Michigan extends emergency orders, issues new rules for gatherings

Graphic courtesy MDHHS

Because of the surge in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services extends emergency orders and tightens rules for indoor gatherings.

The state says the positivity rates have increased from about 2% to 5.5% over the last four weeks.

Hospitalizations have doubled over the last three weeks and the death rate has increased for the last five weeks.

“The only way to beat COVID is to act on what we’ve learned since March,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “Wear masks. Keep six feet of distance. Wash hands. And avoid the indoor get-togethers where we have seen COVID explode.”

The state is now reducing indoor gatherings from 500 people to just 50. This applies to weddings, parties or other gatherings that occur in nonresidential settings without fixed seating.

Currently Michigan has counted 34 outbreaks related to social events such as trips by families/friends, bridal showers and weddings (3-10 cases); funerals (9-22 cases); and outings at social clubs and bowling parties (6-19 cases). An additional 19 outbreaks of up to 52 cases are linked to church services, which are exempt from enforcement under the order, the state says.

For bars, restaurants, and social events indoors, party sizes at a single table are now restricted to six people. Bars and restaurants will also be required to take names and contact information to support effective contact tracing if necessary.

Currently there are 12 outbreaks in Michigan associated with bars or restaurants with currently active clusters up to 12 cases, the state says.

“The orders that MDHHS has issued are centered on keeping the public safe and following best practices to reduce the spread of this deadly virus,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “The alarming surge we are now seeing is exactly why we were so worried about the fall season. We must remain vigilant, so we prevent long-term health consequences and unnecessary deaths, and protect our hospital capacity and the health of our frontline health workers.”

The state also published recommendations for indoor social gatherings, including Thanksgiving.

  • Get together outside whenever possible. You have up to 20 times higher risk of getting sick inside.
  • If you do get together inside, include no more than two households and 10 people.
  • Limit time inside together—greater duration is greater risk.
  • Wear a mask – take it off when you eat or drink, then put it back on.
  • Keep six feet apart as much as you can.
  • When possible, keep voices down; high volume can increase COVID transmission by 30 times
  • Wash hands regularly and try to not to share utensils.

The state has also implemented new enforcement measures.

Violations of the orders are punishable by a civil fine up to $1,000 and may be treated as a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than six months or a fine of not more than $200, or both.

New order fact sheet

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