Gov. Whitmer set to announce partial reopening of state, allow small gatherings in bars and restaurants

LANSING, Mich. – A day after Michigan reported its lowest daily death total in almost two months, the governor is expected to announce parts of the state can reopen during a press conference Monday. The reopenings could happen as soon as Friday.

Sources told FOX 2 that Gretchen Whitmer will allow businesses located in parts of the lower peninsula and upper peninsula to reopen and operate in a limited capacity. Gatherings of 10 or fewer people will be allowed again. The decision is one that Republicans have pressed for weeks, despite Whitmer’s emphasis on maintaining blanket bans on business across the state. 

The order will impact bars, restaurants, and retail outlets. FOX 2 will stream the press conference live on our website and Facebook page, when it starts at 1:30. 

The new order reflects a region-based approach that conservative lawmakers have pushed for since April, arguing the governor’s executive orders that act as blanket rulings across the state put unnecessary pressure on residents living in parts of Michigan less impacted by COVID-19. Whitmer has pushed back on that request, arguing less-populated regions don’t have the same health care capacity as Southeast Michigan.

The decision also reflects the state’s declining spread of new coronavirus cases.

On top of its most encouraging daily reports since the outbreak first began, Michigan confirmed only 11 more deaths on Sunday. While the low number likely reflects the lower average totals usually confirmed on weekends, it’s also fewer than any number health officials have confirmed since March 24, about 14 days after the outbreak was officially confirmed in the state.

RELATED: House GOP releases Michigan roadmap for reopening state

In an even more good news to report, Michigan’s former epicenter and one of the worst-hit cities in the country confirmed zero deaths on Sunday. Detroit’s chief health officer Denise Fair called the news “encouraging” but asked residents to be wary of daily results like that. 

Those falling numbers correlate with the growing list of businesses, public places, and travel restrictions returning to a state of normalcy. Following one week of reopened manufacturing, Ford, General Motors, and Fiat-Chrysler all brought back workers to their assembly lines on Monday. But even with returns to normal, things will look very different for those returning.

Health screenings, front door checkpoints, mandatory social distancing and plenty of personal protective equipment will be among the first things to greet workers returning to work. It’s likely to be the new protocol for months to come as Michigan balances re-engaging its economy. 

The balancing act will bleed into the summer and fall, where officials are already looking at what options are available to them as they consider how to restart school.

“Michigan has approximately 1.5 million K-12 public education students, about 3,500 schools and only about 100 days until we have to have our plan ready to be executed,” said Whitmer during a Friday press conference. Last week, she unveiled a 20-person Return to Learning Advisory Council which will guide the state’s path forward on education. It will be made up of students, parents, educators, administrators, and public health officials. 

Much like the guides that businesses are following to reopen their doors, schools will need to implement their own safety protocols when the fall semester returns. Central Michigan, Western Michigan, and Ferris State University have all confirmed their main campuses will be open in the fall with added safety measures in place.javascript:false

After two months off, Fiat-Chrysler employees return to work

Employees at Fiat-Chrysler will return to work for the first time in more than two months. As the state still battles the COVID-19 pandemic, workers will reenter the workforce amid new precautions and safety measures – which start at the door.

How it looks for public schools will be different. While COVID-19’s effects on elderly individuals are well documented, it’s unclear how children are impacted. While they probably don’t carry the same underlying conditions that worsen symptoms in older residents, there are studies documenting unusual cases of inflammation in the heart and blood vessels in children. Multiple cases have already been reported in Michigan.

Among other questions that are top of mind for public health officials is what kind of increase in cases will follow the state’s reopening. Whitmer and her chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun have both warned a second surge in coronavirus-linked cases could decimate the state’s hurting economy and quickly shrink the fragile health care capacity. 

Hospitalizations, like new cases and deaths, have been declining for some time. Metrics like those, in addition to boosting testing capacity, will inform how and when the state can reopen.

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