Michigan COVID restrictions in effect through Dec. 20: What to know

Restaurants, casinos, ice rinks all remain closed in Michigan


Michigan’s COVID restrictions will remain as is for at least another 12 days, the governor and state health officials announced Monday, Dec. 7.

UPDATE Dec. 18, 2020 -- From MDHHS:

“The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) updated its epidemic order today to allow indoor activities where Michiganders can remain masked, as this has been scientifically shown to slow the virus. This includes 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. The new order is effective Monday, Dec. 21 and will last until Friday, Jan. 15.”

The restrictions first announced as a “three-week pause” on Nov. 15 were set to expire at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8. Now the order remains in effect through Sunday, Dec. 20. From there, the state plans to reopen certain sectors in phases. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer stressed she believes it will be a priority to safely reopen high schools to in-person learning.

From Michigan health officials Monday afternoon:

“The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has extended by 12 days the epidemic order that restricts indoor social gatherings and other group activities. The additional 12 days will allow the department to determine the full impact of the Thanksgiving holiday on the spread of COVID-19 across Michigan.”

That means everything in the “three-week pause” stays the way it has been since Nov. 18, in terms of restrictions. The existing measures now remain in place through Dec. 20.

The following will remain closed, per the state’s epidemic order:

  • High schools (in-person learning)
  • Theaters, movie theaters, stadiums, arenas
  • Colleges and universities (in-person learning)
  • Bowling centers, ice skating rinks, indoor water parks
  • Work, when it can be done from home
  • Bingo halls, casinos, arcades
  • Dine-in restaurants and bars (indoor dining)
  • Group fitness classes
  • Personal services (salon, spa) that involve mask removal*
  • Organized sports, except professional sports and certain NCAA sports (Big Ten football, for example)

Review the full epidemic order that was first issued Nov. 18 right here.

What about after the 12 days?

After the 12-day extension, the MDHHS said it has identified three key metrics that will be “utilized in determining whether to slowly reopen at the end of the 12 days.”

“Specifically, the department will be looking closely at the percentage of hospital beds with COVID patients, the number of COVID-19 cases and the positivity rate. With improvements in those numbers in context, MDHHS will carefully reopen, with in-person learning at high schools first. Next in line will be entertainment venues where people can maintain consistent masking, such as casinos, theaters and bowling, with concessions closed,” reads the statement from MDHHS.

Read more: Officials want hospitalizations, cases to drop before lifting extended Michigan COVID restrictions

MDHHS epidemic 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.

Related: Michigan rolls out coronavirus exposure app statewide: How it works, how to download

Michigan restaurant industry responds

Upon the governor’s announcement to extend restrictions, Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association President and CEO Justin Winslow released this statement:

“We aren’t surprised by the governor’s decision to extend Director Gordon’s MDHHS Order today, but we remain exceptionally disappointed. We firmly believe there is a better approach – one followed by 45 other states – that doesn’t use blunt force closure of a single industry to resolve a shared crisis. We maintain that a more nuanced approach that allows for limited indoor capacity with a curfew will result in greater compliance, better health outcomes and substantially reduced economic fallout.

Upon completion of this most recent Order, restaurant dining rooms will have been closed for 118 days, nearly one-third of the calendar year. We already know the impact of another extended shutdown will be significant, as the industry lost over $8 billion in sales and laid off more than 75 percent of its workforce when it was shuttered for an extended period in the spring.

The restaurant industry is comprised of creative and resilient individuals, but for a growing number of them, this latest pause is the cause of their lost livelihood and well-being.”

Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association President and CEO Justin Winslow

Related: Gretchen Whitmer seeks $100m stimulus to aid Michigan economy

Face mask requirement

Under this MDHHS epidemic order, all persons participating in gatherings are required to wear a face mask. Here’s what the order says about face mask exceptions:

Although a face mask is strongly encouraged even for individuals not required to wear one (except for children under the age of 2), the requirement to wear a face mask in gatherings as required by this order does not apply to individuals who:

  • Are younger than 5 years old, outside of child-care organization setting (which are subject to requirements set out in section 7(e);
  • Cannot medically tolerate a face mask;
  • Are eating or drinking while seated at a food service establishment or at a private residence;
  • Are exercising outdoors and able to consistently maintain 6 feet of distance from others;
  • Are swimming;
  • Are receiving a medical service for which removal of the face mask is necessary;
  • Are asked to temporarily remove a face mask for identification purposes;
  • Are communicating with someone who is deaf, deafblind, or hard of hearing and whose ability to see the mouth is essential to communication;
  • Are actively engaged in a public safety role, including but not limited to law enforcement, firefighters, or emergency medical personnel, and where wearing a face mask would seriously interfere in the performance of their public safety responsibilities;
  • Are at a polling place for purposes of voting in an election;
  • Are engaging in a religious service; or
  • Are giving a speech for broadcast or to an audience, provided that the audience is at least 6 feet away from the speaker.

Again, this order first went into effect on Nov. 18, 2020 at 12:01 a.m., at which time the October 29, 2020, order entitled Gatherings and Face Mask Order is rescinded, the state says. This remains in place until at least Dec. 20.