Michigan governor largely rescinds lockdown, retailers to reopen

DETROIT (Reuters) - Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Monday moved to further reopen the Midwest state’s economy, largely rescinding a stay-at-home order in place since March and allowing retailers and restaurants to open back up over the next week.

FILE PHOTO: A protester holds a placard during a protest against Governor Gretchen Whitmer's extended stay-at-home orders intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan, U.S. May 14, 2020. REUTERS/Seth Herald/File Photo

Whitmer’s new executive order will allow retailers to reopen on Thursday and restaurants and bars on June 8, both subject to capacity limits. Until now, only essential retailers like groceries had remained open, while restaurants had closed dining areas while offering pickup and delivery services.

“The data has shown that we’re ready to carefully move our state into this next phase,” Whitmer told a press conference. “While Michiganders are no longer required to stay home, we must all continue to practice social distancing.”

Michigan, one of the states hit hardest by the outbreak, has had one of the stricter stay-at-home orders.

Whitmer, seen as a potential vice presidential running mate for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, had been criticized by business leaders and President Donald Trump, and faced protests over her orders. She has gradually reopened different segments of the state economy as the infection rate has flattened.

Trump won in Michigan in the 2016 election, the first Republican to do so since 1988.

Whitmer said her goal was to announce a shift to the next phase, which would allow most businesses as well as schools to reopen, before July 4. She said state residents must continue to wear face masks when in enclosed public spaces.

Effective immediately, groups of 100 or less will be allowed to gather outdoors with social distancing and office work that cannot be done remotely can resume.

Subject to local regulations, gyms and fitness centers may conduct outdoor classes or games provided participants maintain six feet of distance from others. Outdoor pools can reopen with restricted capacity. Housecleaning services and other in-home services can resume.

Other businesses involving close contact and shared surfaces, including hair salons, indoor theaters, tattoo parlors, casinos, and similar establishments, will remain closed for now.

Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Tom Brown