Whitmer OKs nonessential health procedures, small gatherings

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday further relaxed stay-at-home restrictions, lifting a ban on nonessential health procedures late next week and letting residents immediately gather socially in small groups before the Memorial Day weekend.

Retail businesses can reopen by appointment only, starting Tuesday, as long as there are no more than 10 customers inside at a time. People are required to continue adhering to social distancing.

Her new stay-home order, which remains in effect through May 28, will likely be extended, she said.

“This will not look like business as usual, although it will start to look at little more normal,” Whitmer said in a news conference.

Restaurants, except in northern Michigan, will remain closed to dine-in customers. The closure of places of public accommodation such as casinos, gyms and hair salons remains in effect statewide.

“We have taken a lot of steps in the past few weeks,” Whitmer said, noting the previous reopening of industries like manufacturing and construction statewide and the partial reopening of bars, restaurants and retail stores in northern Michigan, where cases and deaths have been low. “We’ve got to take a pause and see what it means in terms of what happens with COVID-19 numbers and the potential spread.”

The state has reported 5,060 confirmed deaths due to coronavirus complications, fourth-most in the U.S.

Amid a two-month ban on nonessential surgeries and other services, hospitals in the Detroit area have had to permanently or temporarily lay off employees while focusing on COVID-19 patients. Hospitals elsewhere in Michigan have made cuts, too, due to the delay of nonessential procedures. Many doctors have doing telemedicine appointments, and dentists have closed their practices except for emergencies.

Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, president of the Michigan State Medical Society, said physicians “would like to get back to taking care of our patients and catching up on a lot of work that has been put on hold. … We are ready to see you.”  (AP)

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