Detroit, MI

Pure Michigan is Wide Open Again But How Many Will Return?

Joseph Serwach

15 months after lockdowns went into effect, Michigan catches up with neighboring states, dropping restrictions on business, travel
Michigan in open again.Photo by Thomas Schütze on Unsplash.

DETROIT — After 15 months of restrictions, Michigan's capacity limits were lifted Tuesday but what will Pure Michigan look like now?

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared, “Today is an exciting, happy, joyful moment. There is no more mask or gathering order. Effective today, there are no more capacity limits, indoors or outdoors. Effective today, our Pure Michigan summer is back.”

Crain’s Detroit Business, similarly, told readers “It’s time to have fun again.

“It’s time to play. It’s time to have fun again,” Jordan Munsters, co-founder and president of High Caliber Karting and Entertainment, told Crain's Detroit Business. “I have very high hopes. I’m near 100 percent confidence that we’re going to see a booming experience economy — people who want to travel, people who want to do things.”

But will the crowds rival their previous numbers?/ 

The state reported 15 new COVID-19 deaths Tuesday as 393 patients were hospitalized with cases, or suspected cases, and the 91 new cases was the lowest number reported since the Pandemic began. 

More than 5 million Michiganders or 61 percent of the adult population, have received at least one dose of the vaccination though that is short of the 70 percent rate state and federal officials hoped for. What’s the mood?

New poll: 44 percent hit emotional lowest point in past year

A new OnePoll survey of 2,000 released Tuesday found 44 percent saying they hit their lowest emotional point over the past year with 42 percent coping with anxiety, 37 percent reporting depression, and 31 percent reporting more loneliness.

Michigan’s Republican-controlled House, meanwhile, voted to drop the $300 per week in added federal pandemic-related benefits for state residents collecting unemployment effective immediately, arguing businesses are suffering from workers making more on unemployment than they would earning the minimum wage. Whitmer is expected to veto the GOP provision. 

Whitmer would prefer to use the $300 in added federal unemployment as an incentive for companies to re-hire workers who lost work during the pandemic, saying the money could be paid as an incentive for workers to return to old jobs. She has not, however, provided details of how such incentives would work or when they might take effect. 

“What we wanted to do was not say we’re going to penalize you for going back to work, but we’re going to support you, and you can still draw down this $300, and you can use it as an incentive in addition to your paycheck,” Whitmer said of the providing the incentive for people returning to work.

The added federal unemployment dollars, which were as much as $600 per week early in the pandemic and as low as zero in fall 2020 have climbed and fallen over the past year due to political debates but the current benefits are slated to expire in September.

Highest caseload now more

Just a few weeks ago, Michigan had the highest caseloads in the nation with many neighboring states reopening long before Michigan. But now, the previously shut down Pure Michigan tourism marketing campaign is back online trying to regenerate crowds.

However, the U.S./Canadian border including connections in Detroit and Port Huron remain closed until at least July 21, officials said. Typically more than 1 million Canadians travel to Michigan each year. 

Last summer, the biggest tourism traffic occurred in Northern Michigan which experienced fewer cases and fewer restrictions on travel and business. Long-time restrictions on events like weddings and funerals are also now gone. 

Gyms, which were especially hard-hit during the pandemic have re-opened the number of people using public parks has jumped more than 35 percent.

Whitmer, who faces re-election in 2022, has been trying to work more closely with Republican lawmakers as they debate how to spend more than $6.5 billion in new federal dollars provided to the state during the pandemic. 

Whitmer has called for using the federal dollars to raise state wages to at least $15 per hour by giving businesses grants to cover the difference between the wage they would normally pay and $15 an hour for the next three months. 

Customers returning to Michigan businesses.Image by Q K from Pixabay.

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