UPDATED: Whitmer administration announces new coronavirus restrictions to protect frontline workers
Starting Wednesday, bars and restaurants will be open for outdoor dining, carry-out and delivery only. Colleges and high schools must end in-person classes.
LANSING, Mich. (WLUC) - The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a new emergency order Sunday that enacts a three-week pause targeting indoor social gatherings and other group activities in an effort to curb rapidly rising COVID-19 infection rates.
Under this order, indoor residential gatherings are limited to two households at any one time. However, MDHHS strongly urges families to pick a single other household to interact with over the next three weeks, consistent with new guidance released by the department. The order is aimed at limiting residential and non-residential gatherings where COVID-19 spreads rapidly.
- Bars and restaurants will be open for outdoor dining, carry-out and delivery only.
- Gyms will remain open for individual exercise with strict safety measures in place.
- Non-tribal casinos, movie theaters and group exercise classes will be closed.
- Professional and college sports meeting extraordinary standards for risk mitigation may continue without spectators, however all other organized sports must stop.
- Colleges and high schools may proceed with remote learning, but must end in-person classes.
“In the spring, we listened to public health experts, stomped the curve, and saved thousands of lives together. Now, we must channel that same energy and join forces again to protect our families, frontline workers and small businesses,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Right now, there are thousands of cases a day and hundreds of deaths a week in Michigan, and the number is growing. If we don’t act now, thousands more will die, and our hospitals will continue to be overwhelmed. We can get through this together by listening to health experts once again and taking action right now to slow the spread of this deadly virus.”
“Indoor gatherings are the greatest source of spread, and sharply limiting them is our focus,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “The order is targeted and temporary, but a terrible loss of life will be forever unless we act. By coming together today, we can save thousands of lives.”
Sunday’s order, which takes effect Wednesday, Nov. 18, is not a blanket stay-home action like in the spring. The order leaves open work that cannot be performed from home, including for manufacturing, construction and health occupations. Outdoor gatherings, outdoor dining and parks remain open. Individualized activities with distancing and face masks are still allowed: retail shopping; public transit; restaurant takeout; personal-care services such as haircuts, by appointment; and individualized exercise at a gym, with extra spacing between machines.
The MDHHS says Michigan has seen fewer outbreaks associated with elementary and middle schools, and younger children are most in need of in-person instruction. In-person K-8 schooling may continue if it can be done with strong mitigation, including mask requirements, based on discussion between local health and school officials. Childcare also remains open to support working parents. Throughout this crisis, Michigan’s teachers and childcare workers have served on the front lines ensuring support for working parents and educating our children, the MDHHS says.
“The data we are seeing is alarming. COVID-19 is impacting every area of our state. Our healthcare systems are becoming overwhelmed, and our contact tracers cannot keep up,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “If we do not act now, we risk thousands more deaths, and even more people having long-term health consequences. The actions we are taking today are the best opportunity we have to get this virus under control.”
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel urges local enforcement of the new order. On behalf of Nessel, department Communications Director Kelly Rossman-McKinney provided the following statement:
“Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel recognizes and strongly supports the need for these important measures in an effort to stem the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in Michigan. This virus is quickly spreading throughout our state and we must do everything we can to stop it and flatten the curve. As with past orders, county public health departments and local law enforcement are primarily responsible for enforcement in their own communities and we hope they do so. We stand ready to assist them in their efforts.”
Questions about the new MDHHS order may be directed to the COVID-19 Hotline at 888-535-6136 or by sending an email to the state’s COVID-19 email address.
Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield released the following statement on the governor’s new unilateral actions:
"The Legislature led the way with a comprehensive plan to address this crisis back in the spring, which the governor ignored. The Legislature also designed the plan that reopened schools and is still used to this day, along with a new plan introduced last month that has so far been ignored. That is on top of billions of dollars in funding, critical reforms to nursing homes policies and protections for healthcare staff, unemployed workers and small business owners. The people of Michigan deserve a seat at the table when major decisions like these are made, and those decisions are made better and safer when they do.
“As always, we stand ready to act in a bipartisan way when the governor decides it is worth her time. Until then, we are still reviewing the details of this order like everyone else.”
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