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Don’t hold vaccinated hostage

We’ve asked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to tell us when and how she would go about lifting the heavy restrictions Michigan has lived under for more than a year. The governor finally laid out some metrics Thursday, and that’s a start.

But the targets are too hard to reach and will take the restrictions too far into the future. Linking a relaxation of dictates to the percentage of vaccinated residents will have the effect of punishing those who’ve gotten their COVID shots and “done their part” by denying them a return to normal life.

The vaccinated should not be held hostage to the negligence of those who are avoiding readily available vaccines. As long as vaccines are plentiful, that’s the only metric that matters.

As Whitmer acknowledged at her press conference, the issue in Michigan is becoming one of demand, rather than supply. Appointments statewide are going unfilled, even as hospitals, pharmacies and clinics are offering walk-in options and other perks.

We get that these vaccines are new and were developed quickly, and that’s led to a lot of hesitancy. Plus, anti-vaxxers existed long before the coronavirus. Some of the reluctance will likely decline over time as concerned residents talk to family members or neighbors who’ve had the vaccine.

Whitmer’s “MI Vacc to Normal” would start easing restrictions once 4.5 million residents, or 55% of the adults, receive their first dose. Two weeks after that target is reached, office work would once again be allowed. Currently, about 48% have had their first dose.

Other incremental objectives translate to stepped-up freedoms, but the state is clinging to its epidemic power until a 70% vaccination benchmark is reached.

That’s likely many months off — if it can be reached at all.

James Hohman, fiscal policy director at the Mackinac Center, noted it’s helpful to have targets in place, even though he thinks they were misguided.

“It’s better than arbitrary control with no clear end in sight,” Hohman observed.

As many states are lifting restrictions altogether and putting responsibility into citizens’ hands, this continued top-down approach will keep Michigan an outlier.

Whitmer also claimed she had gotten input from GOP lawmakers. They disagree with that assessment and say conversations were ongoing but far from complete, which doesn’t bode well for a return to democratic governing.

We’ve lived through a full year of complicated COVID charts and “FAQs” telling us what we can and can’t do. The governor needs to set free those who’ve been vaccinated while continuing to press everyone else to get the shots.

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