Gov. Whitmer suggests COVID restriction changes in coming days

Lansing — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday that her administration will examine easing some COVID-19 restrictions in the coming days as infection rates continue to decline.

The governor said decisions will be made on how to move forward on a “number of fronts.” She specifically mentioned policies surrounding nursing homes and limitations on gatherings.

“The gatherings order is one component of possible areas that we may make some changes in the coming days,” Whitmer said during a press conference.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, right, visits the vaccination site at DeVos place in Grand Rapids on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. Second from right is Rep. David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids.

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Currently, through an epidemic order from the state Department of Health and Human  Services, Michigan limits indoor residential gatherings to no more than 10 people from no more than two households. For outdoor gatherings at residential venues, the current limit is 25 people from no more than three households.

Michigan reported 5,695 new COVID-19 infections last week, the lowest weekly total for new infections since Sept. 20-26.

More: Whitmer says in-person learning option is ‘crucial’

Hospitalizations and the rate of tests bringing positive results also continued to decrease. There were 714 individuals hospitalized with confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Monday, a 52% drop from four weeks earlier.

Meanwhile, the number of vaccinated Michiganians continues to increase. As of Monday, 1.9 million vaccine doses had been administered in Michigan, including 680,961 second doses, according to state data.

The governor also indicated Wednesday that changes to policies for nursing homes are on the horizon.

In October, the health department issued an order allowing indoor visitation by appointment at long-term care facilities if a facility has had no new cases within 14 days and is in a county where COVID-19 prevalence falls within permissible boundaries. 

Asked about nursing homes Wednesday, Whitmer said the state is hopeful to announce more “re-engagement” as soon as next week.

She wasn’t as specific when it comes to restaurants. As of Feb. 1, the governor allowed restaurants to allow indoor dining at 25% capacity and with a 10 p.m. curfew.

Those restrictions are currently in place through March 29. Whitmer acknowledged many restaurant owners want to increase the capacity limit to 50%.

“I am hopeful that eventually we get to that point,” the governor said. But she said, at this moment, state officials will continue to watch the data on COVID-19’s spread.

cmauger@detroitnews.com