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Whitmer lifts stay-at-home order, keeps some places closed

In this Monday, June 1, 2020, photo provided by the Michigan Office of the Governor, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a news conference in Lansing, Mich. Whitmer lifted Michigan's nearly 10-week coronavirus stay-at-home order Monday, letting restaurants reopen to dine-in customers next week and immediately easing limits on outdoor gatherings while keeping social-distancing rules intact. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP, Pool)

LANSING (AP) — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted Michigan’s nearly 10-week coronavirus stay-at-home order Monday, letting restaurants reopen to dine-in customers next week and immediately easing limits on outdoor gatherings while keeping social-distancing rules intact.

The governor moved regions comprising 93% of the state’s population to phase 4 — “improving” — two weeks after she announced that northern Michigan could advance to that stage. Businesses where close contact is necessary, such as gyms, hair salons, theaters and amusement parks, will remain closed under a new order.

Retailers can reopen to customers without an appointment on Thursday and restaurants can offer dine-in service on June 8, with capacity limits. Children’s day camps, pools, libraries and museums can also reopen June 8. Groups of up to 100 can gather outside if they stay 6 feet apart, up from a threshold of 10 people. In-home services such as housecleaning can resume.

People must continue to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces.

Whitmer said her goal is to shift the state to phase 5 — “containing” — before July 4, so businesses such as barbershops, indoor gyms, theaters and overnight camps can open. She plans later this week to let the Upper Peninsula and Traverse City regions, where COVID-19 cases and deaths have been low, proceed to stage 5. Phase 6 is “post-pandemic.”

“We’re taking a big step forward today. It’s undeniable,” said the Democratic governor, whose restrictions have been unsuccessfully challenged in court by Republican lawmakers and others. “We’ve gone from a moment where we’ve said, ‘Everyone needs to stay home except for these essential things’ to now, ‘It’s OK to reengage except for a few of these things that still are too risky.'”

More than 5,600 people have died from coronavirus complications in Michigan, fifth most in the country. The state on Monday reported 25 additional deaths.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said the number of people sickened by the virus continues to rise at a slower rate, and hospitals have capacity. She cautioned that just one person can infect many.

“It’s incredibly important that as businesses open up they do so in the safest way possible, following the safety protocols and guidance put forth by public health officials,” Khaldun said.