New, state-wide COVID-19 restrictions that take effect Wednesday will close indoor bar and restaurant service and entertainment venues, and shuts down in-person classes for high school and college students.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer and state health officials announced the new measures during a 6 p.m. press conference. They come after an “alarming increase in cases,” Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun said. Some models predict as many as 20,000 additional COVID-related deaths by February.
“If we do not act now, there’s no question the next couple of months will be deadly and grim,” she said.
Other activities affected include indoor group exercise classes and organized sports, except at the college and professional level, where more strict mitigation measures can take place. Also, a statewide mask order continues.
Robert Gordon, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said the new health order does not affect child care or parks and playgrounds, carryout service, and individual activities like shopping, individual exercise with social distancing, or personal care services, like haircuts.
As the holiday season approaches, families are also asked to either limit indoor gatherings to one other family or refrain from them altogether.
“The order is targeted and temporary, but a terrible loss of life will be forever unless we act,” Gordon said. “By coming together today, we can save thousands of lives.”
Entertainment venues like the Farmington Civic Theater, Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum, and Country Lanes bowling alley just re-opened October 9 after a six-month shutdown. They were the last group of businesses back online under Whitmer’s MI Safe Start plan.
Asked why the order targets high school and college students, Whitmer said a significant number of outbreaks under investigation, and most of the cases within those outbreaks, affect high school and college students. They typically have more contacts during the day than students in grades K-8, she said.
The new order lasts three weeks. Whitmer said officials will keep an eye on positivity rates, the numbers of COVID cases, and hospitalization rates to determine next steps.
COVID-19 rates continue to creep up in the Farmington area. The number of recent cases last week topped 600 for the first time since early summer. Also last week, the City of Farmington announced the closure of City Hall, and Farmington Schools trustees delayed elementary return to in-person learning until January 11, 2021 and returned early childhood and special education students to remote learning.
Correction: The effective date of the health order was incorrectly reported in the original version of this article.