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Michigan eases COVID-19 rules on wearing masks outside, during youth sports – Detroit Free Press

Masks are no longer required at small outdoor weddings, graduation parties or other similar events or while playing some youth sports, according to a new health department order set to take effect Thursday. 

The move is the latest measure from the Department of Health and Human Services and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as the state’s COVID-19 trends remain bad but continue to move in a safer direction. 

“The commitment by Michiganders to receive the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is allowing us to move toward a return to normal,” said department director Elizabeth Hertel.

“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 new state order, set to take affect Thursday, eases rules on wearing masks outdoors for smaller gatherings and while playing some youth sports.

More:Michigan hits new COVID-19 vaccine milestone: 50% of residents have at least one dose

More:Gov. Whitmer unveils plan to tie Michigan vaccination rates to easing COVID-19 rules

Under the new order, no one needs to wear a mask outdoors unless at a gathering with 100 or more people. That extends to youth sports as well — while masks are still required for contact sports, they are not required during practice or games for non-contact outdoor sports. 

“For example, softball and baseball players will be required to wear a mask in the dugout but not when at bat or playing first base,” reads a news release from the health department. 

Testing for youth athletes is still required unless those students are fully vaccinated and asymptomatic. Anyone fully vaccinated who does not feel sick does not need to wear a mask at any residential gathering, indoors or outdoors. 

“Getting your vaccine is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself, your family and your community,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive.

“Vaccines give you the freedom and peace of mind to be able to do more things, but we still have work to do to reach our goal of vaccinating at least 70% of residents ages 16 and up.” 

More:Whitmer’s plan to ease COVID-19 regulations leaves larger legislative compromise in flux

More:COVID-19 vaccination rates in Michigan: The 5 best counties and the 5 worst

Despite case rates, hospitalizations and deaths dropping in recent weeks, Michigan is still worst in the nation in all three metrics. Previously, Whitmer called for residents to stop eating indoors at restaurants, along with a two-week pause on youth athletics and in-person school classes in an effort to stop the current COVID-19 surge. 

But Hertel and Whitmer have resisted crafting more stringent regulations, despite calls from national health leaders to do so. 

The new order is part of a broader state effort that ties vaccination rates to easing pandemic regulations. 

Last week, Whitmer announced a plan that pegged rolling back restrictions once a certain number of Michiganders received their first vaccine dose. As of Tuesday, the state was about 374,000 shots short of hitting the first benchmark, of 55% of those 16 and older receiving their first dose. 

Just over 39% of all Michiganders 16 and older are fully vaccinated, according to the state. 

Contact Dave Boucher: [email protected] or 313-938-4591. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Boucher1.

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