LANSING, MICH. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a new emergency order today that enacts a three-week pause targeting indoor social gatherings and other group activities in an effort to curb rapidly rising COVID-19 infection rates.
Under this order, indoor residential gatherings are limited to two households at any one time. However, MDHHS 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,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “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.”
“Indoor gatherings are the greatest source of spread, and sharply limiting them is our focus,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “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.”
Today’s order, which takes effect Wednesday, Nov. 18, is not a blanket stay-home action like in the spring. The order leaves open work that cannot be performed from home, including for 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 K-8 schooling may continue if it can be done with strong mitigation, including mask requirements, based on discussion between local health and school officials. Childcare also remains open to support working parents. Throughout this crisis, Michigan’s teachers and childcare workers have served on the front lines ensuring support for working parents and educating our children. Governor Whitmer’s administration has worked around the clock to protect Michigan’s teachers and childcare workers and the other heroes serving on the front lines of the pandemic.
“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.”
HERE IS THE OFFICIAL UPDATE RECEIVED BY WSGW NEWS (unedited)
Emergency Order under MCL 333.2253 – Gatherings and Face Mask Order
Michigan law imposes on the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) a duty to continually and diligently endeavor to “prevent disease, prolong life, and promote public health,” and gives the Department “general supervision of the interests of health and life of people of this state.” MCL 333.2221. MDHHS may “[e]xercise authority and promulgate rules to safeguard properly the public health; to prevent the spread of diseases and the existence of sources of contamination; and to implement and carry out the powers and duties vested by law in the department.” MCL 333.2226(d).
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease that can result in serious illness or death. It is caused by a new strain of coronavirus not previously identified in humans and easily spread from person to person. There is currently no approved vaccine for this disease. COVID-19 spreads through close human contact, even from individuals who may be asymptomatic.
In recognition of the severe, widespread harm caused by epidemics, the Legislature has granted MDHHS specific authority, dating back a century, to address threats to the public health like those posed by COVID-19. MCL 333.2253(1) provides that “[i]f the director determines that control of an epidemic is necessary to protect the public health, the director by emergency order may prohibit the gathering of people for any purpose and may establish procedures to be followed during the epidemic to insure continuation of essential public health services and enforcement of health laws. Emergency procedures shall not be limited to this code.” See also In re Certified Questions, Docket No. 161492 (Viviano, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part, at 20) (“[T]he 1919 law passed in the wake of the influenza epidemic and Governor Sleeper’s actions is still the law, albeit in slightly modified form.”); id. (McCormack, C.J., dissenting, at 12). Enforcing Michigan’s health laws, including preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting public health, requires limitations on gatherings and the establishment of procedures to control the spread of COVID-19. This includes limiting the number, location, size, and type of gatherings, and requiring the use of mitigation measures at gatherings as a condition of hosting such gatherings.
On March 10, 2020, MDHHS identified the first two presumptive-positive cases of COVID-19 in Michigan. As of November 13, 2020, Michigan had seen 244,741 confirmed cases and 7,929 confirmed deaths attributable to COVID-19. Michigan was one of the states most heavily impacted by COVID-19 early in the pandemic, with new cases peaking at nearly 2,000 per day in late March. Strict preventative measures and the cooperation of Michiganders drove daily case numbers dramatically down to less than 200 confirmed cases in mid-June, greatly reducing the loss of life. Since October, Michigan has seen an exponential growth in cases. Daily new cases are now over 6,000 which is three times higher than what was seen in the spring.
The State of Michigan presently has a seven-day average of 512 cases per million people, which is five times higher than the case rate on October 1. Test positivity has increased from 3.2% in early October to 12% on November 13. And while testing has increased 78% since October 1, test positivity has increased 225% during that same time frame, indicating COVID-19 spread is happening much more quickly than tests being administered. All regions in Michigan are now at the highest risk level, with seven-day averages in excess of 150 cases per million residents. Rising cases creates significant pressure on our emergency and hospital systems. Complaints of coronavirus-like illness in emergency departments increased for the ninth week in a row for the state. Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have doubled in less than two weeks, and there are now over 4.5 times the hospitalizations recorded on October 1. An average of 363 daily hospital admissions were seen in Michigan in the last week, and with individuals under 60 years old accounting for nearly half of all new hospital admissions. With over 3,000 Michiganders hospitalized for COVID-19, 15% of all available inpatient beds are now occupied by patients who have COVID-19, the highest number since mid-April. The state death rate is 5 deaths per million people and continues to increase. The current death rate is four times higher than it was in early October. There are more than 300 weekly deaths in Michigan and nearly every region has more than 20 weekly deaths. Due to delays between exposure, onset of symptoms, and hospitalization, the sharp rise in new infections suggests that the state is entering the most challenging phase of the pandemic thus far.
To protect vulnerable individuals, ensure the health care system can provide care for all health issues, and prevent spread in schools during the influenza season, we must reduce the spread of COVID-19. This necessitates use of more forceful mitigation techniques to reduce the spread of the virus. As such, it is necessary to issue orders under the Public Health Code addressing these topics.
Considering the above, and upon the advice of scientific and medical experts, I have concluded pursuant to MCL 333.2253 that the COVID-19 pandemic continues to constitute an epidemic in Michigan. I have also, subject to the grant of authority in 2020 PA 238 (signed into law on October 22, 2020), herein defined the symptoms of COVID-19 based on the latest epidemiological evidence. I further conclude that control of the epidemic is necessary to protect the public health and that it is necessary to restrict gatherings and establish procedures to be followed during the epidemic to ensure the continuation of essential public health services and enforcement of health laws. As provided in MCL 333.2253, these emergency procedures are not limited to the Public Health Code.
I therefore order that:
This order takes effect on November 18, 2020 at 12:01 AM, at which time the October 29, 2020, order entitled Gatherings and Face Mask Order is rescinded. This order remains in effect through December 8, 2020 at 11:59 PM. Persons with suggestions and concerns are invited to submit their comments via email to [email protected].