Michigan’s top health director revealed the two “core, science-based ideas” experts are using to decide what should be allowed to reopen and what should remain closed due to COVID-19 in the state.
Robert Gordon, the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, joined Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and MDHHS Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun on Friday to announce an updated COVID-19 order that reopened some venues but extended restrictions on others.
As part of the new order, certain entertainment venues that had been closed for the last month can reopen with limited capacity.
But some segments of the economy remain closed. Restaurants aren’t allowed to resume indoor dining. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people and two households. Colleges have been asked to keep students off campus for a while longer.
The new order went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday and could last for nearly four weeks, until Jan. 15.
Many Michiganders have wondered why some businesses, such as malls, casinos and bowling alleys, are allowed to reopen while other activities, such as indoor dining at restaurants, is still banned.
Gordon said the latest MDHHS order is “based on settled science and Michigan values.”
“We are cautiously moving to address other activities based on two core, science-based values,” Gordon said.
Here are the two values Gordon mentioned:
- If someone is indoors, they need to wear a mask.
- If someone is indoors, they should try to minimize the number of indoor gatherings with people outside of their household.
Gordon said the need to wear a mask indoors is the “core finding of the science of COVID-19, time and time again.”
He said gathering with people from different households also brings great risk.
Based on cellphone data that shows “encounter density” -- the number of people spending time together -- Michiganders have decreased the amount of time they’re spending with others outside their household, according to Gordon.
“That is a sign that we are doing the things we need to do to be safer,” Gordon said.
It was based on the two scientific principals above that MDHHS decided to reopen casinos, bowling alleys and other entertainment venues with the important caveat that concessions must not be served.
“Because masking is so important, concessions with food and drink will not be permitted,” Gordon said. “As soon as you are eating or drinking, the mask is off, and that increases risk significantly.”
The state’s justification for opening those venues but extending the ban on indoor dining: Some places can operate without visitors eating and drinking, while there’s no way to allow indoor dining without eating and drinking, and therefore, the removal of masks.