Candidate for Governor Gretchen Whitmer speaks at Rackham Auditorium Friday evening.Annie Klusendorf/Daily. Buy this photo.

The state of Michigan will ease restrictions on indoor dining capacity, outdoor activities and residential care facilities beginning Friday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced at a news conference Tuesday. 

Starting Friday, restaurants and bars will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity up to 100 people, an increase from 25% over the previous six weeks. Retail and other indoor entertainment venues will also open up to 50% capacity. Gatherings at residences can now hold 15 people from up to three different households indoors, with up to 50 people outdoors. 

New guidelines on non-residential gatherings expand capacity for events like public meetings, with up to 25 people now permitted indoors and 300 allowed outdoors.

Indoor stadiums can hold 375 patrons if seating capacity is under 10,000 and 750 if capacity is over 10,000. Outdoor entertainment venues can host up to 1,000 people. 

However, Washtenaw County’s limits of ten people for indoor gatherings and 25 people for outdoor gatherings remain in effect, according to the Washtenaw County Health Department website.

“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 Tuesday press release from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. 

According to Tuesday’s press release, COVID-19 cases in Michigan declined for six straight weeks and are now at levels similar to those in early October, before the nationwide winter spike. Cases in the state are now plateauing at a rate of around 91 cases per million, with a positivity rate of 3.7%. 

The press release also said more than two million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the state. MDHHS also acknowledges that more contagious variants like the B.1.1.7 variant spreading throughout the state could make the pandemic more difficult to control. 

We continue to monitor the data closely, and based on current trends we are taking another step toward normalcy,” MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel wrote in the press release. “We urge Michiganders to continue doing what works and wearing a mask, washing their hands and avoiding crowds.”

Restrictions on nursing home visitations and activities will also ease, as all residents have been offered a first dose of COVID-19 vaccines and most have had a second dose. The new Residential Care Facilities Order goes into effect immediately and encourages communal dining, group activities for residents and indoor and outdoor visitation in all counties. 

Other restrictions such as the mask mandate and the pause on activities with close physical contact without masks continue, as well as the directive for people to work from home if they are able to.

Whitmer first announced the state’s epidemic order in November as rising COVID-19 cases across the state threatened to overwhelm hospital capacity. The order was initially scheduled to last three weeks, but was extended nearly three months as the situation worsened across the country. 

These restrictions began to be lifted in January, when Whitmer announced that indoor dining would be allowed to resume at limited capacity on Feb. 1 and some extracurricular activities for K-12 students would be allowed. 

Whitmer’s updated order reflects a larger pattern of state governors easing restrictions that were in place throughout much of the winter, when COVID-19 infection rates peaked. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced last Thursday that the state would move into its next reopening phase, with limits on indoor dining to be relaxed in the coming weeks. Similarly, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced that Virginia would ease restrictions beginning Monday.

Managing News Editor Liat Weinstein can be reached at Daily News Editor Calder Lewis can be reached at

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