Michigan Adds COVID Restrictions Amid Case, Hospitalization Surge

Robert Gordon, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services, discusses new COVID-19 restrictions.

Add Michigan to the states reinstating restrictions in the wake of surging COVID-19 numbers.

With more than 44,000 cases last week shattering the state’s weekly COVID-19 record for the fifth straight week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state Health and Human Services chief Robert Gordon Sunday announced a variety of restrictions to try to help stem the tide of the virus.

The order takes effect Wednesday and runs through Dec. 8.

“Michiganders have made huge sacrifices,” Whitmer said Sunday. “It’s unlike anything any of us has faced before. But we smashed the curve, we saved lives.

“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,” she added. “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. 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.”

Among the restrictions:

  • High schools and colleges/universities are closed to in-person learning.
  • Work must be done from home, when possible.
  • Bars and restaurants are limited to drive-through, takeout and delivery.
  • Organized sports are cancelled, except professional sports.
  • Movie theaters, arenas, casino and other entertainment venues are closed.

Paul Glantz, president and CEO of Emagine Entertainment, said he respects the governor’s decision to “pause” on a host of activities to halt the spread of COVID-19. But, Glantz noted, theater owners “continue to be struck” by the “hypocrisy and inconsistencies” used in determining which sectors of the economy to close and which are allowed to remain open.

“There has not been a single reported outbreak of COVID-19 among guests at movie theaters worldwide, but our governor and her health director have chosen to single out our industry for closure,” Glantz said. “Again, we call upon the governor and (Gordon) to bring forth the science and data supporting this directive. It is time for full transparency as an underpinning for these decisions.”

Things allowed to remain open (with masks required):

  • Preschool through K-8 can be in-person, at the individual district’s choice. Whitmer pointed out that the disease isn’t spreading as much in the lower grades.
  • Gyms, salons, barber shops and other personal services remain open.
  • Indoor gatherings, limited to two households and 10 people (although Whitmer urges limiting such gatherings to one household).

Whitmer addressed Thanksgiving specifically.

“If you are considering spending with anyone outside of your household, I urge you to reconsider,” she said. “Think about your favorite Thanksgivings, and the loved ones with whom you spent them. As hard as this is, we all need to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gain.”

  • Parks and outdoor recreation.
  • Funerals are limited to 25 people.
  • Health care.

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Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical officer, sounded an alarm about the continued spread of the virus.

“The data we are seeing is alarming. COVID-19 is impacting every area of our state. Our healthcare systems are becoming overwhelmed, and our contact tracers cannot keep up,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “If we do not act now, we risk thousands more deaths, and even more people having long-term health consequences. The actions we are taking today are the best opportunity we have to get this virus under control.”

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, accused Whitmer of not including Senate Republicans in the discussion.

“The Senate Republicans still have faith in our fellow citizens and encourage them to protect themselves and others by adhering to the practices we know can help combat the spread of this insidious virus: washing hands, maintaining distance, and wearing a mask when it’s appropriate,” Shirkey said in a statement. “We are disappointed that Gov. Whitmer chose to go it alone, again. The Senate Republicans will continue working with our doctors and the medical community on ways we can combat this virus and are ready to work with the Governor when she decides to work as a team to fight this virus.”

Whitmer’s move follows similar decisions all over the country:

  • In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham issued a two-week stay-at-home order starting Monday.
  • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown last Friday issued a “two-week freeze” on most activities.
  • Chicago has placed restrictions on bars and restaurants.
  • In New York, there’s a curfew for bars and restaurants, and the city is on the verge of once again closing schools.

Cases are rising fast in Michigan, as are hospitalizations. Some 999 COVID patients were in hospital beds Oct. 13; by last Friday, that number had risen to 3,220.

The recent explosion of the virus brought the leaders of the state’s largest health systems together for a virtual press conference Friday to urge Michiganders to adhere more stridently to social distancing measures.

While acknowledging the presence of “COVID fatigue,” the leaders pressed residents to continue taking the precautions.

“There will be no silver bullet for COVID-19,” said Wright Lassiter, the president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System, whose hospitals had more than 1,000 patients at the previous peak of the virus. “We clearly know that some things work. We clearly know that wearing masks works. We clearly know that social distancing helps. We clearly know that hand hygiene helps you remove pathogens form your hands. And we clearly know that removing yourself from large gatherings where the spread is possible will help.

“We’ve been in a battle for the last eight months, and when you’ve been in a battle for that long you lose a bit of energy, steam and resiliency,” Lassiter added. “I would tell you the amazing … health care workers are working tirelessly. I ask you to help them in not having the volumes return to where they were in the spring.”

Whitmer pointed out “we’re all in this together” as the state continues battling the virus.

“I know a lot of us are exhausted fighting this virus … yet none of us can let up for a second. Whether you live in a dynamic city like Detroit or a quaint town like Ludington, whether you’re a Biden Democrat or a Trump Republican … you have a role in this fight.”