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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Isle Royale to further delay Park opening; no visitor ferry service for Summer 2020

Isle Royale National Park announces a delay in 2020 opening. (Photo courtesy National Park Service)

HOUGHTON -- Following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the State of Michigan, Isle Royale National Park is delaying its seasonal opening until further notice. In addition, the Ranger III, Voyageur II, Sea Hunter III, and Isle Royale Queen IV will not provide visitor ferry transportation this summer. Rock Harbor Lodge, including overnight lodging, dining, marina services, gift shops and stores, will remain closed for the season.

The National Park Service (NPS) is working servicewide with federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access. Their operational approach continues to be centered on examining each facility function and service provided to ensure those operations comply with current public health guidance and will be regularly monitored. As the NPS develops its phased approach, officials will evaluate providing access to the park in late June/early July. This decision-making process involves a number of factors, including these:
  • the availability of personal protective equipment;
  • the number of EMS-qualified park staff;
  • the availability of emergency support services from other agencies;
  • the status of medical facilities in local communities;
  • social distancing requirements;
  • state directives; and,
  • guidance on park housing.
While the park is closed, Lake Superior waters within the park boundary will remain open for fishing during the day. During the closure, all islands and the main island of Isle Royale and all facilities (docks, trails, visitor centers, campgrounds, shelters, outhouses, etc.) will remain closed and all overnight use is prohibited. No fuel is available. Any boaters fishing in park waters need to be self-sufficient.

Details and updates on park operations will continue to be posted here and on social media channels.

Updates about NPS operations will be posted on www.nps.gov/coronavirus.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Governor Whitmer reopens retail, restaurants, offices in Upper Peninsula, Traverse City regions with workplace safety measures

LANSING -- Today, May 18, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-92, allowing for the reopening of retail businesses, office work that cannot be done remotely, and restaurants and bars with limited seating in the Upper Peninsula and Traverse City regions.

The partial reopening will take effect on Friday, May 22. Cities, villages, and townships may choose to take a more cautious course if they wish: the order does not abridge their authority to restrict the operations of restaurants or bars, including limiting such establishments to outdoor seating.

"This is a big step, but we must all remember to continue doing our part to protect ourselves and our families from the spread of COVID-19," said Governor Whitmer. "It’s crucial that all businesses do everything in their power to protect their workers, customers, and their families. And as we approach Memorial Day weekend, I encourage everyone to be smart and be safe. My team and I will continue to work around the clock to protect the people of Michigan."

Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said data shows encouraging trends for COVID-19 in these two regions -- named region 6 (Traverse City area) and region 8 (Upper Peninsula).

"It’s important to note that these businesses must take special precautions to protect Michiganders," Dr. Khaldun said. "I also encourage everyone to continue to wear a mask in public, maintain a 6-foot distance from others, and to remain vigilant in washing their hands often. This will help prevent a second surge in cases in our state."*

All businesses that will reopen in regions 6 and 8 must adopt the safety measures outlined in Executive Order 2020-91, "Safeguards to protect Michigan’s workers from COVID-19," also issued on May 18. That means they must, among other things, provide COVID-19 training to workers that covers, at a minimum, workplace infection-control practices, the proper use of PPE, steps workers must take to notify the business or operation of any symptoms of COVID-19 or a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, and how to report unsafe working conditions. Restaurants and bars will also have to limit capacity to 50 percent of their normal seating, to keep groups at least six feet from one another, to require their servers to wear face coverings, and to follow rigorous disinfection protocols.**

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel commented on Executive Order 2020-91, which creates an enforceable set of workplace standards that apply to all businesses across the state.

"I know many businesses and workers are eager to get back to work. This executive order provides a roadmap of how to do that in a way that prioritizes the health and safety of Michiganders first," Attorney General Nessel said. "COVID-19 has changed how we must think about workplace safety. Because every worker in every industry across this state is impacted by the threat of this virus, we must work with our businesses to educate them on their responsibilities and then we must be diligent in ensuring that they abide by them.

"No one should feel unsafe at work. The Department of Attorney General takes its role in helping to protect worker safety very seriously."

Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association expressed gratitude for the reopening order.  
 
"We are thankful to Governor Whitmer as today marks an important first step of reintegrating restaurants into the fabric of our daily lives," Winslow said. "Restaurants in the U.P. and northern Michigan understand that with their opportunity comes an extraordinary responsibility to operate in a manner that ensures the safety of their guests and their employees. I believe they are up to the challenge."

Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers noted, "All regions of Michigan have been affected by COVID-19, and Up North, we want to support the Governor by cautiously opening up some of our economy resources. However, in doing so, we must be mindful that wearing masks and continuing to practice social distancing is a must to make this work. Stopping the spread of this virus is still key and if we can’t, then we will have to close it down again."

Marquette Mayor Jenna Smith expressed support for making decisions on a regional level.

"As restrictions are slowly eased, it will be important for us to remain vigilant to stop the spread of the virus," Smith said.

Region 6 in the governor’s MI Safe Start Plan to re-engage Michigan’s economy includes the following northern Michigan counties: Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Crawford, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Presque Isle, and Emmet.

Region 8 in the governor’s MI Safe Start Plan includes the following Upper Peninsula counties: Gogebic, Ontonagon, Houghton, Keweenaw, Iron, Baraga, Dickinson, Marquette, Menominee, Delta, Alger, Schoolcraft, Luce, Mackinac, and Chippewa.

Western UP Health Department announces new positive case related to travel

The Western Upper Peninsula Health Department (WUPHD) continues to investigate the recent COVID-19 case in a Gogebic County resident announced over the weekend. The elderly person has a recent travel history to an urban area in another state. WUPHD is currently interviewing the person and informing any close contacts about exposure risk.

"To date, all but one of our COVID-19 positive cases have been associated with interstate or international travel," said Kate Beer, Health Officer at WUPHD. "I urge people to continue limiting travel, quarantine for 14 days if you do travel, and practice good hygiene by washing your hands, staying home if you are ill, and thoroughly cleaning commonly touched surfaces."

WUPHD worked with the State Emergency Operations Center and Michigan National Guard last week to test residents and staff at several area long-term care facilities and County jails. The effort produced 598 tests with no positive cases found. The agency does not include these results in its routine test reporting.

WUPHD is working through the new executive orders announced today that will allow a partial reopening of the region, and the health department will share additional guidance as it becomes available.***

(Inset photos of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Attorney General Dana Nessel courtesy michigan.gov.)

Notes:

* Click here to read Executive Order 2020-92.

** Click here to read Executive Order 2020-91. 

*** Visit Copper Country Strong, May 18 Daily Briefing, for an update on testing numbers in the WUPHD 5-county area: Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties.