Small gatherings, non-essential doctors' visits now allowed, Gov. Whitmer says

Gatherings of 10 or fewer people can begin immediately, while auto showrooms and retail stores with limited customers can open on May 26, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday. (Photo courtesy of the governor's office)

June 1 update: Gov. Whitmer to allow bars, restaurants, retailers to reopen June 8

Small gatherings, doctor and dental visits, retail by appointment and shopping for cars in person will soon be allowed in Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday after signing a revised executive order to expand business openings. 

Gatherings of 10 people or fewer can begin immediately. Auto showrooms and retail by appointment can open on Tuesday, May 26, while non-essential medical, dental and veterinary services can begin on May 29. 

Another extension of the stay-at-home order, which first went into effect in late March and is currently set to expire on May 28, will also be likely, Whitmer said. 

“The data has shown that all regions of Michigan are ready for us to take this small step forward,” Whitmer said. “Please, 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.”

Under the order, retail stores will be allowed to reopen “by appointment” and will be able to have only 10 people shopping inside the store at once. All businesses reopening due to changes made Thursday will be required to provide training for employees on COVID-19 and sanitation practices, and must maintain social distancing guidelines and strategies to protect workers. 

Bill Hallan, president of the Michigan Retailers Association, said in a statement that the state’s retailers “have been preparing for weeks to reopen, so they’re ready,” adding that the association urged the governor to open retail stores statewide ahead of Memorial Day weekend. 


“Now most retailers in Michigan are unnecessarily missing out on important holiday weekend sales,” Hallan said. “We look forward to working with the Governor to accelerate the opening process. Every day retailers are closed is another day we’ll lose more stores.” 

The Michigan Retailers Association stressed the impact that each individual day has on retail loss in the state. 

“They’ve lost thousands of dollars just by being delayed a few days,” communications vice president Meegan Holland said. “I’m crossing my fingers that stores will be able to hold on this long.” 

Over the past months, she said the Michigan Retailers Association has hosted webinars on best practices for store flow, cleaning dressing rooms, and de-escalation during potentially tense situations to prepare for reopening. 

Holland said that she is “broadly” interpreting the guideline for retailers to open “by appointment” and emphasized that the term should not “put shoppers off.”

“In my view, it’s no different from a walk-up appointment. We are all used to that with barbershops and hair salons and nail spas. You walk in, you hope you can be served right away, but you understand if you can’t be.” 

The Michigan Hospital Association called the reopening of non-essential medical services “a positive step” and thanked the governor for “recognizing that hospitals have the appropriate supplies and capacity to resume nonessential medical services.”

Michigan’s hospitals have faced crushing financial losses since Whitmer barred non-essential medical procedures on March 20 in order to conserve PPE, staff and hospital beds. Primary care visits and elective procedures such as outpatient surgeries and diagnostic imaging account for most of hospitals’ revenue. Losing that money has prompted hospitals in Michigan to layoff thousands of employees amid a global pandemic.

The reopening should come as an encouragement for people to seek care for non-covid health concerns, said MHA spokesperson John Karasinski.

“This change in policy can only help to support our current statewide television and social media campaign urging Michigan residents not to delay care and that hospitals are safe places to receive services,” said Karasinski.

It takes at least two weeks for public health officials to see how any changes in public policy affect the virus’ spread, so Whitmer said the state will “need to take some time to ensure that these new measures are working.”

Whitmer did not indicate when she would reopen bars and restaurants statewide, as she did in the Upper Peninsula and northern Michigan. Reopening non-essential medical and dental services were important to prioritize because there are many services — such as getting tonsils removed — that aren’t immediate emergencies but “putting these things off too long can come with additional health consequences.”

The changes come as the health crisis is increasingly tied to an economic one: State officials announced Tuesday that the unemployment rate reached 22.7 percent in April, higher than that experienced during the Great Recession. 

Health officials will be watching as the new policies, including the reopening of the two regions in northern Michigan, take effect ahead of Memorial Day weekend. Whitmer warned people who gather with friends or visit northern Michigan over the long weekend to “stay safe.”

“This virus is still present in Michigan,” she said. 

As of Wednesday, Michigan has had 53,009 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and lost 5,060 people to the virus. The rate of new cases has mostly been slowing and testing capacity has improved, but epidemiologists expect a possible spike in cases as restrictions are loosened.

“As long as people maintain social distancing and keep their masks on, I am in agreement” that the new policies won’t pose a great danger, said Rosemarie Rowney, former Assistant Professor and Clinic Instructor in Epidemiology. “However human behavior is such that both are easily forgotten in the joy of being with others.”

Even with following the new health guidelines, more movement ultimately means more potential for virus transmission and infection.

“As we’re out and about in the community more, we will see more cases,” Michelle Klein,  director of personal health for the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department told Bridge when northern Michigan regions reopened.

“But also, we understand that this coronavirus is not going to go away, and that was never the goal [of the stay-home order.] The goal was to help us be more prepared in our health care systems to manage things as they came.”

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Bob Butkiss
Thu, 05/21/2020 - 9:58pm

Does Governor Whitmer have blood on her hands?

JPMorgan has just released a devastating piece that demonstrates (based on the data) that infection rates have declined — not increased — in states where lockdowns have ended, “even after allowing for an appropriate measurement lag.” Quintanilla also noted JP Morgan’s discovery of the same pattern happening in other countries that have released their lockdowns. "Same goes for various countries," adds JPM. This means that less people are becoming sick in states when lockdowns are abandoned... and yet she still persists.


Valarie Tell
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 10:28am

This study doesn't show that shutdowns kill people, it just shows that shutdowns don't 'save lives' or slow the spread of the virus or anything. So she doesn't have 'blood on her hands' for killing people with the unnecessary shut-down.

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 12:37pm

Do we really believe that a study commissioned by JP Morgan can be unbiased? Whitmer has saved lives. She knows it any many others know it. Her decisions are based on information provided by epidemiologists and infection control specialists. Their only investment is keeping people healthy.

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 6:00pm

Do we really believe that Vicky is not a paid Russian bot designed to spread fear and confusion in the American system? Slogans save lives, and faith is the only way to believe these things- follow the chosen scientists and repent your sins and wear the required head scarves and give up your wealth, for the witches are real and we will find and punish them.

Doby Joe
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 6:02pm

So government bureaucrats which benefit from government spending and are enjoying more power are "unbiased", but JP Morgan is evil? Come on Valerie- you're trolling, right? Surely you can't be so dumb as to have put your faith and trust in the hands of government bureaucrats and politicians? Oh man, you are a sheep, aren't you?

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 10:21pm

Yes- certainly! The “Stay at Home” order was originally intended to flatten the curve, which ended 3 weeks ago. So the next theory put forth is we have to stay in until a vaccine is developed- as other liberals have said. Wow, that means we’ll go into November. Hallelujah! We can have mail in voting! That is most certainly the only way to get President Trump out of office- because without having to show ID- dead people and unicorns can vote! Gee - I also saw so many signs of nonpartisan behavior from our governor during this pandemic- such as offering contracts to 2 far left progressive groups to be contact tracers. Of course those contracts had to be rescinded once she was found out., How about LARA pulling the license of the 77 year old barber in Owosso because he told the press he would rather work than go on food stamps. I could go on about the truth regarding this governor’s true motives-Actions certainly do speak louder than words. In my entire life I have never been as worried about this so called democracy I live in. Censorship and political agendas are the driving force today. The studies coming out from around the globe as well as the thousands of American doctors trying to communicate the lunacy of locking down healthy people are being ignored by many in positions of power to further their political agendas. As states have opened up, there have been decreases in positive COVID 19 cases. That should make one take pause and ask the question: was the lockdown worth capsizing an economy, depriving children of learning ( look at Sweden’s model- no lockdown but sensible measures and protection of the elderly and medically fragile. They’re death rate was proportionate to those countries that did lockdown) , social isolation, physical abuse, drug abuse, depression, other health crises, and the list goes on. To me - this is proof of a badly flawed plan that has had catastrophic results.

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 6:42pm

So hygienist can return to work but barbers cannot. Hmmm??

Henry Patrick
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 3:10pm

But if the shut downs led to less kids getting vaccinated for preventable diseases, less cancer screenings, less medicine and care for heart and other diseases, increased suicide and drug and alcohol abuse, etc- then there is blood on the hands of those who shut down their states, and the amount of blood is relevant to the extent to which they shut it down and the length of the shut down. These 'stay home' orders might have killed thousands while saving none, or at least that is what the data and science is now showing- so blood might be on a lot of people's hands, notably Whitmer.

A. Watters.
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 9:01am

Wittmer ordered sick people into nursing homes, spreading death like a wild fire. Then ignors Feds when they pull licence for dam. Fought to keep lake level high. More business and peoe die. How to kill a state, by the big Gretch

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 12:45pm

You know hospitals don't have the bed capacity to hold people once they're ready for discharge, right? Do you have any concrete ideas about where they should have gone and what funds would have paid for additional facilities? If this is the first time you've been concerned about people in nursing homes you should know that any infection runs rampant in them and has been that way for years but NO ONE has ever wanted to do anything about it. Start lobbying your politicians for better care for elders. Maybe they'd reconsider the funding for "Star Wars" and keep it here on earth.

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 9:47am

I still can't operate my business since a 6 foot social distance is not possible, even though it is an outdoor enterprise. I doubt my business will survive much longer without going under.

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 10:31am

This is unacceptable that Whitmer will extend beyond May,,the people will not accept it and there will be resistance in major ways.

Kevin Grand
Fri, 05/22/2020 - 12:24pm

People are already ignoring her "orders".

The only reason why she is doing this is to maintain the illusion that she still has some power.

Fri, 05/22/2020 - 1:16pm

I don't think the state -- or many retailers -- will agree with this interpretation:

Holland said that she is “broadly” interpreting the guideline for retailers to open “by appointment” and emphasized that the term should not “put shoppers off.”
“In my view, it’s no different from a walk-up appointment. We are all used to that with barbershops and hair salons and nail spas. You walk in, you hope you can be served right away, but you understand if you can’t be.”

Um, no. An internet search for "appointment" defines it as: "an arrangement to meet someone at a particular time and place." Other states explicitly say walk-in appointments are not allowed.

I think under the order you need to call ahead before going to Best Buy to get a USB cable. This is better than nothing but not by much.

Sat, 05/23/2020 - 12:24am

I am a data scientist. I have predictions, and for now let's assume based on models. 1. Much like SARS 1, SARS2 will disappear this summer. 2. No vaccine will be created, because it will no longer be needed. 3. Once the panic fades, the data from this will be reviewed, and reviewed again, and cleaned up. And they will find that it is no more, or barely more, deadly than the seasonal flu. Now, I fully expect that at least half of you disagree with me. And the only reason that I can think of for that is that these predictions are not "doomsday" enough for you. But, are my predictions any less probable than anyone else's? The short answer is no. "Science" cannot be used to predict the future. If it could, I'd be rich. Sensational journalism is an unbelievably powerful tool.

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 6:40pm

Why can medical and dental offices return, yet barbers and salons cannot. Makes absolutely no sense other than because she can. Being a hygienist I am much closer than any beautician visit I have ever had! and exposed to more aerosols . Could you explain this decision because my beautician has no problem having one client at a time with a mask, unlike me no matter which way you look at it I am exposed to saliva and germs