Everything to know about COVID in Michigan this week: Restrictions update, vaccine milestone

MDHHS loosens rules on masks, gatherings, venues, sports

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, of MDHHS. (Michigan Office of the Governor via AP) (Uncredited, AP PROVIDES ACCESS TO THIS PUBLICLY DISTRIBUTED HANDOUT PHOTO PROVIDED BY MICHIGAN OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR; MANDATORY CREDIT. A JAN. 13, 2021 PHOTO)

It was another busy week for COVID-19 news in Michigan, with a significant update to the state’s restrictions, a new vaccination milestone and much more.

Here’s a review of everything that’s happened this week.

Updated COVID-19 rules

On Tuesday night, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced significant changes to the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.

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The new order went into effect Thursday and includes new guidelines for gatherings, masks, entertainment venues and organized sports.

Now, masks are “generally not required” during outdoor gatherings unless there are 100 or more people. Up to 50 people are allowed to attend residential outdoor gatherings, the state announced.

In places where the density of crowds doesn’t exceed 20 people per 1,000 square feet of usable outdoor space, up to 300 people are allowed to gather, according to a state release.

Anyone who is fully vaccinated and not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms can attend residential gatherings -- both indoor and outdoor -- without a mask.

Masks are still required for contact sports, but they’re no longer required for outdoor practices and games for non-contact sports. Also, new guidance for organized sports no longer requires routine COVID-19 testing for fully vaccinated participants if they aren’t experiencing symptoms.

Large outdoor events -- festivals, fairs and golf tournaments -- will now be allowed to exceed the current limit of 1,000 people as long as organizers create and post a safety plan that follows MDHHS guidance, the state announced. They can’t allow a gathering of more than 20 people per 1,000 square feet in any space.

Any stadiums complying with enhanced COVID-19 protocols set by the state are allowed to fill up to 20% of their fixed seating capacity. The state release says those stadiums can host up to 8,000 people.

Stadiums and arenas with fixed seating capacities of 5,000 or greater that do not have enhanced protocols, up to 1,000 people can gather, state officials said. That limit was previously 750.

Stadiums and arenas with a fixed seating capacity of 10,000 or greater that do not have enhanced protocols can have up to 1,500 people.

7 million vaccines

On Monday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the state has administered 7 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

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“Today, Michigan will surpass seven million doses administered of the safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines,” Whitmer said. “We’ve put shots in arms of one in two Michiganders 16 and up and over one in three are fully vaccinated, including two in three seniors.”

Last week, Whitmer announced Michigan will ease specific COVID restrictions as four vaccination thresholds are reached. The first of those -- which will allow in-person work for all sectors of business -- will be triggered two weeks after 55% of Michiganders have received their first vaccination.

As of Monday, 50% of Michiganders have received at least one dose of the vaccine. According to the state, the total number of residents who must be vaccinated to reach that 55% threshold is 4,453,304.

Johnson & Johnson investigation

The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention is reviewing the death of a Michigan woman who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. There is currently no evidence that her death and the vaccine are linked, officials said.

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The family of Annie VanGeest, 35, of Saranac in Ionia County, released a statement after her death that she died “as the result of complications after receiving the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.”

Health experts have not yet found any evidence that the vaccine was connected to her death.

After a brief pause for officials to investigate an extremely rare blood clot issue, administration of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has resumed in Michigan and around the country.

On April 23, health officials said out of the 8 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine administered, 15 cases of the blood clots had been identified, including three deaths.

VanGeest’s death certificate says she died a natural death from an acute subarachnoid hemorrhage, or bleeding between the brain and tissue around the brain. Subarachnoid hemorrhages didn’t have anything to do with why use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was paused.

COVID case count

Overall, Michigan’s COVID-19 metrics have been moving in a positive direction over the last couple of weeks, though the raw numbers are still higher than experts would like.

That continued to be the case for most of this week. On Monday, the two-day case count was 5,035, meaning the state averaged 2,517.5 new COVID cases for Sunday and Monday.

On Tuesday, the state announced 2,527 new cases. On Wednesday, the number of new cases was 2,589.

Thursday’s update came with a bit of a spike in numbers, however. The state announced 3,514 new COVID cases, which was the highest since April 29.

It was the first time a single-day total increased from the previous day since April 28 (4,371 new cases were announced after 3,676 on April 27). It was the first time cases increased by at least 900 since April 15-16, when the state announced 6,303 cases and 8,955 cases.

Friday afternoon’s update will tell whether Thursday’s inflated case count was simply an outlier or a sign of more rapid spread.

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.