No Change for Restaurants, But Casinos and Theaters Can Reopen

High school students wondering when they’d be allowed in their classrooms now have their answer. Diners wondering when they’ll be able to eat in their favorite restaurants found out it’s going to be at least another three weeks.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Robert Gordon, director of the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, said Friday that students – who’ve been locked into virtual learning since Nov. 18 and the state’s “Pause to Save Lives” — can return to in-person learning effective Monday, Dec. 21. Districts out for their holiday breaks.

No change was made regarding the lifting of indoor dining restrictions for restaurants.

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The “Pause to Save Lives” restrictions were originally put in place Nov. 17; on Dec. 8, the state extended those restrictions through the end of the day Sunday.

On Friday, Whitmer and Gordon announced a change to that order. Under the new guidelines:

  • In-person learning at high schools and indoor entertainment venues.
  • Casinos, bowling centers and movie theatres will be allowed to reopen with total capacity capped at 100; food and drink concessions closed; and social distancing requirements in place.
  • Indoor residential gatherings remain limited to 10 people and two households.

The new order is effective Monday, Dec. 21 and will last until Friday, Jan. 15. But Whitmer said the state will be watching and could possibly lift restrictions earlier.

“These past few weeks, Michiganders across the state stepped up and did their part to slow the spread of COVID-19, and because of our collective hard work, we are now able to begin the steps to carefully lift some of the protocols we have in place,” Whitmer said. “I am encouraged by the progress we have made since early November, and will continue to monitor the data closely during and after the holidays. One of the most important things Michiganders can do right now is make a plan to get the safe and effective vaccine as soon as it’s available to you. And as always: mask up, practice safe social distancing, and avoid indoor gatherings where COVID-19 can easily spread from person to person. We will eradicate this virus together.”

The moves come as the state has started showing declining numbers in the three metrics officials are watching: Number of cases, percentage of tests that are positive, and hospitalzations.

  • Hospital capacity dedicated to COVID-19 patients:13-day decline; current capacity is at 17.3% for beds with COVID-19 patients. Peaked at 20.1% on Tuesday, Dec. 1.
  • Overall case rates: 27-day decline; currently at 439 cases per million. Peaked at 739 cases per million on Saturday, Nov. 14.
  • Positivity rate: 11-day decline; currently at 10.6% positive tests. Recently peaked at 14.3% on Friday, Dec. 4.

“We have made some progress in our fight against this pandemic, and this was a historical week as we started to distribute life-saving vaccines,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “It is important that everyone continues to do their part. Start planning for when you will get a vaccine when it is available to you, and let’s avoid a surge in cases after the holidays by avoiding gatherings, wearing our masks, and continuing to socially distance.”