Masks are no longer needed at small outdoor weddings, graduation parties or other similar events or when playing certain youth sports, according to a new order from the health department which must enter into force Thursday.
The move is the latest move from the Department of Health and Human Services and Governor Gretchen Whitmer, as the state’s COVID-19 trends remain bad but continue to evolve in a safer direction.
“Michiganders’ commitment to receive the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine allows us to move towards a return to normalcy,” said department director Elizabeth Hertel.
“The vaccines work. This means that once Michiganders are fully vaccinated, they don’t have to follow as many health guidelines because of the protection the vaccine offers against the spread of the virus. ”
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Under the new order, no one needs to wear a mask outside, except at a gathering with 100 or more people. This also applies to youth sports – although masks are always necessary for contact sports, they are not necessary during practice or games for non-contact outdoor sports.
“For example, softball and baseball players will be required to wear a mask in the dugout but not when at bat or at first base,” read a statement from the Department of Health.
Testing for young athletes is still necessary unless these students are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic. Anyone who is fully vaccinated and who is not feeling sick does not need to wear a mask at a residential gathering, indoors or outdoors.
“Getting your vaccine is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself, your family and your community,” said Dr Joneigh Khaldun, state medical director.
“Vaccines give you the freedom and peace of mind that you can do more, but we still have work to do to reach our goal of vaccinating at least 70% of residents aged 16 and over.”
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Despite declining rates of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in recent weeks, Michigan is still the nation’s worst in all three metrics. Previously, Whitmer had called on residents to stop eating indoors at restaurants, with a two-week break from youth athletics and in-person classes in a bid to stop the current outbreak of COVID-19 .
But Hertel and Whitmer have resisted developing stricter regulations, despite calls from national health leaders to do so.
The new order is part of a larger state effort that links vaccination rates with the relaxation of pandemic regulations.
Last week, Whitmer announced a plan to roll back restrictions after a number of Michiganders received their first dose of the vaccine. As of Tuesday, the state was around 374,000 shots before reaching the first benchmark, with 55% of those 16 and over receiving their first dose.
Just over 39% of all Michiganders 16 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the state.
Contact Dave Boucher: [email protected] or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @ Dave_Boucher1.