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Michigan closes bars, indoor dining, high schools in new epidemic order

November 15, 2020
<p>Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer provides an update about COVID-19 at a Nov. 12, 2020 press conference. Courtesy of Michigan Executive Office of the Governor.</p>

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer provides an update about COVID-19 at a Nov. 12, 2020 press conference. Courtesy of Michigan Executive Office of the Governor.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced new COVID-19 restrictions at a press conference Sunday that included closing indoor dining at bars and restaurants, in-person learning for high schools, colleges and universities, and other indoor recreational activities starting Wednesday Nov. 18 and lasting for three weeks.

The orders come alongside skyrocketing increases in positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Workplaces are also closed under the order when work can be done from home, as well as theaters, stadium seating, bowling alleys, ice skating rinks, indoor water parks, bingo halls, casinos, arcades and group fitness classes.

Organized sports are also suspended under the order, with the exception of professional sportsand some college sports.

"We cannot control the fact that we're already seeing a surge in cases, but what we can control is whether or not and how we join forces to combat our common enemy COVID-19," Whitmer said. "We do have some control here. Our collective action can control the severity and length of this wave if we all do our part. A leading model shows that if we don't take aggressive action right now, we could soon see 1,000 deaths per week here in Michigan."

Bars and restaurants will still be open for outdoor dining, carry-out and delivery only. Individual exercise at gyms will remain open, with strict safety measures in place.

This order also limits indoor residential gatherings to two households and also strongly urges families to pick a single other household to interact with over the next three weeks.

"When firefighters pull people from burning buildings, we call them heroes because they are," MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said. "With COVID on track to kill 1,000 Michiganders each week in every corner of the state, Michigan's house is on fire, and each of us can be a hero who helps save lives. The most vulnerable, seniors or people with pre existing conditions, they live alongside us, not in bubbles. COVID is traveling from dinner tables to nursing homes, from hockey games to ICUs. By following the order and guidance tonight, we can save thousands, keep our hospitals open and avoid even more severe steps in the future."

These new restrictions will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday and will last for three weeks.

"As the weather gets colder, and people spend more time indoors, this virus will spread," Whitmer said. "More people will get sick, and there will be more fatalities. This is the worst public health emergency our nation has faced in over a century, and our response has got to reflect the same level of urgency."

Attorney General Dana Nessel released a statement during the press conference urging local enforcement of the latest COVID-19 order.

”Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel recognizes and strongly supports the need for these important measures in an effort to stem the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in Michigan," the release said. "This virus is quickly spreading throughout our state and we must do everything we can to stop it and flatten the curve. As with past orders, county public health departments and local law enforcement are primarily responsible for enforcement in their own communities and we hope they do so. We stand ready to assist them in their efforts.”

Organizations including the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB) and The Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators sent out statements regarding the new order.

“While none of us want to be in this position, MASB fully supports the coordinated response that was announced today to combat the rising COVID-19 numbers in our state," Executive Director of MASB Don Wotruba said in a press release.

This order is not a stay-home action like in the spring. Work that cannot be performed from home will remain open, including manufacturing, construction and health occupations. Outdoor gatherings and parks remain open, as well as individualized activities such as retail shopping, public transit, restaurant takeout and personal-care services such as haircuts, by appointment with distancing and face masks.

"It's going to be a hard fight," Whitmer said. "But I know we are up for this challenge. We've done it before, and we will do it again. My hope is that everyone makes smart choices to keep yourselves and your loved ones and our front-line workers and our communities safe. I hope that you'll double down so we can avoid a stay at home order. Do it for yourself, do it for your family, for the nurses and doctors or do it to help the small business owner who desperately wants to keep their doors open."

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