Michigan workers who’ve been working remotely for 15 months during the pandemic have been wondering when employees would be allowed back in their offices.
They can stop wondering.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Monday the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration is easing its emergency rules that sent workers home early in the pandemic. Businesses who wish to do so can now bring their workers back to the office effective today.
With the changes to MIOSHA’s rules, employers may allow fully vaccinated workers to go without face coverings and social distancing; policies will still be necessary for unvaccinated employees.
Those decisions, Whitmer said, are up to individual workplaces.
Whitmer made the announcement during a press conference at Grand Rapids-based Steelcase, where she was joined by Steelcase CEO Jim Keane and Susan Corbin, the director of the state’s Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity.
“We’re talking about Michigan getting back to normal, back to work as we emerge from this pandemic,” Whitmer said. “We’ve made remarkable progress in our battle with COVID-19. Thanks to vaccines, life is really starting to get back to normal now.”
Some of the changes had already begun. As part of the “MI Vacc to Normal” plan Whitmer announced last month, the provision requiring workers to work remotely expired Monday because the state reached the plan’s first benchmark, 55% of Michiganders getting vaccinated.
Whitmer scrapped that plan last week after the CDC issued new guidance saying fully vaccinated people no longer needed to wear a mask indoors or outdoors.
Information on the state’s covid-related website indicated that, as of last Thursday, more than 57% of Michigan’s adults 16 years and older have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Steelcase CEO Keane called it “an exciting day for Michigan” and pointed out company research shows that, given the choice, workers want to come back to offices, and businesses “want to bring people back.”
“I think there are good economic benefits for the state of Michigan,” Keane said. “As people return to offices they come back to cities and towns, and they repopulate these urban centers, which helps restaurants and retail businesses and all the other parts of our economy that depend on people coming to work.”
Whitmer said the state plans to lift outdoor gathering restrictions and increase restaurant capacity to 50% June 1. The governor said all gathering and mask mandates will be lifted July 1.
“The reason we can take these steps is because the people of our state stepped up and took this moment seriously and kept themselves and their families and commuities safe,” Whitmer said.