UPDATE: Whitmer moves UP back to new version of Phase 4 on Oct. 9

After Friday’s Michigan Supreme Court ruling, Whitmer says her orders retain the force of law for 21 days.
Coronavirus in Upper Michigan.
Coronavirus in Upper Michigan.(WLUC/MGN)
Published: Oct. 2, 2020 at 3:08 PM EDT
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - UPDATE: The Michigan Supreme Court has struck down months of orders by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer that were aimed at that were aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Whitmer says the ruling does not take effect for at least 21 days, and until then, her emergency declaration and orders retain the force of law.

Before the Supreme Court ruling came down, Gov. Whitmer announced that Upper Michigan is going back to Phase 4 of her reopening plan, however, this version of Phase 4 has many changes from the governor’s original Phase 4.

The governor announced a new executive order Friday afternoon as U.P. coronavirus cases continue to surge. The new order created confusion as the restrictions are different than they were when Upper Michigan moved to Phase 4 of the MI Safe Start Plan in May. Executive Order 2020-192 will go into effect Friday, October 9 at 12:01 a.m., although given the surge in cases, Whitmer says everyone should make this transition as swiftly as possible.

Schools do not have to switch to virtual learning, as the original reopening plan slated for Phase 4. Schools will be required to enforce mask requirements with limited exceptions.

Restaurants, hair salons, gyms and movie theaters that are currently open don’t have to close or switch to take-out or curbside services. This move to Phase 4 will require people who can perform work remotely to do so and place limits on social gatherings and stores that match those in place in most of the state, among other changes.

“They can stay engaged but with these new protocols, strict protocols and diminished numbers of people that frequent them,” Whitmer said in an interview with TV6′s Andrew LaCombe. “To see what the policies have been in other parts of the state, to see how we’ve been operating in the vast majority of the state to bring our numbers down, that’s what it will have to look like in the Upper Peninsula.”

Although the Upper Peninsula had very low numbers from March through most of June, the region’s numbers began rising in late June, persisted at an elevated level through mid-September, and then began sharply increasing at that time, giving it right now the most concerning numbers in the state. The most recent case rate, adjusting for lag, has the region with 283 absolute cases per million and 5.1% positivity.

“We’ve seen outbreaks from weddings,” Whitmer said. “We know that Wisconsin is a hotspot nationally right now. But when you look at Delta County, for instance, there’s 675 cases per million people. In Houghton, it’s 612. In Menominee, it’s 455. That is in comparison to the Detroit region, which is 70.”

The governor’s order will implement the following changes in the Upper Peninsula:

  • People who can perform their work remotely will be required to do so;
  • Social gatherings and organized events will be subject to the new Phase 4 limits in Executive Order 2020-183: indoor residential – 10 people or less; indoor non-residential may allow more, depending on the size of the facility and subject to formulas in the order.
  • Stores of less than 50,000 square feet must limit number of people in store, including employees, to 25 percent of total occupancy limits. Stores of 50,000 square feet or more must limit customers to no more than 20 people per 1,000 square feet of customer floor space, and allow 2 hours of week dedicating shopping time for vulnerable populations.
  • Schools must require face coverings at certain times, including in the classroom, among other requirements.

Republican State Sen. Ed McBroom questioned if people will follow the stricter requirements.

“We’re working very hard to continue to slow this down as if we were still back in March when we had a huge shortage of PPE, we didn’t really understand the disease or have any real treatment options at all and we were terribly fearful of having our ICUs and hospitals overrun and having no care left,” McBroom said. “Those are not the situations that we’re in now, and yet a lot of the response we’re seeing is just very parallel to what we did back in March and April.”

McBroom expects a lot of “outright rejection of change beyond what folks are already doing.”

“But more than that, so far, I’ve not been presented with any strong showing that the increase is due to large gatherings or events," he said. "And so far, from what I’m hearing from medical experts, it’s mainly still happening in the small-scale gatherings in the first place.”

To view Executive Order 2020-192, click here.

According to the MI Safe Start Map, Upper Michigan is currently a “Level D," with “Level E” being the highest risk.

The MI Safe Start Map data for Oct. 2, 2020.
The MI Safe Start Map data for Oct. 2, 2020.(MI Safe Start Map)

TV6 & FOX UP will update this story as more information becomes available.

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