By Simon Albaugh – Yemeni American News
Lansing, Mich. – On June 17, Governor Gretchen Whitmer released a statement calling for an end to the state’s mask mandate for June 22, bringing Michigan into a new phase of tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.
Citing a statistic that shows more than 60% of Michigan residents have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine – and 55% of residents already having their second dose – Whitmer plans on lifting the mask mandate at midnight this evening.
The new order specifically targets the mask requirement and capacity limits for public gatherings.
“Beginning June 22, capacity in both indoor and outdoor settings will increase to 100% and the state will no longer require residents to wear a face mask,” reads the June 17 news release.
The Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration has also scaled back its mask mandate for the majority of workplaces, allowing businesses to have more discretion over asking employees and clientele to follow COVID-19 guidelines like wearing a protective mask.
“Today is a day that we have all been looking forward to, as we can safely get back to normal day-to-day activities and put this pandemic behind us,” said Governor Whitmer. “…Thanks to the millions of Michiganders who rolled up their sleeves to get the safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine, we have been able to make these changes ahead of schedule.”
Since the state’s first cases were found on Mar. 10 of last year, the past year has been challenging for residents of Michigan. With an unemployment rate that more than doubled the 2019 average, 20,862 people have lost their life due to complications related to COVID-19.
The removal of Michigan’s mask mandate is promising news in the efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic, but state officials warn that there’s still a lot to be done.
“This is a great day, however, there is more work to be done,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “We can’t let our guard down as there continues to be several variants of the COVID-19 virus circulating in our state, including the concerning Delta Variant.”
Even though these restrictions are lifted nine days earlier than expected, state officials are still encouraging more people to get vaccinated or complete their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccination rate is the most common metric for measuring the immunity of a population.
“The COVID-19 vaccine is the most important tool we have to reduce the spread of the virus and I urge everyone age 12 and up who have not yet received their vaccine to get it as soon as possible,” Dr. Khaldun said.
From here, state officials plan on making fiscal policy a priority as states spend the massive economic stimulus from the federal government. As part of the American Rescue Plan Act, Michigan received more than $13 billion in federal aid due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our top priority going forward is utilizing the federal relief funding in a smart, sustainable way as we put Michigan back to work and jumpstart our economy,” said Governor Whitmer. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure that Michigan families, small businesses, and communities emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever before.”