LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan late Tuesday lifted an outdoor mask requirement except in gatherings of at least 100 people and in organized contact sports, and said teen athletes no longer must undergo regular COVID-19 testing if they are fully vaccinated.
Under a revised pandemic order that takes effect Thursday, the state also eased caps on outdoor event sizes and said vaccinated people are not required to be masked at indoor residential gatherings even if others are unvaccinated.
“The commitment by Michiganders to receive the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is allowing us to move toward a return to normal,” Elizabeth Hertel, director of the state Department of Heath and Human Service, said in a statement. “The vaccines work. That means once Michiganders are fully vaccinated, they do not have to abide by as many health guidelines because of the protection the vaccine provides from the spread of the virus.”
The state’s rules are looser than guidance issued last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said unvaccinated people should wear masks at small outdoor gatherings that include other unvaccinated people. The state urged people to still follow CDC guidance and be masked whenever they are around unvaccinated people not from their household.
“They’re still going to be an important part of keeping yourself and others safe anytime you are indoors,” Whitmer, a Democrat, said in a Twitter video.
More than half of residents ages 16 and older have gotten at least one shot in a state that continues to have the country’s highest seven-case infection rate, though numbers are improving. The new order came days after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced her administration will tie the further loosening of restrictions to when 55%, 60%, 65% and 70% of eligible residents get a dose.
The order, which ends May 31 unless extended, allows for festivals, fairs and golf tournaments to exceed a 1,000-person limit under certain conditions. Capacity at larger outdoor stadiums and arenas will rise to 1,500.
Residential outdoor gatherings have been limited to 50 people. Now as many 300 can gather for graduation parties and other events if the density does not exceed 20 people per 1,000 square feet of usable outdoor space.
For a month, Michigan has required 13- to 19-year-old athletes in contact sports to be tested for the coronavirus - once a week if they wear a mask and up to three times weekly if face coverings cannot be worn. The order lets fully vaccinated teens practice and compete without testing if they have no symptoms.
Masks will continue to be required for contact sports.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for youngsters ages 12 to 15 by next week.
The state on Monday reported about 2,500 additional cases and 126 deaths. The seven-day average of daily cases was around 3,200 and has plummeted since peaking at roughly 7,000 more than two weeks ago.
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