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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Michigan to begin easing COVID mask restrictions on Thursday

woman running in mask
Non-contact sports teams will no longer be required to use masks outdoors when practicing or competing. (Shutterstock)

LANSING —  Starting Thursday, masks will not generally be required in most gatherings outdoors in Michigan, while fully vaccinated people can gather inside without masks, according to a new state order Tuesday.

“The commitment by Michiganders to receive the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is allowing us to move toward a return to normal,” Elizabeth Hertel, the state’s director of health and human services, said in a news release.

Her department issued the order, which follows a similar easing of outdoor mask guidance by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The new order comes days after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week announced a new reopening plan that linked easing COVID-19 restrictions with the percentage of people inoculated.

 

Under the new order:

  • Those fully vaccinated and without symptoms are no longer required to wear a mask at indoor residential gatherings.
  •  Masks are generally not required outdoors unless a gathering has 100 or more people. 
  • Organized sports teams no longer need to routinely test fully vaccinated participants for COVID-19. 
  • Masks won’t be required for non-contact sports during practice or games, but they will be required for contact sports.

In a statement to Bridge Michigan, Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, said he looks forward to “seeing the science this is based on and hearing why it was not factored into the governor's return to normal plan."

The statement referred to longstanding reluctance by Whitmer, until recently, to set clear benchmarks for lifting her previous pandemic restrictions.

The new rules come as festival season is set to begin in Michigan, and do away with limits that set capacity for events such as fairs and golf tournaments at 1,000 people.

The new rules go into effect on Thursday, and will continue until at least May 31.

According to the state, about 39 percent of Michigan residents 16 and older have been fully vaccinated, while nearly 51 percent have received at least a first dose.

Whitmer has said she will lift remaining coronavirus rules when vaccination rates increase.

When 55 percent of Michigan adults are vaccinated, in-person work can resume for all business sectors, while capacity at sports stadiums and conference centers will increase when rates hit 60 percent and be removed at 65 percent. 

All remaining rules would end when 70 percent of adults are vaccinated, according to Whitmer’s plan.

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