New MDHHS Epidemic Order OK’s Indoor Group Exercise, Public Transportation, Non-Contact Sports
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services [MDHHS] recently updated its epidemic order today during a press conference to allow re-opening of additional activities where Michiganders can remain masked and socially distanced. The updates includes indoor group exercise and non-contact sports and is effective Saturday, January 16-31.
“The efforts we have made together to protect our families, frontline workers and small business owners are working. While there has been a slight uptick in our percent positivity rate, our cases per million have plateaued and more hospital beds are becoming available. Today, we are confident that MDHHS can lift some of the protocols that were previously in place,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer during the press conference. “Michigan is once again standing out as a nationwide leader in fighting this virus, and we must continue working to keep it that way. One of the most important things Michiganders can do is to make a plan to get the safe and effective vaccine when it’s available to you. And as always, mask up and maintain six feet of social distancing. We will end this pandemic together.”
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS spoke during the press conference and said that MDHHS continues to “make progress” in the fight against this virus, while expanding vaccination to:
- Healthcare workers
- Long-term care residents and staff
- Some essential frontline workers
- Those age 65 and older
These steps are what Khaldun said is “bringing us closer to ending the pandemic.”
“It is important that everyone continues to do their part by avoiding gatherings, wearing masks properly and social distancing,” Khaldun added during the press conference,” Khaldun said. “This remains just as important, even as the safe and effective vaccine is being administered, to protect those who are not yet able to be vaccinated.”
MDHHS looks at stabilization or declines in three metrics as a way to look at partially reopening. And even though Michigan saw great strides across all three following the “pause” from mid-November, some numbers have plateaued or begun to increase in recent days:
- Hospital capacity dedicated to COVID-19 patients has been in 13-day decline, with current capacity is at 12% for beds with COVID-19 patients. Peaked at 19.6% on Tuesday, December 4.
- Overall case rates: increasing, currently at 266 cases per million. Peaked at 740 cases per million on Saturday, Nov. 14 and declined to a low of 239 on Friday, December 25
- Positivity rate: plateauing; currently at 9.1% after reaching a low of 8.1% on Monday, December 28 and increasing up to 10% since then.
“We are reopening cautiously because caution is working to save lives. The new order allows group exercise and non-contact sports, always with masks and social distancing, because in the winter it’s not as easy to get out and exercise and physical activity is important for physical and mental health,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “We are glad that we made it through the holidays without a big increase in numbers, but there are also worrying signs in the new numbers. We need to remain focused and continue to see declines in hospitalizations and to bring case rates and percent positivity down by doing what we know works.” ‘
Indoor residential gatherings remain limited to 10 people and two households.
MDHHS continues to ask 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 as much as possible to maintain momentum and to protect loved ones. Families are also encouraged to Mask Up, Mask Right, using guidance for what masks to wear and how to wear them.
The epidemic order continues to temporarily pause indoor dining in bars and restaurants, but they can continue to offer outdoor dining, carry-out and delivery. The working plan is to open indoor dining with mitigation measures, capacity limits and a curfew on February 1, but the ultimate decision depends on data continuing to stabilize. Additional details on the reopening pathway are expected next week.
Colleges and universities can have students return to campus for the winter semester and restart in-person courses as of January 18.
As before, employees who work in jobs that cannot be performed from home can continue to go to work, while employees who can work from home should continue to do so. Individualized activities with distancing and face masks are still allowed: retail shopping; public transit; restaurant takeout; and personal-care services such as haircuts, by appointment.