January 27, 2023

Volume XIII, Number 27


January 27, 2023

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Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer Announces “The MI Vacc to Normal Challenge” Outlining Return-to-Office, Reopening Plans for State

On Thursday, April 29 Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer held a press conference announcing  the “MI Vacc to Normal Challenge” to re-open portions of the Michigan economy restricted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan sets out four major milestones for loosening of restrictions, which are based upon vaccination rates for Michiganders 16 years or older who have received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccination rate-based milestones are: 

  • Step 1 – 2 weeks after 55% of the Michigan population ages 16 and older receives at least their first COVID-19 vaccination, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) will permit in-person work for all sectors of business, effectively lifting the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) requirement for remote work when feasible.

  • Step 2 – 2 weeks after 60% of the Michigan population ages 16 and older receives at least their first COVID-19 vaccination, the MDHHS will increase indoor capacity limits for banquet centers, arenas and stadiums to 25% of capacity. Gym capacities will be increased to 50% and the curfew on bars and restaurants will be lifted.

  • Step 3 – 2 weeks after 65% of the Michigan population ages 16 and older receives at least their first COVID-19 vaccination, indoor capacity limits will be lifted and residential social gathering limits will be relaxed.

  • Step 4 – 2 weeks after 70% of the Michigan population ages 16 and older receives at least their first COVID-19 vaccination, the gatherings and face mask order will be lifted.

In her statements, the Governor noted that currently just over 49% of the Michigan population ages 16 or older has been administered a first vaccination, and that approximately 36% percent have been fully vaccinated. Based upon these statistics it is expected that the 55% threshold for Step 1 could be reached as early as the first week of May, with the in-person work restrictions lifted two weeks later.

The Governor also cautioned prudence, however, and stressed that if daily new cases remain greater than 250 per million residents as a 7-day average in a particular Michigan Economic Recovery Committee (MERC) region at the time of implementing Steps 2 through 3, MDHHS may delay implementation in that MERC region. Governor Whitmer additionally noted that a revised DHHS order is expected to be promulgated on April 30, which will further relax outdoor gathering limits following new guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In conjunction with the announcement of the “MI Vacc to Normal Challenge”, the Michigan Return-to-Office Workgroup issued its own recommendations to the Governor’s administration outlining practices that employers should be advised to take as they plan for a safe, phased reopening of offices.  In addition to policy-related recommendations for MIOSHA and MDHHS, the recommendations outline the following best practices for employers:

  1. Reduce Office Density:

    • Focus on task-based collaboration and specific needs for in-person work while allowing other tasks and teamwork to be completed remotely when feasible.

    • Consider utilizing hybrid work strategies to promote social distancing.


  2. Address Operational Obstacles:

    • Daily Health Screenings – stagger entry times to avoid congregation at screening checkpoints, consider using screening apps to provide information prior to entry.

    • Entry/exit through common entrances and elevators – stagger start and end times as practical to avoid congregation.


  3. Quarantine, Isolation and Testing Guidelines:

    • Ensure policy clearly articulates the ability of employees to quarantine/isolate/test without risk of job loss.

    • Promote the use of sick and family leave tax credits available for employers with 500 or fewer employees to provide paid leave.

  4. Caregiving Resources for Employees:

    • Establish a return policy that provides employees with caregiving obligations to continue remote work regardless of the cohort group returning, including caregiving of immuno-compromised persons.

    • Communicate to employees important changes to the Child Tax Credit that will help many families receive advance payments starting this summer.

  5. Vaccines:

    • Provide up-to-date information to employees on the vaccines. 

    • Provide links to vaccination sites/sign-up information.

    • Consider partnering where possible with local public health to offer on-site vaccination.

    • Add COVID-19 vaccination to existing wellness programs and benchmarks.


© 2023 Foley & Lardner LLPNational Law Review, Volume XI, Number 119

About this Author

Steven H. Hilfinger, Foley Lardner, Senior Lender Counsel, Global Finance Lawyer

Steve Hilfinger is a partner and business lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP. He has more than 25 years of transactional and finance experience, including representing private and public companies, senior lenders, mezzanine lenders and borrowers, venture capital funds and private equity funds, automotive suppliers and other manufacturers. Mr. Hilfinger focuses his practice in corporate and securities law matters, including mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructurings, private equity and venture capital transactions, debt and equity finance transactions, business...

RobNederhood, business lawyer
Senior Counsel

Robert Nederhood is a senior counsel and business lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP where he focuses his practice on mergers and acquisitions, and represents public and private companies in connection with transactions, corporate restructurings, and commercial contracting. He also has experience representing both debtors and purchasers in connection with the sale of companies in bankruptcy, and assists clients with a variety of Michigan state government matters.

Jeffery Kopp, Labor Attorney, Foley and Lardner Law Firm

Jeffrey S. Kopp is a partner and litigation attorney with Foley & Lardner LLP. He has represented and counseled clients in various labor and employment, FMLA, OFCCP and EEO compliance, unemployment, workers compensation leave, and non-compete and trade secret matters. Mr. Kopp is a member of the firm’s Labor & Employment Practice, the Automotive Industry Team and the Trade Secret/Non-Compete Task Force. Mr. Kopp also represents employers in matters involving federal and state occupational safety and health agencies, including matters involving employee fatalities...