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Gov. Whitmer Unveils Plan That Ties Michigan Restaurant Capacity to Vaccination Rates

The tiered plan would lift curfew for the state’s restaurants and bars and eliminate mask requirements once vaccine benchmarks are reached

Carryout delivery curbside pickup store offering pickup coronavirus covid-19 pandemic Ann Arbor quarantine.
Capacity for indoor dining at restaurants is currently 50 percent.
Andrew Boydston/Shutterstock

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer outlined a plan on Thursday, April 29, that would make COVID-19 restrictions contingent on specific vaccination levels.

The tiered plan, for example, would lift the curfew for the state’s restaurants and bars once 60 percent of Michiganders are vaccinated. Indoor dining capacity limits would be lifted once 65 percent of Michiganders are vaccinated. Under current regulations, restaurants are restricted to 50 percent capacity or 100 diners.

State health officials have previously said the goal is to have 70 percent of Michiganders vaccinated.

“On our path to vaccinating 70 percent of Michiganders 16 and up, we can take steps to gradually get back to normal while keeping people safe,” Whitmer said in a statement.

The MI Vacc to Normal plan unveiled at Thursday’s news conference has four vaccination-based milestones — using data for Michiganders 16 or older who’ve received their first dose:

55 percent of Michiganders vaccinated (4.5 million residents), plus two weeks

  • Allows in-person work for all sectors of business.

60 percent of Michiganders (4.8 million residents), plus two weeks

  • Increases indoor capacity at sports stadiums to 25 percent
  • Increases indoor capacity at conference centers, banquet halls, and funeral homes to 25 percent
  • Increases capacity at exercise facilities and gyms to 50 percent
  • Lifts the curfew on restaurants and bars

65 percent of Michiganders (5.3 million residents), plus two weeks

  • Lifts all indoor dining capacity limits, requiring only social distancing between parties.
  • Further relaxes limits on residential social gatherings

70 percent of Michiganders (5.7 million residents), plus two weeks

  • Lifts the Gatherings and Face Masks Order unless unanticipated circumstances arise, such as the spread of vaccine-resistant variants

The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association released a statement following Thursday’s announcement, approving of the measures. “We applaud the governor for implementing what the MRLA has been requesting for months — a metric driven plan that offers incentives rather than mandates to drive better outcomes and more opportunity for the imperiled hospitality industry,” Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, says. “There are 17,000 embattled restaurants and hotels, approximately 400,000 hospitality jobs, and a much-needed upcoming summer tourism season hanging in the balance, so schedule your vaccine today, Michigan!”

In February, the MRLA had proposed its own reopening plan, which included a set of guideposts for local and state officials to follow to reopen restaurants and bars using tiered capacity limits based on the average of Michigan’s seven-day positivity rate. However, the organization backtracked on that demand in March as cases surged statewide, instead pushing for 100 percent capacity for indoor dining. At the same time, the governor declined to reimpose restrictions as her health officials had during the spring 2020 and fall 2020 surges.

COVID infections have plummeted in the last two weeks, but Michigan still has the nation’s highest infection rate, by far, with 4,371 new cases and 38 deaths reported on Wednesday. About 36 percent of state residents are fully vaccinated but rates in Detroit have been sluggish, with just 19.2 percent of residents 16 and older fully vaccinated.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan announced Wednesday, April 28, that the city would give residents a $50 prepaid debit card — $100 for two doses — to bring in a neighbor for shots, under the Good Neighbor program, Detroit Free Press reported.