Voluntary COVID restrictions: Whitmer, MDHHS ask Michiganders for 2-week pause

State recommends pause on indoor dining, sports, in-person high school classes

An open sign in the window of a business. (Pexels)

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state health department are asking residents to follow certain voluntary COVID-19 restrictions, such as avoiding indoor dining, suspending sports and returning to remote learning.

READ: 13 takeaways from Gov. Whitmer’s April 9, 2021, COVID update

On Friday, Whitmer and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, spoke about the alarming COVID-19 trends in Michigan.

“I am quite concerned with what we are seeing in our data,” Khaldun said “We are on track to potentially see a surge in cases that’s even greater than the one we saw in the fall.”

While they aren’t mandating any new restrictions, they did ask Michiganders to take matters into their own hands.

“I’m strongly encouraging Michiganders to avoid dining indoors and avoid gathering with friends indoors for two weeks,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer also asked high schools to return to remote learning for the next two weeks. She called on youth sports to suspend games and practices for that same time period.

“Just because something is open, it does not mean that it is safe or that you should do it,” Khaldun said.

MDHHS backed up the governor’s request for two weeks of remote learning.

“We also recommend that all youth sports -- both contact and non-contact -- pause both practice and competitions for two weeks,” Khaldun said. “Everyone should also be implementing specific public health mitigation measures in their personal lives. Infectious disease and public health experts across the country have been quite clear that indoor dining is one of the riskiest things you can do during this pandemic. With the numbers we are seeing now, we simply do not recommend it. You should order takeout, a drive-through service or do outdoor dining.”

She said residents should avoid gathering with people from other households altogether, but at the very least, masks should be worn during such gatherings. Small, outdoor gatherings are preferable, Khaldun said.

“These are very tough things to do, and we do not make these recommendations lightly,” Khaldun said. “But everyone needs to understand that if we can just pause some of these activities temporarily, it will go a long way to prevent the spread of the virus and save lives.”

These voluntary restrictions come as Michigan’s case rate rises to 515 cases per million people per day -- four times what it was in mid-February.

Michigan’s positivity rate ballooned to 18% -- also four times higher than mid-February.

“We have not seen that high of a positivity rate since our first surge last spring, a year ago, and that’s concerning because we are doing many more tests than we were then,” Khaldun said. “This indicates that there is now broad community spread.”

As of Friday, 15.2% of Michigan hospital beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients. That number has been rising sharply.

“We now know that hospitals are evaluating and implementing their surge plans, including consideration of canceling elective surgeries that are not time sensitive and preparing to make sure they have the equipment, supplies and staff to be able to take care of both COVID and non-COVID patients,” Khaldun said.

Why are these restrictions being recommended instead of mandated? Whitmer said the spread of COVID-19 isn’t due to policy problems, but compliance. She said Michiganders have the tools to contain the virus, but everyone needs to do their part.

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.