LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has issued a new emergency order that will start Wednesday and last three weeks in response to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases.
The new epidemic order targets social gathering and other group activities to help curb infection rates, state officials say.
During a Sunday evening news conference, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said the new restrictions will begin Wednesday at 12:01 a.m. and will last three weeks. State officials continuously clarified that the order is not a stay home order like officials issued earlier this year.
“We are in the worst moment in this pandemic to date,” Whitmer said. “As hard as these first months were for our state, these next few months are going to be harder.”
Under the new order, indoor residential gathering will be limited to two households at a time. MDDHS is urging families to choose one other household to gather with during the next three weeks. However they are encouraging people to avoid gatherings.
“Indoor gatherings are the greatest source of spread, and sharply limiting them is our focus,” MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said. “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.”
In addition to household restrictions, health officials are urging those that can work from home to do so. The order leaves open work that can’t be done at home such as manufacturing, construction and health occupations.
All high schools and colleges will not be learning in person. K-8 schools can continue learning in person with strong mitigation including mask requirements. Child care will also stay open to help support working parents.
Bars and restaurants will be closed for indoor dining but will remain open for outdoor dining, takeout and delivery.
Gyms can stay open for individual exercise with strict safety protocols, but group exercise classes will be closed. Organized sports must stop during the order with the exception of college and professional sports, which will continuing taking precautions and compete without spectators.
The Michigan High School Sports Association quickly responded to the halt of high school sports.
“We understand the need for action, and we will explore all options to complete our Fall tournaments when restrictions are lifted. We will assess everything over the next three weeks relative to Fall and Winter sports and come up with a plan that keeps us connected to our goal, for months, of having three seasons that are played to their conclusions,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl.
Individual activities like retail shopping, personal care services will remain open with physical distancing and face mask requirements.
Other establishments like casinos, movie theaters, bowling alleys, bingo halls and skating rinks will be closed during the order.
“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,” Whitmer said. “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.”
MDHHS Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said “COVID-19 spreading like wildfire” as positivity rates have been ranging from 9% to 13% across the state. Medical professionals have repeatedly said 3% is ideal.
This is not like the cold or the flu, and we simply cannot let this virus continue to spread out of control like it is now,” Khaldun said. “And many more of those cases, even if they live, they are facing potentially significant long-term health consequences, things researchers are still learning more about.”
As of Saturday, the total confirmed cases of coronavirus within the state have risen to 251,813, along with 7,994 deaths.
Khaldun urged people experiencing symptoms to get tested.
“If we do not test, we will not be able to find a disease. We won’t be able to stop its spread. There are many more people who have the virus and they’re not getting a test,” Khaldun said.
To find a testing site near you, visit the state’s website.