Michigan Gov. Whitmer announces plan to tie coronavirus vaccination rate to reopening

Gov. Whitmer facing scrutiny for handling of coronavirus in nursing homes

Daughter of Michigan coronavirus nursing home victim Jamie Nicholson weighs in on pandemic response from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced a “MI Vacc to Normal” plan Thursday that ties the state’s vaccination rates to its reopening plans. 

It comes as Michigan tries to tamp down one of the worst ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks in America, with a seven-day moving average of 340 new cases a day per 100,000 residents and 2.63 deaths a day per 100,000 residents. 

Under Whitmer’s new plan, the state will set out on a path to fully reopen once it hits four benchmarks for the vaccination rate. 

“The MI Vacc to Normal challenge outlines steps we can take to emerge from this pandemic as we hit our vaccination targets together,” Whitmer said Thursday. “On our path to vaccinating 70% of Michiganders 16 and up, we can take steps to gradually get back to normal while keeping people safe.”

MICHIGAN BECOMES CORONAVIRUS HOTSPOT AS VARIANTS RISE AND VIGILANCE FALLS

The "MI Vacc to Normal" plan announced Thursday will see Michigan completely reopen once 70% of residents aged 16 and up received at least one dose of the vaccine. 

So far, 48.4% of Michiganders aged 16 and up have already received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Once that number hits 55%, workers will be allowed to go back to their offices. When the state reaches 60%, indoor capacity for sports stadiums, banquet halls and other venues will rise to 25%, while gyms jump to 50% capacity. The curfew for bars and restaurants will also be lifted at 60% vaccination. 

The third benchmark is key, as all indoor capacity limits will be lifted when 65% of people in Michigan get at least one dose, but social distancing will still be required. Finally, when the vaccination rate reaches 70%, the face mask order and other restrictions will be completely lifted. 

Under current restrictions, which are in place until May 24, gyms can stay open at 30% capacity, while bars, restaurants, casinos, and other businesses can open at 50% capacity. 

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Gov. Whitmer has come under fire in recent months for her handling of the coronavirus pandemic, most recently when it was revealed that she traveled to Florida in March while warning Michiganders not to leave the state. Whitmer has since said that she was checking in on her sick father and was not on vacation. 

“It is saddening,” Whitmer told Washington Post Live on April 20. “It is a two-day trip. I wasn’t partying in Miami.” 

The governor publicly got the second dose of her vaccine Thursday afternoon as a part of the drive to reach that 70% vaccination rate for the entire state. 

“If you haven’t already, I encourage you to rise to the challenge and be a part of the solution so we can continue our economic recovery and have the summer we all crave,” Whitmer said.

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