Michigan hits 55% vaccine rate, will end remote work rule

May 11, 2021

Governor Gretchen Whitmer, April 12, 2021
Credit Lon Horwedel/Detroit News / Associated Press

Michigan on Monday surpassed a 55% COVID-19 vaccination rate, reaching a milestone that will lead to the automatic easing of in-person work restrictions in two weeks.

Employers currently must prohibit onsite work if employees’ jobs can feasibly be done remotely. The state anticipates lifting the rule on May 24, said COVID-19 workplace safety director Sean Egan.

The 55% benchmark is the first of four under a plan outlined by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer less than two weeks ago.

“If you’ve gotten your safe, effective vaccine, thank you. And if you haven’t yet, I encourage you to speak to your doctor or your friends or family who’ve been vaccinated to learn about their experiences,” the Democrat said in a video. “Every day we get closer to putting this pandemic behind us and getting back to normal.”

More than 4.4 million Michiganders ages 16 and older have received at least one dose.

At a 60% vaccination rate, capacity at sports stadiums, banquet halls, conference centers and funeral homes will rise to 25% after two weeks — and 50% at gyms. Restaurants and bars will no longer have an 11 p.m. curfew.

All indoor capacity limits will be lifted after 65% of eligible people have one shot, though social distancing will remain. At 70%, the state will rescind its mask and gatherings order and stop imposing broad mitigation measures unless unanticipated circumstances arise, such as vaccine-resistant variants. The state could delay eased restrictions in regions with high case rates.

While U.S. regulators on Monday expanded use of Pfizer’s shot to 12- to 15-year-olds, Michigan will continue to tie reopening metrics to the age 16-plus population, said Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services.

As of Sunday, Michigan still had the country’s highest two-week coronavirus case rate, according to Johns Hopkins University, but numbers continued to improve.

The seven-day average of daily new cases was 2,276 on Monday, a third of what it was about three weeks ago. The number of hospitalized adults with confirmed infections was roughly 2,200, 53% of the record set April 19. The positivity rate was in single digits for nearly a week straight. 

More than 700,000 state residents have recovered from COVID-19.