the floor tells us where to stand. The law dictates whom we may touch. An autocratic Governor claims unlimited powers for as long as she chooses. Have we all gone mad?

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 1:43pm

I’m with you. I am also getting disgusted with the way bridge Michigan says things. Going to unsubscribe. Good luck buddy.

Kevin Grand
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 5:59pm

I still think that it is hilarious watching Gov. Karen act as if people still listen to what she says.

old hippie
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 8:33pm

Thank God most people are listening and keeping our parents, our children and our neighbors safe. Those not listening are self-serving and have issues with ego, pride and selfishness.

Kevin Grand
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 2:07pm

And some of us have read the numbers, which have been greatly inflated nationally, in order to scare a gullable population into ceding their rights in order to promote "safety".

We can also talk about the governor's one-size-fits-all solution to addressing the Wuhan virus here in Michigan?

Because, as we all know, what needs to be done in densely populated areas, MUST also apply in rural areas.

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 3:32pm

Spot on!

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 1:26pm

Exactly!! This order is unlawful and all of us in our small town opened up everything. It's business here as usual but I'm sad for the others outside of our area that the liberals are destroying.

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 6:25pm

If I say "Woof, woof" can I get a haircut? It seems unbalanced that I can take my pet to a groomer but not myself to my hairdresser.

George Hagenauer
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 10:09am

You drop the pet off and don't need to be with the groomer for a long period of time - length of contact with people who have contact with a lot of other people is a key factor in spreading the virus. There are actually some guidelines on how long a close contact should be - they are on line and based on studies.

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 8:42pm

The roads leading into our safe area are bumper-to-bumper with downstate invaders bringing a virus up here to our small towns and villages. Most everyone I know up here plans to stay far away from the insanity this weekend. Some of my friends are not even going to open their stores and bars this weekend. When the new cases and deaths spike up here, they will be shutting it down again.

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 10:55am

Cry me a River! If it wasn’t for the tax payers in the heavily populated areas of Michigan, it would be incredibly hard for the less populated areas of Michigan to survive.
The Northern part of Michigan “want it all” by they’re rules. Add up the vacation homes down state people own up north. Vacation homeowners are buying property, paying taxes & putting money in your businesses.
If it wasn’t for all of us pay the State from taxes we work hard for down here, then distributed to areas up north, it would be extremely difficult for Northern Michigan to survive at all. We pay our way, but I still see northern cities NOT refusing to except our money, but you want us to STAY AWAY...hum!
Take a bite of a Traverse City cherry pie and stick it in your pie hole.

middle of the mit
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 12:15pm

Here come the people who think they own everything. Jan, do you realize that half the people up here are retired from down state? It is just as likely that they are the ones, who don't want you to never come up....but for a world wide pandemic, they would like you to stay home or if you do come up to not be running around like you own everything and nothing is happening.

A lot of the reason that "your tax money" comes up here is so that you have paved roads to drive on with your cars and trucks, parks and boat launches to use, you know, everything you come up here for and end up retiring here for. But if you haven't noticed our State isn't doing that great, even before this pandemic, with State infrastructure and other things because we have to lower taxes on wealthy individuals and businesses. Mike Shirkey wants our roads to back to gravel or to close some down to save money.

So we just let this ravage everywhere it hasn't and let the chips fall where they may?

Tell your favorite real news anchors to take the dive first.

So what do you tell those that are retired up here if our area slowly or quickly turns yellow, orange and then red and the deaths start piling up? Cry me a river?

Juan Fiesta
Mon, 05/25/2020 - 8:53am

Bravo! Well stated. Jan can vacation in the back yard, we don't need her money! Our way of life in our rural communities is why we live here. Also, your overpopulated communities get a higher, disproportionate amout of the tax money so quit your pathetic whining. Maybe you should vacation in Ohio.

Mon, 05/25/2020 - 9:22pm

I’d rather live poor up here than be invaded every damn weekend

Tom Shurtleff
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 9:03am

Some grandma's will get hugs! Headlines and teaser sentences draw to read deeper into the article. Grandmas get attention. The idea I am not seeing expressed often is the need for personal responsibility and decision making. The 'virus' is incapable of self locomotion. An order about distancing, limiting the number of people in spaces and gatherings Is a social contract. I care about you and you care about others. People ultimately must make personal decisions, such as hugging family members (not just grandmas) and friends like human people do. Prior infections, health status, and other factors must ultimately be weighed individually before taking risk. Guidelines are formed from social and public health sciences, designed to provide common information that reasoning (note I did not say reasonable) humans interpret for ALL of our good. So at your barbecue, or on the pontoon boat, and in your favorite retailer, be smart. Think beyond yourself and act to keep all SAFE.

Nick Ciaramitaro
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 3:08pm

I wish my Grandma was still here to hug but if she was I wouldn't out of love. I don't believe I am infected, but 40% of cases are spread by people with no symptoms.
Smile, wave, talk through a mask and keep your Grandma around for as long as possible.

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 9:12am

Does not tell us whether the new cases are hospital admits or just those who tested positive (mild) or those who tested as having had the virus already. Why not? Does not say how many of the cases are in nursing homes or special care facilities. Why not?

Paul Belanger
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 9:34am

She is ignoring the 1st Amendment religious freedom. I hope the President will direct the AG to take her all the way to the SCOUS!!!

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 11:37am

Scientists say the virus will return in waves (absent 100% vaccination), is Gov. Whitmer going to close down the livelihood of 'non-essential' workers in Michigan at every wave? Will she also close down our livelihood during the flu season because flu and coronavirus don't mix well? It isn't selfish to want to return to work and salvage remains of a lifelong livelihood before it's totally destroyed. It is selfish to ignore the very serious health, economic and social impact caused by that loss of livelihood. 'non-essential' workers are equally important and have equal right to a life of value without destroying the livelihood that has been built over years of hard work.

Gov. Whitmer is a bureaucrat, proud to have always been a politician, never run a business. She has only experienced how to use the law to control and decide for others. Now she is the final word on what businesses are expendable because she can't seem to address all industries at the same time. There is a long list, but the most glaring was when she decided what Walmart/Home Depot and others could sell because she couldn't figure out that store capacity limitation (for ALL businesses, big and small) would accomplish the same social distancing goal. Someone who doesn't know enough about running businesses is deciding which businesses are worthy and which are not .... because she can't figure it out.

This began as an effort to 'flatten the curve' of transmission so that our medical system was not overwhelmed because our scientists did not know how it would spread. The curve has more than flattenend, in Michigan it's been on a down slope for weeks. Our medical system has not been overwhelmed any more than a bad flu season. Our scientists know ALOT about how this virus transmits, and how it doesn't; who it impacts and who it doesn't. Will this governor now lock us in and destroy any remainder of economy is response to every illness? every serious flu season because she has decided it's the only way to 'protect' the vulnerable? Under that concept, we need to remove all motor vehicles from our society. For those who are so afraid, where is your outrage at annual highway fatalities, child drownings, an annual flu season that kills tens of thousands every year. Because those deaths are spread over a year they aren't as important? Those same people who are most vulnerable to the coronavirus are equally at risk of death from the flu every year!

Whitmer seems more eager to keep her name on the national political stage than resolving the economic issues in Michigan. It isn't a choice of health or economy .... it's both and we need a governor who can deal with both. Throughout the last couple months she has almost proudly (or maybe it's her defensive blame) announced Michigan's ranking in cases within the country and more recently Michigan's ranking in unemployment numbers. Because there are many states with populations larger than Michigan, she specifically chooses to talk of ranking among states as a way communicating fear... fear being a clear controlling message. Michigan has a population of approximately 10 million people. 489,000 Michiganders have been tested for the virus and 71,000 have tested positive. At the worst days 3500 people were hospitalized for this virus and currently only 1000 are hospitalized. The vast majority of people will not get this virus and the vast majority of those who do will not be hospitalized. The same people who are vulnerable to this virus are equally vulnerable to the annual flu.

Put on your big girl panties Gov. Whitmer and do your job for ALL Michiganders. We're ALL important and ESSENTIAL .... stop campaigning for Biden's VP!!!

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 11:34pm

I do not understand why all this is political? It should be medical! Listen to the Healthcare workers who have watched 10% of Covid positive patients die. Listen to the CDC. Field hospitals were being set up in Detroit a little over a month ago. If things hadn't been shutdown where would be today? Plenty more of us would be in the ground. Luckily the shutdown worked and our hospitals did not reach capacity. If your family is all healthy without any underlying conditions then that's great but think about those who are not. There are so many young and old out there that need our help right now. As a medical professional i can tell you this virus is like nothing we have ever seen before and it is not going away any time soon. We need to all come together and fight the virus not each other and not politicians. Be courteous, wear a mask, keep 6 feet away, and listen to the doctors.

Sun, 05/24/2020 - 11:50am

Very well said, thank you.

Mad Mike
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 11:57am

Screw the Governor, we are DONE with all this and we will go do what we want.

Joan Bair
Sat, 05/23/2020 - 3:54pm

Interesting that the governor opened up part of Northern Michigan just in time for her to hold a graduation party at their northern residence.

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 9:07pm

It's so stupid that people are getting worked up over these restrictions. It's not like you're locked up in your house 24/7. From what I can see most people are pretty much doing what they want anyway. I feel like people just want something to complain about. Whitmer is doing the right thing and we will get out of this a lot faster than these states are opening up too early.

Mon, 05/25/2020 - 7:44am

Meanwhile many businesses are goi f to go under because they can not recover from being shuttered for so long. Sounds like you are a privileged one to have other sources of income. Northern Indiana and Ohio should thank our governor - we will just go there for our “non-essential” needs. When the chips all fall, who is going to have an I come to even pay their taxes? It’s just ridiculous - we are adults and should be able to make adult decisions, public health crises or not. The fact of the matter remains that throughout this shutdown, numbers have continued to go up. So, while it may have helped save a few lives, it’s clearly not getting rid of the virus. It’s going to run it’s course, and for those who survive it, they deserve to have the ability to make a living themselves.

Mon, 05/25/2020 - 11:41pm


Sat, 05/23/2020 - 11:18pm

Thank you for doing your best to keep us safe Gov. Whitmer! You have a tough job and are doing great! Keep listening to the medical professionals. This should not be political, it is medical! We simply cannot max out our hospital capacity and your closures have made sure that hasn't happened. We especially need to keep our healthcare workers safe.

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 11:39pm

Has anyone noticed the similarities between Cornelius Fudge and Trump? COVID is our Voldemort and both leaders tried to pretend they didn't exist. Didn't work out so well for Fudge.

Loni Walters
Sun, 05/24/2020 - 8:08am

If 'cases' start rising, the Governor may reinstate more INSANE is that, as 'cases' does NOT equal deaths!!!
My 'point' the 'game' has been to do massive testing and when it 'time' to decide to reopen...THEN review the test results 'cases' (NOT DEATHS...CASES...NOT DEATHS) and keep this 'restrictive' order in place longer...know full well there are THOUSANDS that have not been tested so MASSIVE numbers can be gathered to SUPPORT more restrictions...FOR NO GOOD reason...add into the mix, that 'positive' VIRUS test results came from 'food'. So how accurate is the 'test' results anyway?!

Sun, 05/24/2020 - 6:42pm

So are retail workers essential? This makes no sense. How are we staying home when we can work, shop, have medical "procedures" and get food. Because we can't watch movies with 200 people and exercise in a gym? Is that it? Boohoo. I do think medical should be open before car dealers and other retail. It would make sense that people could get any needed/overdue treatment before being forced to return to work, with the public. Real smart Gretch!

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 10:23am

Thank you Gov. Whitmore for thinking of all of the residents in Michigan. I am not for spreading the virus to any other human being. Grateful to those who are compassionate and considerate of other residents. I know this is not a joke. God Bless you and yours. God Bless and Many thanks to the frontliners, scientists, doctors, nurses, lab, x-ray, clerks, EMS, police officers, firefighters and all those who are helping during this crisis.