Monday, April 19

State Restrictions Announced On Restaurants/Bars, Schools, Sports, Entertainment Centers, More

In response to a record number of coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Michigan, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued an epidemic lockdown order Sunday placing restrictions on restaurants and bars, high schools and colleges, organized sports, and theaters and other entertainment centers, among other areas of public life. The order, which officials called a “three-week pause,” goes into effect Wednesday at 12:01am and will remain in place through December 8.

Under the order, all high schools, colleges, and universities throughout Michigan will move to remote learning starting Wednesday for the next three weeks. Indoor dining will be prohibited at restaurants and bars, and organized sports will not be permitted except for professional sports (without spectators). Theaters, movie theaters, stadiums, arenas, bowling centers, ice skating rinks, indoor water parks, bingo halls, casinos, night and strip clubs, arcades, conference centers, concert halls, and group fitness classes will also be shut down during the pause. Regardless of industry, any employees who can work from home in Michigan are required to do so. Masks are required to be worn at any indoor or outdoor gatherings.

The order still allows preschool through eighth grade classes to meet for face-to-face learning (at the discretion of each school district), and for childcare facilities to remain open. Retail stores, hair salons/barbershops/nail salons/other personal services (by appointment only and as long as masks are worn), public transit, healthcare, gyms and pools (for individual exercise), parks and outdoor recreation, healthcare facilities, and manufacturing/construction/other work impossible to do remotely can all remain open. Restaurants and bars can still operate for outdoor dining, takeout, and delivery. Capacity restrictions are in place for many of the above businesses. Funerals can take place with up to 25 people in attendance. Indoor gatherings of under 10 people/two households maximum and outdoor gatherings of under 25 individuals/three households maximum are allowed at residential venues. Indoor gatherings at non-residential venues are prohibited, and size restrictions are in place for outdoor gatherings at non-residential venues.

At a press conference Sunday night, Governor Gretchen Whitmer said the state order was necessary because Michigan was “in the worst moment of this pandemic to date. The situation has never been more dire. We are on the precipice, and we need to take more action.” Whitmer said without “aggressive” steps, Michigan was on track to soon average 1,000 COVID-19 deaths per week. Whitmer said as difficult as the pandemic was in its early months, “these next few are going to be even harder.”

The shutdown order was issued through the MDHHS and is not an executive order from Whitmer. While previous executive orders issued by Whitmer were overturned in court, MDHHS is exercising separate epidemic powers granted to health authorities to respond to pandemics and other health crises. MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said the goal of the order was to target the most risky practices and businesses – notably those involving indoor gatherings – while trying to avoid a broader shutdown. When asked if the order could extend beyond three weeks, Whitmer said state leaders would be “watching the numbers” – including testing positivity rates – to determine next steps in the coming weeks.

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