Michigan extends COVID-19 restrictions for 12 days to gauge Thanksgiving impact

New MDHHS order keeps restrictions in place through Dec. 20

A sign requiring face masks is posted on the window of a clothing store during the coronavirus pandemic.
A sign requiring face masks is posted on the window of a clothing store during the coronavirus pandemic. (2020 The Associated Press)

DETROIT – Michigan health officials announced an extension of COVID-19 restrictions in the state as deaths continue to rise and the state’s test positivity rate remains high.

Gov. Whitmer said MDHHS will extend the three-week pause for 12 days. MDHHS said the additional 12 days will allow the department to determine the full impact of the Thanksgiving holiday on the spread of COVID-19 across Michigan.

More details from MDHHS:

  • Under today’s order, MDHHS continues to urge families to avoid indoor gatherings, and only two households may gather inside, with strict protocols recommended.
  • Individuals should wear masks consistently whenever they are inside with individuals not in their household, and are recommended to pick only a small group to see regularly.
  • Bars and restaurants must remain closed for dine-in service, but can remain open for outdoor dining, carry-out and delivery. Gyms are open for individual exercise with mandatory masking and additional strict safety measures. Casinos, movie theaters and group exercise classes remain closed.
  • Professional and college sports meeting extraordinary standards for risk mitigation may continue without spectators.
  • Colleges, universities and high schools will continue with remote learning, with no in-person classes.

The order will keep existing measures in place through Dec. 20 and does not include a blanket stay-home action. Employees who work in jobs that cannot be performed from home can continue to go to work, including those in manufacturing, construction and health occupations. Outdoor gatherings, outdoor dining and parks remain open. Individualized activities with distancing and face masks are still allowed: retail shopping; public transit; restaurant takeout; personal-care services such as haircuts, by appointment; and individualized exercise at a gym, with extra spacing between machines.

MDHHS also identified three key metrics that will be utilized in determining whether to slowly reopen at the end of the 12 days. Specifically, the department will be looking closely at the percentage of hospital beds with COVID patients, the number of COVID-19 cases and the positivity rate.

With improvements in those numbers in context, MDHHS will carefully reopen, with in-person learning at high schools first. Next in line will be entertainment venues where people can maintain consistent masking, such as casinos, theaters and bowling, with concessions closed.

The state’s current three-week pause was set to expire on Wednesday at 12:01 a.m. According to MDHHS data, in the period, case growth flattened but remained high, deaths have increased and hospitalizations have slowed but are still trending up. The state’s 7-day test positivity rate was more than 14% on Saturday -- much higher than the state’s goal of 3%.

Previous: 3 data points that show Michigan’s 3-week pause is likely to be extended

On Monday morning, Michigan hospitals and health systems issued a statement urging the state to extend COVID-19 restrictions through the holiday season.

“As the chief medical officers representing Michigan hospitals and healthcare systems, we want to tell the public that the recent Michigan Department of Health and Human Services three-week order is doing what we expected: it’s slowly stabilizing the spread of COVID-19 and leading to stabilized hospitalizations. To see meaningful change that truly alleviates stress on the healthcare system, we urge the state to extend protections through the holiday season. We still don’t know what impact Thanksgiving will have, but we do know that with the recent pause, we’re seeing some slight improvements. As a state, we must not let our guard down and reverse this progress.”

Related: Michigan Gov. Whitmer seeks $400M in COVID spending in Legislature

A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel is scheduled to take up a request Thursday to authorize emergency use of Pfizer’s vaccine. Vaccinations could begin just days later, though initial supplies will be rationed, and shots are not expected to become widely available until the spring.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that health care workers and nursing home patients get priority when the first shots become available.

Both Pfizer’s vaccine and a Moderna vaccine that will also be reviewed by the FDA later this month require two doses a few weeks apart. Current estimates project that a combined total of no more than 40 million doses will be available by the end of the year. The plan is to use those to fully vaccinate 20 million people.

More: How to track Michigan COVID-19 data

MDHHS orders

MDHHS has the authority to issue these orders during the pandemic, and has been doing so since the Michigan Supreme Court struck down the law Whitmer was using to issue her executive orders.

Whitmer had previously been issuing restrictions without the approval of the Republican-led Legislature, but now the orders fall to MDHHS.

Related: Michigan rolls out coronavirus exposure app statewide: How it works, how to download


About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital special projects manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013.