Michigan's governor lifted the stay-home order on a day when a relatively few number of deaths and new confirmed cases related to COVID-19 were reported.
The governor's announcement Monday of easing restrictions was followed by the state health department's daily report of new cases and deaths from the virus. The state reported 25 new deaths on Monday and 135 new confirmed cases.
Michigan now has a cumulative total of 57,532 confirmed cases and 5,516 deaths.
The Ottawa County Department of Public Health says the county has a total of 862 lab-confirmed coronavirus cases and a death toll of 39. The county says that 7.8 percent of the cases remain hospitalized and 360 are considered recovered.
Muskegon County has 645 confirmed cases and 36 deaths, according to the state health department.
Whitmer lifts Michigan's stay-at-home order
LANSING (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted Michigan's nearly 10-week coronavirus stay-at-home order Monday, letting restaurants reopen to dine-in customers next week and immediately easing limits on outdoor gatherings while keeping social-distancing rules intact.
The governor moved regions comprising 93 percent of the state's population to phase 4 — "improving" — two weeks after she announced that northern Michigan could advance to that stage. Businesses where close contact is necessary, such as gyms, hair salons, theaters and amusement parks, will remain closed.
Retailers can reopen to customers without an appointment on Thursday and restaurants can offer dine-in service on June 8, with capacity limits. Children's day camps and pools can open June 8. Groups of up to 100 can gather outside if they stay 6 feet apart, up from a threshold of 10 people. In-home services such as housecleaning can resume.
Whitmer said her goal is to shift the state to phase 5 — "containing" — before July 4.
"While Michiganders are no longer required to stay home, we must all continue to be smart and practice social distancing, and encourage those who meet the criteria to get tested for COVID-19," she said in a statement before a scheduled news conference.
More than 5,500 people have died from coronavirus complications in Michigan, fifth-most in the country.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Nearly 26,000 nursing home COVID-19 deaths reported to feds
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal health authorities have received reports of nearly 26,000 nursing home residents dying from COVID-19, according to materials prepared for the nation's governors. That number is partial and likely to go higher.
A letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 60,000 cases of coronavirus illness among nursing home residents. A copy of the letter and an accompanying chart were provided to The Associated Press.
The numbers, which had been promised by the end of May, are partial. The letter said the data are based on reports received from about 80% of the nation's 15,400 nursing homes.
CMS, which is responsible for nursing home quality standards, also told the governors it is increasing penalties for nursing homes failing to comply with longstanding infection control requirements.
A federal watchdog report last month found a "persistent" pattern of infection control problems in nursing homes even before the coronavirus. The Government Accountability Office said that about 40% of the nursing homes inspected in each of the past two years were cited for problems with infection control and prevention.
Although the first wave of the pandemic may be easing in much of the country, that doesn't mean nursing homes are in any less danger. Experts say in a virus rebound they can again become the stage for tragic scenes of death and despair, as well as a risk for the broader community.
"What is going on in a nursing home can be a barometer for where the virus is," said Tamara Konetzka, a research professor at the University of Chicago, who specializes in long-term care issues. "You've got to be watching out and expecting a lot of cases in that community as well."
It's widely agreed that prompt, methodical, ongoing testing of residents and staff is the key to making nursing homes safer, but a White House recommendation for states to test all residents within two weeks failed to produce desired results. A recent AP review found a patchwork of progress, with only a handful of states meeting the goal. Nationwide, about 1.4 million elderly and disabled residents live in some 15,500 facilities.
The nursing home industry says money is one of the main obstacles to widespread testing, particularly to pay for testing of staff, who number more than 1 million people. An industry trade group, the American Health Care Association, estimates it would cost $672 million for a one-time test for all residents and staff in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. And that would not solve the problem, since public health experts recommend ongoing testing.
Another hurdle is that many nursing homes don't have established relationships with medical labs to quickly turn around results.
Mark Parkinson, head of the nursing home association, says the cost of a well-designed national testing program could reach into the billions of dollars.
"It's very important in the next stimulus bill not to just order testing," said Parkinson, adding that Congress needs to provide the money as well.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has recommended a one-time test for all residents and staff, as well as weekly retesting of staff. Facilities should retest residents weekly until none test positive. CMS head Seema Verma says states should use "extreme caution" before reopening nursing homes to visitors.
Some policy experts are hoping that the loss of life in nursing homes will lead state and national leaders to overhaul policies toward the industry, long a stepchild of the health care system.
"This is not a nursing home problem; this is a health system problem," said Terry Fulmer, president of the John A. Hartford Foundation, which works to improve care for older adults. "Every system produces the outcome it is set up for. If you set up a system where the sickest and frailest people are in locations that are forgotten about and ignored, where the staff is paid less, why should that surprise anyone?"