Everything to know about COVID in Michigan before Gov. Whitmer’s Thursday (Feb. 4) briefing

Michigan under revised MDHHS order, as of Monday

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer holds a COVID-19 news conference Jan. 22, 2021.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer holds a COVID-19 news conference Jan. 22, 2021. (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is providing an update Thursday (Feb. 4) on the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

Here’s everything you should know before the 1:30 p.m. briefing. Click here to watch the briefing live.

Youth contact sports

Whitmer is expected to announce that Michigan youth contact sports will be allowed to resume with COVID-19 safety measures in place.

Parents, coaches and athletes involved in Michigan high school contact sports that are currently shut down due to the pandemic have voiced their desire to return.

One lawsuit filed against the state health director claims the high school sports shutdown might have contributed to the death of a teen hockey player.

Nikolai Vitti, the superintendent of the Detroit Public Schools Community District, wrote a letter to the governor urging her to let winter sports resume.

“The continuing suspension of winter ‘contact’ sports contradicts the message that it is safe to return to in-person learning,” Vitti wrote. “One only needs to ask any winter ‘contact’ sport athlete and they will tell you we are sending mixed and contradictory messages to them.”

Restaurants reopen

When the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced a “pause” in mid-November, indoor dining at bars and restaurants was shut down completely.

Restaurants were allowed to offer carry-out and delivery, but without customers eating in-person, the industry suffered.

Two shutdowns, partial reopenings: How Michigan restaurants have been handled during COVID pandemic

On Monday (Feb. 1), restaurants were allowed to open to 25% capacity after being shut down for two and a half months.

They must follow strict COVID-19 mask and distancing rules and close by 10 p.m.

Michigan officials said they kept restaurants closed for so long because bringing people together indoors and allowing them to remove masks is inherently dangerous.

New MDHHS order

When restaurants reopened Monday, the new version of MDHHS’ COVID-19 order also went into effect.

This order, which expires after Feb. 21, allows concessions to be served at certain entertainment venues -- in line with the resumption of indoor dining.

Indoor residential and non-residential gatherings will be limited to 10 people and two households.

COVID-19 cases

On Wednesday, state officials announced 1,383 new COVID-19 cases and 32 additional deaths. Michigan has now confirmed 563,893 cases and 14,704 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

When Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the chief medical executive of MDHHS, last spoke, she said there were encouraging signs in the state’s metrics, but some of the rates were starting to plateau.

That has also been the case with the daily COVID-19 updates. The number of new cases per day has been between 1,000 and 2,000 each day since Jan. 22.

B117 variant

The B117 variant of COVID-19 continues to be a concern for officials after it caused an outbreak in Washtenaw County.

Experts are closely following multiple variants of the virus, but the B117 version, which was traced back to the United Kingdom, was found in a woman associated with the University of Michigan athletic department.

She had traveled to the UK and returned with the variant, officials said. Over the next several days, some of her close contacts also tested positive.

While the COVID-19 vaccines approved in the U.S. appear to be effective against the variant, this version of the virus spreads more quickly, experts said.

U of M athletics shut down

All athletics at the University of Michigan are still shut down because of the outbreak.

MDHHS issued a recommendation that the university stop all games, practices and team workouts for two weeks to try to get the variant under control.

That two-week time period is scheduled to end this weekend, though it’s unclear if and when Michigan athletics might resume.


About the Author:

Derick is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.