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Michigan lifts indoor mask requirement for vaccinated people

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services logo

People in Michigan who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 don’t need to wear a mask any longer, and people who aren’t vaccinated don’t have to wear one outdoors, officials said Friday, also declaring that the state’s indoor mask requirement will expire in July.

The announcement from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state health department came a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people.

Michigan’s revised order will take effect at 9 a.m. Saturday.

People won’t have to wear a mask outdoors, including in contact sports, regardless of whether they’re vaccinated. While indoors, the fully vaccinated can go without a face covering but the unvaccinated still must wear one, at least until the state’s mandate ends after July 1.

Businesses — including stores — governments, schools and events must make a “good faith effort” to ensure unvaccinated employees and patrons are masked. It wasn’t clear what sort of requirements could remain after the statewide mandate expires, which is nearly seven weeks away and will allow time for more vaccinations.

More than 55% of Michigan residents ages 16 and older have received at least one dose. The state still has the country’s highest two-week infection rate, but it has dropped significantly recently.

“With millions of Michiganders fully vaccinated, we can now safely and confidently take the next step to get back to normal,” the Democratic governor said in a statement. “The message is clear: Vaccines work to protect you and your loved ones. If you have not yet received your vaccine, now is the time to sign up.”

The order was announced more than a week after state officials lifted an outdoor mask requirement except in gatherings of at least 100 people and in organized contact sports, and said vaccinated people aren’t mandated to be masked at indoor residential gatherings evens if others are unvaccinated.

In Detroit, Christoph Cunningham, 28, was wearing a mask as he rode an electric scooter to Andrews, a bar, for lunch. He said he’s fully vaccinated and agrees with the new federal and state policies.

“I have confidence in the science behind it all,” said Cunningham, who works in the culinary field. “I’ll eventually take my mask off more and more. I might take it off to make other people comfortable. ... If you don’t feel comfortable not wearing a mask, I think you should be able to keep it on. Don’t beat anyone down about it.”

Whitmer plans for the health department to ease indoor capacity restrictions two weeks after 60% of people get at least one shot and to end them entirely two weeks after 65% receive a dose. At 70%, the gatherings order will be rescinded such that “broad mitigation measures” go away.

A rule requiring remote work when feasible will be repealed, effective May 24. But it wasn’t clear if coronavirus workplace safety regulations, such as a mask requirement for employees who can’t consistently keep 6 feet apart, will change due to the new order. They remain in place for now.

“The agency has the flexibility it needs to ensure consistency with public health guidelines and will continue to protect Michigan workers as we work toward ending this pandemic,” said Sean Egan, the state’s COVID-19 workplace safety director.

Teen athletes must continue to be regularly tested for the virus unless they are fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID-19 in the past three months.

House Speaker Jason Wentworth, a Farwell Republican, urged the governor to lift the indoor mask requirement sooner.

“There is no science that says July 1 is a safer date to stop wearing a mask than any other day; it is just a round number on the calendar,” he said in a statement. “Let’s move it up sooner, embrace the strategy of trust that’s working right now and move Michigan past this pandemic.”

Michigan courts will still mandate masks for all employees and visitors.

In a memo, State Court Administrator Thomas Boyd said the CDC advice, “in the absence of any way to identify who is vaccinated and who is not, creates an unacceptable level of risk.”