Whitmer closes state’s K-12 buildings, bans groups of 250

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday ordered all K-12 schools in the state to close through April 5.

In a move that heightens the state’s response to the coronavirus, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday the closure of all K-12 school buildings — public, private and boarding — to students starting Monday, March 16 until Sunday, April 5. School buildings are scheduled to reopen on Monday, April 6. 

According to information on the state’s website, as of Friday, the number of presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan is 16. 

“This is a necessary step to protect our kids, our families, and our overall public health,” Whitmer said in a press release. “I am working with partners across state government to ensure educators, parents, and students have the support they need during this time, and to ensure our children who rely on school for meals have access to food. I know this will be a tough time, but we’re doing this to keep the most people we can safe. I urge everyone to make smart choices during this time and to do everything they can to protect themselves and their families.” 

In another move, Whitmer signed an executive order banning any gatherings of more than 250 people in one shared space. Like the school closings, the ban on large gatherings extends until April 5.

The order exempts manufacturing facilities, mass transit facilities and big box grocery or consumer good stores where there may be more than 250 people assembled in large rooms or industrial buildings.

Churches, synagogues and mosques are not exempt from the ban.

Michigan State Superintendent Michael Rice called the school closures a “responsible choice” that will “minimize the risk of exposure” to children, educators and families.

“The Department of Education will continue to work closely with our partners in state government to help our students and educators in each school district get through this time,” Rice said. “This is about protecting the most people in Michigan.” 

Governors across the country, including Mike DeWine of Ohio, Andy Beshear of Kentucky and Larry Hogan of Maryland have taken similar steps to close schools and ensure the protection of children and families in their states. 

“Closing our school buildings is the smart thing and the right thing to do for the public’s health,” said Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. “These actions will help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan. I will continue to work with (Whitmer) and our four COVID-19 task forces to ensure we protect our children, our families, and our communities.”  

Patients with confirmed infection have reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath. 

The best prevention for viruses, such as influenza, the common cold or COVID-19 is to: 

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer.   
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.   
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or upper sleeve when coughing or sneezing.   
  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.   
  • If you are sick, stay home, and avoid contact with others. 

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus