Easing Restrictions

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer eased many of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions on Tuesday, including allowing restaurants to now reach 50 percent capacity.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday announced sweeping changes to the state’s COVID-19 restrictions, including increasing capacity limits at establishments like restaurants and allowing visitation at nursing homes statewide.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel signed the changes into place, and said she did so after consulting the state’s latest numbers.

“We have seen some of our key metrics continue to decline,” Hertel said at a press conference announcing the changes Tuesday.

Three metrics the state is citing are: a declining use of hospital capacity for COVID-19 patients; a plateau in case rates at 91.2 cases per million; and a positivity rate of 3.7 percent, a slight increase over 3.5 percent last week.

“As we continue our vaccine rollout and make steady progress against the virus, we are taking additional incremental steps to re-engage to ensure we are protecting our families and frontline workers and saving lives,” Whitmer said in a statement announcing the changes.

Changes include:

Restaurants can have 50 percent capacity

Michigan restaurants are going from 25 percent capacity to 50 percent capacity, up to 100 people, starting on Friday, March 5. Restaurants and bars will also be allowed to stay open until 11 p.m. instead of the previous 10 p.m. curfew.

The order is slated to go through April 19.

Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association President & CEO Justin Winslow said in a statement, “We welcome the governor’s decision today to expand restaurant, banquet and meeting space occupancy and consider this change critically important, but the six-week duration of this Order is concerning and significantly too long to adapt to rapidly changing metrics around this virus.”

Nursing home visitation expanded

Previously, only outdoor visitation had been allowed in some Michigan counties with higher risk levels. The new order allows up to two family members to visit residents at facilities statewide. Visitors must be tested, wear masks, and in general maintain six feet of distance.

The order goes into effect immediately.

Gyms and casinos increase capacity to 30 percent

Gyms, previously capped at 25 percent capacity, are now allowed up to 30 percent capacity. Attendees must still wear masks, and exercise equipment must be placed six feet apart.

Casinos are also now at 30 percent capacity.

Retail now at 50 percent capacity

Previously, retailers were capped at 30 percent capacity. Under the latest order, that goes up to 50 percent capacity beginning March 5.

Increased stadium and arena capacity

Previously, stadiums and arenas were capped at 250 patrons if they had a seating capacity of under 10,000 and up to 500 patrons if the venue’s capacity was greater.

The MDHHS order raises those effective March 5: stadiums and arenas with a capacity of less than 10,000 seats can have up to 375 people, while those with more than 10,000 seats can have up to 750 people in attendance.

Residential gathering limits rise

Since November, the state has limited indoor residential gatherings to 10 people from two households. Starting March 5, that will increase to 15 people from 3 households.

Outdoor gatherings, too, will see an increase. Previously limited to 25 people from no more than three households, outdoor gatherings can now be of up to 50 people. There is no limitation on the number of households.

Non-residential gathering limits increase, too

Indoors, non-residential gatherings of up to 25 people are allowed, an increase from 10 under the current order.

Outdoors, non-residential gatherings of up to 300 people can take place, an increase from 25 under the current order.

No changes in some areas

The state is encouraging people who can work remotely to continue to do so.

Masking requirements for those engaged in sports remain in place.

Businesses like gyms and beauty parlors must still maintain records of their patrons for contact tracing.

Restaurants have to maintain records of who was at their establishments at what time for contact tracing.

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