To those struggling with shaggy locks amid the quarantine: Help is on the horizon. And in northern Michigan, you can soon hit the gym or catch a summer blockbuster.
Personal care services such as hair, tanning and nail salons and massage and tattoo parlors can reopen on June 15 statewide, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Friday.
More than 30 counties in northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula will enter Phase 5 of the state’s economic reopening plan on June 10, allowing movie theaters, fitness centers and salons to reopen. Capacity limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings will also be expanded.
If the current trajectory of coronavirus cases continues, Whitmer said, the whole state will also be able to follow northern Michigan’s lead and enter Phase 5 “in a few weeks.”
- The latest: Michigan coronavirus map, curve, chart, updated COVID-19 news
- Dashboard: Michigan coronavirus testing numbers, trends, COVID-19 data
“That is my fervent hope, that’s always been our goal, to safely reengage. So please do not drop your guard now,” Whitmer said at a press conference announcing the changes Friday. “Get ready, but stay vigilant.”
Whitmer has said restrictions could be re-implemented if pandemic conditions worsen.
The Phase 5 of reopening begins Wednesday in Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Crawford, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Presque Isle, Emmet, Gogebic, Ontonagon, Houghton, Keweenaw, Iron, Baraga, Dickinson, Marquette, Menominee, Delta, Alger, Schoolcraft, Luce, Mackinac, and Chippewa will enter Phase 5 of reopening.
Personal care services and gyms can reopen.
Entertainment venues such as bowling alleys, movie theaters, concert halls, night clubs and sports arenas will be allowed to reopen. If it’s indoors, it’s limited to 250 people. Outdoor venues are limited to 25 percent capacity or 500 people, whatever is smaller.
Indoor gatherings of up to 50 people will be permitted, as long as people can follow six-feet social distancing guidelines.
Outdoor gatherings of up to 250 people will be permitted, with social distancing rules.
Outdoor parks and recreational facilities can be open. Public pools can be open but are limited to 50 percent capacity outdoors and 25 percent capacity indoors.
People will still be required to wear a mask or another face-covering indoors if they’re not in their home, unless they can’t medically tolerate it.
Some of those rollbacks will also apply to the rest of Michigan beginning June 15. Beginning then, spas; hair and nail salons; tattoo, piercing and massage parlors; and other personal care services will be allowed to reopen statewide.
Those activities will look different than they did pre-COVID: All businesses, including personal care services, entertainment venues and gyms, will have to abide by strict safety precautions to attempt to control the spread of the virus.
For example, hair salons will be required to separate workstations by 6 feet, throw away magazines and other shared items that can’t be disinfected, and limit the number of people in the waiting area to allow for social distancing. Most businesses, including salons, gyms, cleaners and repair services, will be required to keep logs of clients to help with contact tracing.
“Here's the bottom line Michigan: The sacrifice that we've made is paying off,” Whitmer said. The state has lived under broad restrictions since March 24, when the first stay-at-home order went into effect. It was lifted on Monday to allow outdoor gatherings of up to 100 people and soon reopen bars, restaurants and retail stores.
Michigan has been hit harder than many other states by the coronavirus. The state currently has the ninth-highest number of cases in the nation and the sixth-highest number of deaths.
But Michigan’s rate of new coronavirus cases is slowing and its rate of testing and hospital capacity is increasing. New daily cases have largely been dropping since its peak in mid-April and the percent of positive tests have been below the 10 percent threshold recommended by the World Health Organization for weeks.
Still, both Whitmer and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun urged caution — wearing masks, washing hands, social distancing and staying home when sick.
“COVID-19 will be with us for some time, and we have to get used to living with this virus amongst us in the safest way possible. This is a marathon, it is not a sprint,” Khaldun said.
The changes also come after Whitmer received criticism from some salon owners after suggesting Monday that people could Google how to cut their own hair as they await further reopening. A spokesperson of Safe Salons for Michigan, a group advocating for industry reopening, called the comment “insulting and degrading,” and at least one Republican lawmaker attributed Friday’s changes to the blowback.
Whitmer apologized again for the comments Friday.
Republicans have largely welcomed Whitmer’s continued reopening of the economy even as they argue it’s long overdue.
Though northern Michigan will be entering Phase 5, the state’s economic reopening has not necessarily followed the economic reopening plan Whitmer’s administration laid out in early May.
For example, in-person dining at bars and restaurants weren’t supposed to be allowed until Phase 5, but have been permitted under Phase 4 in northern Michigan and will soon be allowed in the rest of the state — currently under Phase 4 — on June 8.
The governor has also faced criticism for not setting clear metrics for reopening certain regions, which some have argued leaves Michiganders in limbo about what is to come.
Whitmer said Friday that the statewide reopening of personal care services will align with two weeks from her Monday announcement ending the stay-at-home order.
“That’s really the period of time that makes the most sense” to monitor how the change will affect coronavirus cases,” Whitmer said. Epidemiologists have said it takes at least two weeks — if not more — to see how a single policy can affect the virus’ spread.
“Going the next step into fully resuming into Phase 5 will take days, maybe weeks, maybe a little bit longer after that,” Whitmer said. “But this will look a lot more like normal when we get past the 15th.”
But for truly returning to normal — where businesses and social spaces can function without extra safety precautions and social distancing — “it’s going to be a while,” Whitmer said.
Coronavirus is “still very present,” Whitmer said. “I know everyone's anxious to re-engage the economy. Doing so at this diminished capacity is a way to safely start that process.”