Governor Whitmer announces ‘three-week pause’ to curb COVID-19 spike

Emergency order targets indoor social gatherings and other group activities
New restrictions start Wednesday
New restrictions start Wednesday(WJRT)
Published: Nov. 15, 2020 at 8:17 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will use epidemic powers to tighten restrictions on indoor social gatherings and other group activities believed to rapidly spread COVID-19 infection rates.

Under this order, indoor residential gatherings are limited to two households at any one time. However, state health officials 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. 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,” Whitmer said.

She pointed out that Michigan is confirming thousands of new COVID-19 illnesses every day, ranking the state fifth for the most cases last week. Michigan hospitals were treating 3,200 confirmed and probable COVID-19 patients on Friday, which is approaching the record of about 4,000 last April.

“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.”

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon said indoor gatherings remain the greatest source of COVID-19 spread around the state. He believes the new restrictions announced Sunday will limit the spread.

“The order is targeted and temporary, but a terrible loss of life will be forever unless we act," Gordon said. "By coming together today, we can save thousands of lives.”

The new order, which takes effect Wednesday, is not a blanket stay-home action like in the spring. The order leaves open work that cannot be performed from home, including 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.

Michigan has seen fewer outbreaks associated with elementary and middle schools, and younger children are most in need of in-person instruction. In-person kindergarten through eighth grade schooling may continue if it can be done with strong mitigation, including mask requirements, based on discussion between local health and school officials.

Child care also remains open to support working parents.

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