LANSING – Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday announced a six-step plan to reopen Michigan’s economy.
Her “MI Safe Start Plan” announcement came as she extended her stay-at-home order until May 28 and gave manufacturing workers the green light to return to work on Monday.
The governor worked with leaders in healthcare, business, labor and education to develop the plan, which has six phases to address the stages of the pandemic:
- Uncontrolled growth: The growing number of new cases every day, overwhelming our healthcare systems
- Persistent spread: We continue to see high case levels with concerns about the capacity of the health system
- Flattening: The epidemic is no longer increasing and the capacity of the health system is sufficient for current needs
- To improve: Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are down sharply
- Container: Continuous improvement in the rate of cases and mortality, with rapidly contained epidemics
- Post-pandemic: Community spread is not expected to return.
Here’s a breakdown of Whitmer’s plan, including what we’ve already done and where we’re headed:
What steps have we already taken?
Whitmer announced Thursday that the state is in stage three of the pandemic.
This means that we have already gone through two stages:
- Uncontrolled growth: The number of new daily cases is increasing at a constant rate. Work and social activities are very limited.
- Persistent spread: The pandemic is still spreading, but at a slower rate. There are still plenty of limits. Some things – like curbside service or delivery by non-essential retailers, golf and motor boating – can start or resume.
What phase are we currently in and what is authorized?
Michigan is now in the “flattening” phase.
This means that daily new cases and deaths have remained relatively constant, and transmission rates have fallen to manageable levels. Without a steady increase in new cases, the health care system is generally not overwhelmed.
As part of this phase, testing and contact tracing efforts are increasing statewide to prevent those infected from spreading the virus unchecked.
Non-critical businesses that have a lower risk of infection can open with increased security measures. Here is exactly what type of work can take place:
- Retail: Limited to grocery stores and other critical retail businesses (e.g. drugstores), no longer curbside or delivery for non-essential retail businesses
- Public transport: Permit
- Restaurants and bars: Available for take out, delivery and drive-thru only
- Manufacturing: Authorized with additional security measures and guidelines
- Construction: Authorized with additional security measures and guidelines
- Food and agriculture: Permit
- Desks: Closed to all non-critical workers
- Education: Distance learning in K-12 and higher education
- Childcare: For critical workers and anyone resuming work activities
- Outdoor work: Authorized with additional security measures and guidelines
Social gatherings are not yet allowed, and people must wear face coverings when inside and always maintain a distance of six feet from others when outside the house.
People who are part of the populations at risk must continue to take shelter in place.
There are still three phases to go before there are no more restrictions, although there are likely enduring safety requirements based on what officials have learned during the pandemic.
Once the state reaches a point where the number of new cases and daily deaths continuously decreases, we will enter the improvement plan stage.
During this step, some restrictions will be lifted:
- All retail businesses will be permitted with security measures, such as limited capacity
- Offices can open, although people should always work remotely whenever possible
- Summer education programming can resume with small groups
- People can start having small gatherings as long as they follow social distancing guidelines
As new cases and deaths continue to decline, the state will enter the next stage.
During this stage, known as container, even more restrictions will be lifted:
- Restaurants and bars may open for catering service with limited capacity and other security measures
- Offices can be fully opened with security measures in place
- Teachers can resume live teaching from Kindergarten to Grade 12 and higher education
- People can have larger gatherings but should still follow social distancing guidelines
- All outdoor activities will be allowed
We are not reaching the final stage of post-pandemic until there is sufficient immunity and the availability of treatment.
At this point, all areas of the economy reopen and gatherings of all sizes resume.
You can find a full breakdown of the phases here
When do we go to each phase?
The plan does not set a precise timetable.
Instead, it sets benchmarks that the state hits a lot to move on to the next phase.
The transition from one phase to another is based on three questions.
The first is whether the epidemic is increasing, flattening or decreasing. To determine this, officials examine:
- Number of new cases per million
- Trends in daily new cases
- The percentage of tests that come back positive
Officials are also examining whether the health system has the appropriate capacity to meet both current needs and potential new cases. To do this, they examine hospital capacity and the availability of personal protective equipment.
Finally, officials are asking whether the testing and tracing efforts are sufficient to monitor the outbreak and prevent it from spreading when cases go undetected.
To do this, they check whether there is access to tests when needed and whether the health services are able to quickly follow up newly identified cases and associated contacts to make them self-isolate.
Don’t expect to go through all the steps quickly. The plan specifies that it will be a long process.
“The worst thing we can do is open up in a way that causes a second wave of infections and deaths, puts healthcare workers at additional risk, and erases all the progress we’ve made,” he said. Whitmer said in a statement on the plan. “That is why we will continue to monitor the spread of this virus, hospital capacity, testing rates and more as we strive to reach the ‘improvement’ phase.”
Can we go back?
Yes. If the risk increases or people stop adhering to safe practices, we could go back to previous steps.
Contact reporter Megan Banta at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @ MeganBanta_1.