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4:13 PM, Feb 27, 2020

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MDHHS director talks about loosening mask restrictions, slowing vaccination rate

Posted at 7:12 AM, May 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-06 07:12:25-04

A new health order goes into effect on Thursday lifting some restrictions on mask-wearing in Michigan. It impacts outdoor gatherings, indoor residential gatherings, organized sports and more.

Under the new order, masks are generally not required outdoors unless a gathering has 100 or more people. Also, the state is giving you the OK to take your mask off in small home gatherings if you're fully vaccinated and not experiencing any symptoms.

As of Wednesday, 50.9% of Michiganders have had at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and at 55%, the governor will ease the work-from-home restriction.

To give us more insight, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel joined us to answer our questions.

You can check them out below.

Q: Many are concerned about the pace of vaccinations slowing down in Michigan, do you stand by the loosening of some mask restrictions despite a slowing vaccination rate?

When we take a look at the restrictions, we are looking at things that pose less risk, and we know outdoor activities pose less risk. Being able to lift that mask restriction outdoors is really important, especially considering the number of vaccinated at this point, and the number of people we believe will be vaccinated in the future.

Gov. Whitmer said Michigan could hit 55% of Michiganders with one dose by the end of the week, are we on track to hit that mark?

I think that we are. We continue to see the numbers increasing. We have seen demand fall of a bit for people wanting vaccination at the large sites. We see people continue to get vaccines at large community sites.

Two weeks after, that's when we know someone will have the immunity that comes with the vaccine.

70% would put an end to restrictions in Michigan, but since the announcement, the vaccine rate has increased only one percent. Will we get to 70% by summer?

I can't predict the future. I don't know what the summer is going to look like, I don't know what we're going to do with vaccination rates, but I do think we'll be able to get to 70% by the summer.

New legislation has passed exempting graduation ceremonies from capacity limits? Do you think it should be up to high schools to choose capacity, or could it open the door to super-spreader events?

I think in this environment that we're in, it's really important to heed some of the guidelines and recommendations from public health experts. We know having a large gathering indoors is a high-risk activity. We are encouraging graduations to occur outside, in football stadiums, where they can have the number of people they want, making sure people are vaccinated and wearing masks.

It's important to remember that COVID hasn't ended, and these are high-risk activities could result in people getting sick and ultimately dying, and we don't want that at somebody's graduation.

So, making sure they're working to mitigate the risk is important while trying to celebrate these milestones.