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Michigan’s ‘3-week pause’ COVID restrictions in effect: What to know

High schools, college classes closed to in-person learning, dine-in barred at restaurants, more

Entire state of Michigan in "E" risk level on Michigan Start Map.
Entire state of Michigan in "E" risk level on Michigan Start Map. (MDHHS)

Michigan has entered a three-week “pause” to several activities in an effort to help stop a rapid increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Under new restrictions issued Sunday evening by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), here’s what is closed starting Wednesday, Nov. 18 until Dec. 8 in Michigan.

Note: The map above shows the entire state of Michigan under what MDHHS calls risk “Level E” -- read that here.

What’s closed starting Wednesday, Nov. 18:

  • 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)

*For more information, view the MDHHS’ official Gatherings and Face Mask emergency order, which goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Nov. 18, right here.

What remains open during this three-week period:

  • Indoor gatherings are still allowed but only between two households and with no more than 10 people.
  • Small outdoor gatherings (25 people)
  • Retail
  • Preschool through 8th grade (local district choice)
  • Childcare
  • Manufacturing, construction, other that is impossible to do remotely
  • Public transit
  • Hair salons, barber shops, other personal services (Per the MDHHS order -- Section 4.e.: In facilities offering non-essential personal care services, including hair, nail, tanning, massage, traditional spa, tattoo, body art, and piercing services, and similar personal care services, gatherings are only permitted to the extent that services do not involve the removal of face masks. All services must be provided by appointment, and gatherings in waiting areas are prohibited.)
  • Gyms and pools (for individual exercise only)
  • Restaurants and bars (for outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery only)
  • Professional sports (without spectators)
  • Parks and outdoor recreation
  • Funerals (25 people)
  • Health care
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a "Pause to Save Lives" on Sunday, Nov. 15. It goes into effect on Nov. 18, 2020.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a "Pause to Save Lives" on Sunday, Nov. 15. It goes into effect on Nov. 18, 2020. (MDHHS)

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 takes effect on November 18, 2020 at 12:01 AM, at which time the October 29, 2020, order entitled Gatherings and Face Mask Order is rescinded, the state says.

Emergency phone alert

The state of Michigan ended up sending an emergency alert to cellphones on Wednesday morning with the following message:

“MDHHS COVID-19 updated order requiring face masks and limiting gathering to save lives starts today. New limits on indoor residential gatherings; bars and restaurants open for outdoor dining and carry-out only; colleges and high schools must end in-person classes.”

Nov. 18, 2020 emergency alert from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Resources
Nov. 18, 2020 emergency alert from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Resources (WDIV)

Health officials want COVID tests positivity rate to fall below 3%

Michigan health officials have repeatedly said the positivity rate of COVID-19 tests in the state needs to remain below 3% to show that the spread of the virus is under control.

As of this weekend, the state’s 7-day moving average for COVID tests positivity rate was 13.21%, far higher than where state health officials want it to be. Michigan’s COVID tests positivity rate has not been below 3% since early October.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer noted in an interview with Local 4 that the 3% benchmark will be important in deciding when to lift new COVID restrictions that go into effect this week. Whitmer said the positivity rate will have to fall below 3% during the three-week period of stricter measures to stop the spread before restrictions could be lifted.



Michigan coronavirus headlines:


7,458 new COVID cases reported Tuesday

The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Michigan has risen to 272,034 as of Tuesday, including 8,128 deaths, state officials report.

Tuesday’s update represents 7,458 new cases and 79 additional deaths, 24 from vital records. On Monday, the state reported 264,576 total cases and 8,049 deaths.

New COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to rise in Michigan. Testing has increased in recent weeks, with more than 45,000 diagnostic tests reported per day, but the positive rate has increased to above 13% over the last week. Hospitalizations (view data below) have increased steadily for the last five weeks, including upticks in critical care and ventilator use.

Michigan’s 7-day moving average for daily cases was 6,825 on Monday, the highest it has ever been. The 7-day death average was 55, the highest since May. The state’s fatality rate is 3.0%. The state also reports “active cases,” which were listed at 117,700 on Monday, near its highest mark on record. More than 138,800 have recovered in Michigan.


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