As the rate of virus cases and related deaths decline in the state, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced plans to let Northern Michigan bars, restaurants and retail businesses reopen Friday."
The order affects the Upper Peninsula and 17 counties in a northern Lower Peninsula recgion called the Greater Traverse City area. The U.P.'s 300,000 residents are 3% of Michigan's population, while the other reopening counties have 445,000 people (4.5% of the state's total).
"This is a big step, and it’s right before the holiday weekend," Whitmer said. "I want to encourage everyone to stay smart and stay safe. Keep your wits about you. Let’s not all go rushing out and force a closure."
The region's health data allows the relaxation of shutdowns that began March 16. Seating at bars and restaurants should be limited, said Whitmer, who encouraged outdoor seating.
"The data has shown in these regions of our state that we can phase more sectors into re-engagement of our economy," Whitmer said. "When it comes to new cases per million, percent of positive tests and deaths, these regions are far below the statewide average."
She hopes these regions "get it right" and avoid a second wave of the Covid lung virus.
The move comes just ahead of Memorial Day weekend, which a big money-maker for businesses in northern Michigan.
As of Monday, Michigan had recorded 4,915 Covid deaths.
The governor's statewide stay-home order elsewhere runs through May 28, a week from this Thursday. The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association is pushing for dine-in sections of restaurants around the state to open May 29.