Michigan Eliminating Most COVID-19 Restrictions on June 22

On Thursday, Governor Whitmer announced that COVID-19 restrictions related to gatherings, face masks, and more would be lifted on June 22nd, a week earlier than had been planned (the restrictions had been slated to be lifted on July 1st). As a result, starting Tuesday, unvaccinated people will no longer be required to wear masks and indoor capacity limits will be lifted. Some orders, including those related to long-term care facilities, agriculture, and prisons, will remain in effect. The change comes as daily cases and death have decreased dramatically, though that trend may reverse as the Delta variant becomes more prevalent. Reopening may have unintended consequences, however, as vaccination rates had already slowed to a trickle in the state, and reopening will cause many people to think that it's no longer necessary to get vaccinated. Presently, only 50.7% of Michigan residents age 12 and up have received a full dose of vaccine (2 doses of Pfizer or Moderna or 1 dose of Johnson & Johnson), which is nowhere near enough for herd immunity.

It is important to remember that the lifting of restrictions is a political decision, and it only removes state-level requirements. Businesses, schools, local governments, and other places and organizations can still make rules that require masks or limit gatherings. At a personal level, choosing to wear a mask and avoid large gatherings is still the safest course of action, regardless of the presence of Emergency Orders that require doing so. The increase in cases of the Delta variant are also a cause for concern, and if you are unvaccinated, it is critical that you get vaccinated as soon as possible if you are medically able to do so.

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Juneteenth Becomes Federal Holiday

On June 17th, President Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday in the United States. The bill had passed unanimously in the Senate and 415-14 in the House of Representatives (14 Republicans voted against the bill). It is the first new federal holiday added since Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was designated in 1983. There are now 12 federal holidays. Juneteenth was already a state holiday in every state except South Dakota, but only four states designate it as a paid holiday for state workers. Making the day a federal holiday is a significant event, though many Black leaders have emphasized that it does not lessen the need for major systemic changes throughout the country, and that laws outlawing teaching the true history of Black people in the United States (often referred to as "critical race theory") that are being passed by Republicans in states across the country undermine the progress. Additionally, it is important to note that slavery is still legal in the U.S. for people convicted of crimes, and outlawing that practice is still essential. Some have also expressed concerns that making the day a federal holiday may cause it to become increasingly commercialized and lose meaning.

"Juneteenth (short for 'June Nineteenth') marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people be freed. The troops' arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth honors the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday."
- https://www.history.com/news/what-is-juneteenth

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Delta Variant Update 

The CDC recently designated the Delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, as a variant of concern, up from a variant of interest. This comes with the increase of Delta variant-related cases of COVID-19 here in the U.S., with the latest data suggesting about 10% of COVID-19 cases are from the Delta variant. 

In addition, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky stated in a recent interview that the Delta variant would “likely become the dominant strain in the U.S. in the coming months.” Some experts have even stated that it may become the dominant strain sooner. Several hours after the interview, President Biden emphasized that the variant was “particularly dangerous for young people,” as evidence thus far has shown that the Delta variant is more transmissible, possibly more deadly, and has affected a much larger portion of younger populations compared to previous strains of the virus that causes COVID-19.  

While COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths have continued to decline, the concern for the Delta variant is growing, particularly with regards to unvaccinated populations. The former White House senior advisor for the COVID-19 response has stated that the Delta variant “is like COVID on steroids,” but that those who have been vaccinated do not have much to worry about. 

In Michigan, as of last week, reports have stated that there have been 22 confirmed cases of the Delta variant, with Branch Country in the southwest part of the state having the first two confirmed cases of the Delta variant in that region. 

As cases of the Delta variant increase, it is more important now than ever to get vaccinated, especially as restrictions to curb the pandemic are loosened. If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us!

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Trump-Era Asylum Restrictions Being Removed by Justice Department

On Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced that it was vacating rulings the Department had made under Trump, and effectively restoring asylum rules to what they had been before Trump took office. Most notably, survivors of domestic and gang violence will now have an easier time being granted asylum in the United States. The impact will be major for many people coming from Central America who are fleeing such violence to protect themselves and their families. The changes will not come immediately, however. The Justice Department is expected to take months to update the rules, and President Biden gave a deadline of October for them to do so.

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This Week's QM Round-Up Contributors (in alphabetical order):