As the number of new coronavirus cases and deaths in Michigan continues to plummet, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced May 18 she’s relaxing some restrictions in northern parts of the state.
Starting May 22, bars and restaurants will be allowed to reopen at 50% capacity in the entire U.P. and in 17 northern Michigan counties. The businesses must also provide COVID-19 training to workers, keep groups at least 6 feet from each other, and require servers to wear face coverings.
“This is a big step, and it’s right before the holiday weekend,” Whitmer said at a news conference May 18. “I want encourage everyone to stay smart and stay safe. Keep your wits about you. Let’s not all go rushing out and force a closure eventually. We want to keep moving forward.”
She added, “If we get this right, then we can take the next step and the next step.”
By all measures, Michigan is gaining control of the coronavirus. The state reported 24 new coronavirus deaths on May 18, bringing its total to 4,915. In mid-April, the state was averaging 148 deaths a day.
On May 17, Detroit reported no new deaths for the first time since mid-March.
New coronavirus cases have also fallen dramatically, with 773 reported May 18, and 513 of them were in prisons. In the first week of April, the state was averaging nearly 1,300 a day.
Hospitals, which were overwhelmed in March and April, now have a lot more space. For 35 straight days, the number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital has declined, dropping from 3,636 on April 10 to 1,075 on May 18. During the same period, the number of people on ventilators has shrunk from 1,441 to 418.
The state has also significantly ramped up its testing capacity. In the past week, the state averaged more than 16,400 tests a day, compared to 5,700 a day in April. The goal is to reach 25,000 tests a day, which will enable the state to more quickly identify outbreaks.