MDHHS announces stricter COVID-19 rules for Michigan restaurants, high schools, colleges, remote working

New restrictions in effect from Wednesday (Nov. 18) through Dec. 8

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at COVID-19 news conference Nov. 15, 2020. (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan officials have announced stricter COVID-19 regulations involving restaurants, bars, high schools, colleges, in-person working and more.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued the restrictions Sunday evening, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer held a press briefing to make the announcement. The governor said Thursday that she was considering further action to stop the spread of the virus.

As of now, the restrictions are in place for three weeks -- from Wednesday (Nov. 18) through Dec. 8.

READ: COVID-19 exhaustion at hospitals: ‘We got through first surge on adrenaline, now it’s a marathon’

“Right now, my team and I are following the numbers closely and strongly considering all actions that we can take to keep Michiganders safe,” Whitmer said Thursday.

On Saturday, Michigan reported 7,072 new COVID-19 cases and 65 additional deaths, bringing the state totals up to 251,813 cases and 7,994 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Michigan reported a single-day record 8,516 new cases Friday.

New restrictions

Under the restrictions announced Sunday, all Michigan residents are required to work from home unless their job must be performed in person.

Indoor dine-in services will no longer be allowed for bars or restaurants, Whitmer said. Casinos, movie theaters, stadiums and arenas must remain closed.

Bowling alleys, ice skating rinks, bingo halls, arcades and indoor water parks must also be closed.

All high school and college classes will have to be conducted remotely.

Organized sports are being shut down, not including professional sports and a select number of NCAA sports. Indoor group fitness classes are no longer permitted.

LOCAL: Macomb County a ‘pocket’ of Michigan that struggles with mask wearing, Henry Ford Health CEO says

Restrictions were also tightened on indoor construction projects, limiting the number of workers who can be involved, based on the size of the space.

“Indoor gatherings are the greatest source of spread, and sharply limiting them is our focus,” MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said. “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.”

“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. “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.”

MDHHS orders

MDHHS has the authority to issue these orders during the pandemic, and has been doing so since the Michigan Supreme Court struck down the law Whitmer was using to issue her executive orders.

Whitmer had previously been issuing restrictions without the approval of the Republican-led Legislature, but now the orders fall to MDHHS.

During her Thursday press briefing, Whitmer and Dr. Joneigh Khladun, chief medical executive of MDHHS, painted a harrowing picture of Michigan’s current COVID-19 situation.

Whitmer urged residents to follow COVID-19 safety protocols during the Thanksgiving season by celebrating only with people who live in their own household.

She also outlined six common mistakes Michiganders are making that’s resulting in the spread of the virus. Click here to read about those mistakes.

Hospital leaders concerned

Earlier Thursday morning, leaders from Michigan’s major hospital systems came together for a virtual discussion about their concerns.

John Fox, the president and CEO of Beaumont Health, said community behavior is what’s driving the spread of the virus. He and other state health care leaders are concerned about what’s ahead for hospitals if the trends don’t reverse.

“If we don’t do it, there’ll be all sorts of consequences for our communities that we don’t want to go through,” Fox said. “We don’t want to go back into the spring of this year, when it really was getting to be a very difficult situation. The health care system can capsize if you don’t keep it under control.”

They all weighed in on whether stricter government COVID-19 rules were inevitable as cases spike in Michigan.

“If doing the right thing and using ration and science isn’t sufficient, then there may be other steps that end up being necessary,” said Wright Lassiter, president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System.

Brian Peters, the CEO of the Michigan Heath and Hospital Association, said one of the main problems with the spread of COVID-19 statewide is that people aren’t convinced certain safety measures are necessary, so they aren’t going to follow them.

“Regardless of what the law says, if people aren’t convinced that doing something is the right thing, then they’re not going to do it when no one is watching,” Peters said.

About the Author:

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.