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Sunday, December 20, 2020

MDHHS begins cautious re-opening of high schools, indoor entertainment, modifying successful "Pause"

Pointing to graphs showing the progress in slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Michigan, Governor Gretchen Whitmer gives a COVID-19 Update during a Dec. 18 press conference. (Photo courtesy Michigan Executive Office of the Governor)*

LANSING -- The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) updated its epidemic order today to allow indoor activities where Michiganders can remain masked, as this has been scientifically shown to slow the virus. This includes in-person learning at high schools and indoor entertainment venues. Casinos, bowling centers and movie theatres will be allowed to reopen with total capacity capped at 100; food and drink concessions closed; and social distancing requirements in place. The new order is effective Monday, Dec. 21 and will last until Friday, Jan. 15.

"These past few weeks, Michiganders across the state stepped up and did their part to slow the spread of COVID-19, and because of our collective hard work, we are now able to begin the steps to carefully lift some of the protocols we have in place," said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. "I am encouraged by the progress we have made since early November, and will continue to monitor the data closely during and after the holidays. One of the most important things Michiganders can do right now is make a plan to get the safe and effective vaccine as soon as it’s available to you. And as always: mask up, practice safe social distancing, and avoid indoor gatherings where COVID-19 can easily spread from person to person. We will eradicate this virus together."

The map on this slide from MDHHS and Gov. Whitmer's Power Point presentation shows how Michigan compares to nearby states. Click on image for larger verson. (Image courtesy Michigan Executive Office of the Governor)

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS, also spoke of progress and the beginning of vaccine distribution.

"We have made some progress in our fight against this pandemic, and this was a historical week as we started to distribute life-saving vaccines," said Dr. Khaldun. "It is important that everyone continues to do their part. Start planning for when you will get a vaccine when it is available to you, and let’s avoid a surge in cases after the holidays by avoiding gatherings, wearing our masks, and continuing to socially distance."

Dr. Khaldun receives the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 17, the day before the press conference, at Henry Ford Hospital, where she works as an emergency medicine physician. (Photo courtesy Michigan Executive Office of the Governor)

Previously, MDHHS had identified stabilization or declines in three metrics as critical for relaxing protocols. Michigan saw improvements across all three following the "pause" implemented in mid-November:

  • Hospital capacity dedicated to COVID-19 patients: 13-day decline; current capacity is at 17.3 percent for beds with COVID-19 patients. Peaked at 20.1 percent on Tuesday, Dec. 1.
  • Overall case rates: 27-day decline; currently at 439 cases per million. Peaked at 739 cases per million on Saturday, Nov. 14.
  • Positivity rate: 11-day decline; currently at 10.6 percent positive tests. Recently peaked at 14.3 percent on Friday, Dec. 4. 

"Michiganders should be proud: we have made incredible progress over the last month. But we could easily lose that progress and endanger our hospitals again over the next two weeks," said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. "At Thanksgiving, most Michiganders sacrificed and avoided family get-togethers. We need to do the same thing this holiday season. Then we can re-engage more activities sooner and more safely."

 The Dec. 18 Order from MDHHS includes the above Gathering Guidelines. Click on image for larger version. (Image courtesy Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.)

Indoor residential gatherings remain limited to 10 people and two households. MDHHS continues to urge families to avoid indoor gatherings or to pick a single other household to interact with consistent with guidance already released by the department. Families are encouraged to stay home this holiday season to maintain the positive momentum that has developed and to protect loved ones. Families are also encouraged to Mask Up, Mask Right, using new guidance for what masks to wear and how to wear them.**


* Click here to see the Dec. 18 Power Point presentation.

** The video recording of the Dec. 18 press conference is available on Governor Whitmer's Facebook page here.