Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) announced Monday that some retail businesses in northern Michigan can begin reopening on Friday as the governor continues to face heavy criticisms over her stringent lockdown measures.
Bars and restaurants will also be allowed to reopen, with restrictions that include limiting capacity to 50 percent and keeping groups at least six feet apart. Waiters will be required to wear face masks.
“The move will affect two of the eight regions identified in the governor’s gradual reopening plan amid the coronavirus pandemic: one covers the Upper Peninsula and another includes 17 counties in the northern Lower Peninsula, including Traverse City,” Wood TV 8 reports.
“This is a big step, but we must all remember to continue doing our part to protect ourselves and our families from the spread of COVID19,” said Whitmer.
“The data shows that these regions in Michigan are seeing consistent encouraging trends when it comes to the number of cases, deaths, and the percent of tests that are positive for COVID-19,” Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Chief Deputy Director for Health for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said in a separate statement.
The development comes after the Michigan House of Representatives and Senate sued Whitmer after she circumvented the legislature to extend the state of emergency declaration, alleging that the order is improper and invalid under state law.
Whitmer, who is being floated as possible former vice-presidential pick, has been accused of taking draconian measures amid the pandemic, which has resulted in 51,142 confirmed virus cases and at least 4,891 deaths in Michigan.
Whitmer has also faced intense blowback for branding her state’s lockdown protesters as “racist and misogynistic.”
“These have been really political rallies where people come with Confederate flags and Nazi symbolism and calling for violence. This is not appropriate in a global pandemic, but it’s certainly not an exercise of democratic principles where we have free speech. This is calls to violence,” the governor said of the protests in a recent interview with ABC’s The View. “This is racist and misogynistic, and I ask that everyone who has a platform uses it to call on people to observe the best practices by the CDC, and to stop encouraging this behavior because it only makes it that much more precarious for us to try to reengage our economy which is what everyone says they want us to be able to do.”