Lansing, MI–Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Thursday allowing small gatherings of 10 people or fewer as long as social distancing is practiced, including staying six feet apart and wearing a face mask, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“We know that this virus is still very present in the vast majority of our state and so we are asking people to be really smart as we take these steps so we don’t have to take a step backwards and we can keep moving forward,” Whitmer said.

The order also allows retail businesses and auto dealerships statewide to reopen on May 26.

Retail businesses will be limited to 10 people inside at a time, while auto dealerships will be by appointment only.

Nonessential medical, dental and veterinary procedures will also be allowed to resume on May 29.

Whitmer’s executive order closing bars, restaurants, theaters and other businesses and the stay-at-home order are currently set to expire May 28.

But Whitmer said another short-term extension of the amended orders will likely be necessary as the state monitors the effects of today’s actions on the spread of COVID-19.

Whitmer announced Monday that bars and restaurants in Northern Michigan would be allowed to reopen Friday.

Businesses that reopen must follow restrictions to protect customers and workers from the spread of COVID-19, including providing and training workers on the proper use of personal protective equipment, screening for symptoms and enforcing social distancing.

Michigan had 53,009 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state Wednesday, and 5,060 people have died from the virus.

Of the confirmed cases, 1,915 are in Genesee County, and 238 people in the county have died from the virus.

Andrew Roth is a reporter and photographer covering politics and policy in Michigan, as well technology, culture and their convergence. Andrew is a journalism student at Michigan State University and first...