Michigan extends COVID-19 order through end of January, but permits more physical activities

MDHHS order extended until Jan. 31

Director Robert Gordon, of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, at a Jan. 13, 2021, COVID-19 briefing. (WDIV)

LANSING, Mich. – Officials have extended the COVID-19 restrictions in Michigan through the end of January, but the order has been revised to allow more forms of physical activity.

The announcement was made Wednesday by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon, along with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and MDHHS chief medical executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun.

The order, which was scheduled to expire Friday (Jan. 15), has been extended until Jan. 31. Restaurants are not allowed to open for indoor dining and entertainment venues can’t offer concessions during that time, Gordon said.

“The efforts we have made together to protect our families, frontline workers and small business owners are working,” Whitmer said. “While there has been a slight uptick in our percent positivity rate, our cases per million have plateaued and more hospital beds are becoming available. Today, we are confident that MDHHS can lift some of the protocols that were previously in place.”

More physical activities allowed

As part of the extension, indoor group exercise and non-contact sports are permitted, starting Jan. 16, Gordon said.

Activities where Michiganders can wear masks and maintain social distancing are allowed, he said.

This change was made because Michigan has seen a decline across all three major COVID-19 metrics -- case rate, percent positivity and hospitalizations -- since the order was first put into effect in November. Those numbers are beginning to plateau, however, which is a concern since they’re still nowhere near where medical experts would like, despite the decline.

“We are reopening cautiously because caution is working to save lives,” Gordon said. “The new order allows group exercise and non-contact sports, always with masks and social distancing, because in the winter it’s not as easy to get out and exercise and physical activity is important for physical and mental health. We are glad that we made it through the holidays without a big increase in numbers, but there are also worrying signs in the new numbers.”

Sports that require contact are still not allowed.

Indoor dining

Whitmer said the state is aiming to resume indoor dining at restaurants in February.

Depending on how COVID-19 cases trend in the next two weeks, restaurants might be able to resume indoor dining with certain restrictions. Those rules would include a mask mandate, capacity rules and a curfew, Whitmer said.

TIMELINE: How COVID trends have actually changed during Michigan’s order

On Feb. 1, restaurants might be allowed to welcome customers back inside for the first time since Nov. 17, the day before the MDHHS “pause” went into effect.

Indoor residential gatherings remain limited to 10 people and two households. MDHHS continues to urge families to avoid indoor gatherings or to pick a single other household to interact with consistent with guidance already released by the department.

On Tuesday, the state of Michigan reported 1,994 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 100 additional deaths. Overall, the state has identified 525,612 cases of the virus and 13,501 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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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.