Gov. Whitmer: Retail businesses in Upper Michigan can reopen Friday

(WLUC) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer made the announcement Monday afternoon about loosening stay-at-home restrictions in Upper Michigan and northern Lower Michigan.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, D-Michigan

The governor said Regions 6 and 8 will reopen partially at 12:01 a.m. ET on Friday, May 22. Region 6 is the Traverse City-area, and Region 8 is the entire Upper Peninsula.

Businesses that are opening up in a limited capacity include bars, restaurants, retail locations, and offices.

The bars and restaurants will have to limit their capacity to 50 percent. Groups will be required to stay 6 feet apart and servers will have to wear face coverings.

Office work also will be able resume if work cannot be done remotely.

Whitmer says her new order does not abridge cities, villages and townships' ability to take a more cautious approach - like just allowing outdoor seating at bars and restaurants, for instance

“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 COVID-19,” said Governor Whitmer. “It’s crucial that all businesses do everything in their power to protect their workers, customers, and their families. And as we approach Memorial Day weekend, I encourage everyone to be smart and be safe. My team and I will continue to work around the clock to protect the people of Michigan.”

“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,” said MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. “It’s important to note that these businesses must take special precautions to protect Michiganders. I also encourage everyone to continue to wear a mask in public, maintain a 6 foot distance from others, and to remain vigilant in washing their hands often. This will help prevent a second surge in cases in our state.”

Gov. Whitmer revealed details of her phased, regional re-engagement plan for Michigan on May 7. The U.P. is its own region in the plan which outlines what people need to do to stay safe and what work can be done with certain precautions during each phase. Monday's announcement affects regions 8 and 6 - the U.P. and 17 counties in northern Lower Michigan, including Traverse City.

“I support the shift to making decisions on a regional level when possible,” said Marquette Mayor Jenna Smith. “As restrictions are slowly eased, it will be important for us to remain vigilant to stop the spread of the virus.”

Gov. Whitmer outlined this criteria in order for a region to advance in her plan: Case and deaths decline more sharply, percent positivity decreasing; health care system capacity continues to strengthen; and robust testing, contact tracing and containment protocols in place.

The governor's Stay Home, Stay Safe order remains in effect until May 28. Under this order, Michigan residents still must not leave their homes except to run critical errands, to engage in safe outdoor activities or to go to specified jobs.

As of 11:00 a.m. Monday, there are a total of 103 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Upper Peninsula with 15 deaths and at least 54 recoveries. According to state data for region 8 testing, 3 percent of the approximately 5200 tests performed in the U.P. come back positive. It's important to note that some people are tested more than once.

The latest state report from last Thursday showed four COVID-19 patients in Upper Michigan hospitals. The state also conducted mass testing last week in several nursing homes across the U.P.

Check out the entire Executive Order by clicking here.

Gov. Whitmer had a news conference scheduled for 1:30 p.m. eastern time Monday about the state's COVID-19 response, according to the Michigan State Police. You can watch it back on the TV6 & FOX UP Facebook page or embedded below. Follow along with her presentation here.

This is a developing story that will be updated as more information is available.

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