Governor Whitmer speaks about Covid-19 vaccinations at Eastern Michigan University Alec Cohen/Daily. Buy this photo.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced her “MI Vacc to Normal Challenge” in a Thursday morning press conference, outlining a four-step plan to gradually lift COVID-19 restrictions as state’ climbs from 48.8% vaccination of residents 16 and older to the goal of 70%. 

Currently, all Michigan residents above the age of 16 are eligible to receive a vaccine. Two weeks after 55% of the eligible population has received at least one shot, Whitmer intends to lift the remote work rule, an executive order from Whitmer that any work that can be done remotely, must be done remotely. 

The next step comes two weeks after 60% of the eligible population, or 4.9 million Michigan residents, receives the vaccine. At this phase, Whitmer will increase capacity at indoor sports stadiums, conference halls, banquet centers and funeral homes to 25% and raise the allowed capacity for indoor exercise facilities and gyms from 30% to 50%. At this phase, Whitmer said she will also lift the curfew currently in place at restaurants and bars. 

Once 65% of the eligible population has received at least one shot, Whitmer intends to lift all restrictions limiting indoor capacity at restaurants and bars to 100 people and all other indoor facilities to 300 people, while still enforcing social distancing guidelines between parties. The plan also states that guidelines relating to residential gatherings will be relaxed at this stage. 

Once 70% of  those 16 or older — about 5.9 million Michiganders — have received a shot, Whitmer will lift all restrictions relating to gatherings and the Face Mask Order, with a possible exception if COVID-19 numbers are increasing and threatening the medical system, or if a vaccine-resistant variant emerges. This is the fourth and final step of Whitmer’s plan.

Whitmer said these steps are designed to keep Michigan residents safe as the state continues its economic recovery.  

“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. “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.” 

In her briefing, Whitmer also expressed her trust in vaccines. She said she believes it is in the state’s best interest for everyone to be vaccinated in order to return to normal.

“Vaccines are our best chance of putting this pandemic behind us and returning to normal,” Whitmer said. “They represent hope and healing. If you want to learn more, I encourage you to talk to your family doctor, learn about the safe, effective vaccines and how they can save your life and the lives of those you love.”

Whitmer said that goals at each step will make for the best transition, emphasizing the state’s need for teamwork. 

“If we work together, we can get this done,” Whitmer said. “We have to have a set of clear goals to accompany every step of this process. As we drive toward our eventual goal of returning to normal, we will pass checkpoints along the way that will allow us to gradually lift more limits and eventually, we’ll get over that finish line.”

Summer News Editor Lily Gooding and Daily Staff Reporter Nadir Al-Saidi can be reached at goodingl@umich.edu and alsaidin@umich.edu.