LANSING — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced on Monday a 12 day extension of its COVID-19 order that restricts indoor social gatherings and other group activities.
The earlier order was in place for three weeks — set to expire on Tuesday — and covered the time people traveled and spent time with family, despite warnings from health officials against such social contact. The additional 12 days will allow the department to determine the full impact of the Thanksgiving holiday on the spread of COVID-19 across Michigan.
As before, from now until Dec. 20, families are urged to avoid indoor gatherings. Only two households may gather inside, with strict protocols recommended. The MDHHS says individuals should wear masks consistently whenever they are inside with individuals not in their household, and are recommended to pick only a small group to see regularly.
- Bars and restaurants must remain closed for dine-in service, but can remain open for outdoor dining, carry-out and delivery.
- Gyms are open for individual exercise with mandatory masking and additional strict safety measures.
- Casinos, movie theaters and group exercise classes remain closed.
- Professional and college sports meeting extraordinary standards for risk mitigation may continue without spectators.
- Colleges, universities and high schools will continue with remote learning, with no in-person classes.
The state continues to caution those opposed to any state intervention into the global health crisis that the “pause” and its extension are not a blanket stay-home action. Employees who work in jobs that cannot be performed from home can continue to go to work, including those in 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.
“We each have a personal responsibility to wear a mask consistently and minimize indoor gatherings, so we can protect our frontline heroes and loved ones,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “If we don’t, the disease will continue to spread and people will continue to get sick and die.”
The MDHHS also identified three key metrics that will be utilized in determining whether to slowly reopen at the end of the 12 days. Specifically, the department will be looking closely at the percentage of hospital beds with COVID patients, the number of COVID-19 cases and the positivity rate.
If improvements in those numbers are detected, the MDHHS will carefully reopen, with in-person learning at high schools first. Next in line will be entertainment venues where people can maintain consistent masking, such as casinos, theaters and bowling, with concessions closed.
“While we have seen early signs of progress in our case rates and hospitalizations, unfortunately our rates are still alarmingly high and we need more time to understand the impact that Thanksgiving travel may have had on the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at the MDHHS. “I am hopeful because vaccines will be available soon, potentially later this month. However, it will take time for the vaccine to be widely available to the general public, and it is important that we continue to do what we can to contain this virus.”
With recent daily case counts averaging well above 6,000, the daily death toll at alarming levels and the risk of hospitals becoming overwhelmed, we must… listen to our health experts — Governor Whitmer
The state, and much of the world, has remained in a dire battle against the surge of the virus in recent months, pushing governments in Europe and in the U.S. to enforce lockdown measures of varying degrees. Though Michigan has fallen short of going into full lockdown, cases continue to climb up, necessitating some measures by health authorities. A vaccine is expected to get approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as early as this week.
“With recent daily case counts averaging well above 6,000, the daily death toll at alarming levels and the risk of hospitals becoming overwhelmed, we must work together as Michiganders and listen to our health experts,” said Governor Whitmer. “This may be the most difficult time yet in our struggle with COVID-19, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.”