Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced during the Thursday press conference that Michigan is ready to take steps forward in returning to normal, day-to-day activities including sports in accordance with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, or MDHHS.
“Today, DHHS is issuing an epidemic order to allow in-person practice and competitions for sports leagues, starting on Monday, Feb. 8,” Whitmer said.
The order requires masks to be worn at all times during practices and competition, and if they cannot be worn then athletes should be regularly tested for COVID-19.
According to Whitmer, Michigan has passed the 1,000,000 mark in administering COVID-19 vaccines across Michigan.
MDHHS Chief Deputy Director Joneigh Khaldun said the test positivity rate in Michigan is declining, and now rests at 4.9%, the lowest it has been since mid-October of last year.
“Because we continue to see our metrics trending in the right direction, we can move forward with allowing contact sport practices and competitions with specific public health measures in place like masks and testing," Khaldun said.
Khaldun also discussed the identification of the B117 variant of COVID-19 in Michigan.
“If this variant becomes more common, as national experts predict it could, then we could see a very rapid rise in cases and more hospitalizations and deaths,” Khaldun said. “So far we have identified 28 cases of this new variant in Washtenaw County and Wayne County, and there will likely be more."
Khaldun urged those who have symptoms, have been exposed or have traveled from an area that has a known variant of the virus to get tested for the virus.
River Rouge High School senior Legend Geeter, a student-athlete attending Providence College next year on a full-ride scholarship for basketball spoke at the conference as well, thanking Gov. Whitmer for her decision.
“One of the greatest lessons of basketball is teamwork, and it will take everyone to defeat this virus,” Greeter said. “Getting back into classrooms and being able to play the sport that I love will prepare me for my future."
The decision comes after the "Let Them Play" campaign, a group with the interest of allowing students to compete in sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, sued MDHHS.
The lawsuit asserts that the state’s COVID-19 restrictions are unconstitutional, listing the right to free assembly and equal protection under the law as two reasons for the suit. "Let Them Play" Campaign said in a press release on Thursday, Feb. 4 that the lawsuit may now be dismissed.
“We will need to review the details of the order issued today to determine the impact it will have on student athletes and their families across the state,” the release said. “After review, and if appropriate, we will take necessary action to dismiss the lawsuit.”
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