The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has issued a new three-week pandemic order that has wide-ranging implications for 50-plus Michiganders, the population most vulnerable to COVID-19.
The emergency order, which takes effect Wednesday, Nov. 18, targets indoor social gatherings and other group activities in an effort to curb rapidly rising infection rates.
“The current spike in coronavirus infections in Michigan and across the country demands an effective response from government,” said Paula D. Cunningham, State Director of AARP Michigan. “Far too many adults 50 and up in our communities and long-term care facilities are among those who have suffered and died from this viral outbreak.”
Of the 7,994 people who have died of the coronavirus in Michigan, 7,664 or 96 percent, are 50 and up, according to State of Michigan statistics. There are more than 100,000 confirmed cases of the virus among the 50-plus, about 40 percent of the state’s total.
About a third of the state's COVID-19 virus deaths — 2,304 — are among nursing home residents. So far in the pandemic, 9,977 nursing home residents have been infected, as have 6,283 employees of those facilities. Twenty-four staff members have died.
“AARP implores Michiganders to follow this temporary emergency order and do their part to protect themselves and others from COVID-19,” Cunningham said.
Michigan is coming off its worst week yet in the coronavirus pandemic as 44,019 people were diagnosed and 416 died.
The order, which is aimed at limiting residential and non-residential gathering where COVID-19 rapidly spreads, requires:
- Indoor residential gatherings are limited to two households at any one time.
- Bars and restaurants will be open for outdoor dining, carry-out and delivery only.
- Gyms will remain open for individual exercise with strict safety measures in place.
- Casinos, movie theaters and group exercise classes will be closed.
- Professional and college sports meeting extraordinary standards for risk mitigation may continue without spectators, however all other organized sports must stop.
- Colleges and high schools may proceed with remote learning, but must end in-person classes.
“In the spring, we listened to public health experts, stomped the curve, and saved thousands of lives together. Now, we must channel that same energy and join forces again to protect our families, frontline workers and small businesses,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “Right now, there are thousands of cases a day and hundreds of deaths a week in Michigan, and the number is growing. If we don’t act now, thousands more will die, and our hospitals will continue to be overwhelmed. We can get through this together by listening to health experts once again and taking action right now to slow the spread of this deadly virus."
Added MDHHS Director Robert Gordon: “Indoor gatherings are the greatest source of spread, and sharply limiting them is our focus. The order is targeted and temporary, but a terrible loss of life will be forever unless we act. By coming together today, we can save thousands of lives.”
The order stops short of a blanket stay-home action as in the spring. It enables work that cannot be performed from home, including for manufacturing, construction and health occupations. Outdoor gatherings, outdoor dining and parks remain open.
Individualized activities with distancing and face masks are still allowed: retail shopping; public transit; restaurant takeout; personal-care services such as haircuts, by appointment; and individualized exercise at a gym, with extra spacing between machines.
Michigan has seen fewer outbreaks associated with elementary and middle schools, and younger children are most in need of in-person instruction. In-person K-8 schooling may continue if it can be done with strong mitigation, including mask requirements, based on discussion between local health and school officials. Childcare also remains open to support working parents.
Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.