Michigan implements new coronavirus restrictions as cases surge

michigan coronavirus restrictions
Photo via Kris Runstrom/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) announced a new set of coronavirus restrictions on Nov. 15 in a bid to stall the state’s rising cases. Whitmer called the three-week shutdown a “pause to save lives,” and the Michigan coronavirus restrictions will call for a far broader shutdown than most states have implemented so far in the pandemic.

High schools, colleges, workplaces, and movie theaters will all be closed in the state between Nov. 18-Dec. 8. Unless work absolutely requires employees to perform their duties in person, all businesses must switch to remote work. Restaurants can’t provide indoor dining; organized sports and group fitness classes have to be canceled; and even bowling alleys, ice skating rinks, casinos, and arcades must shutter their doors for the three-week period.

The decision came after Michigan saw a sharp increase in its coronavirus cases. On Nov. 14, the state reported 7,072 new coronavirus cases and 65 new deaths. This brought Michigan’s total cases up to more than 275,000 and its deaths to nearly 8,000. It ranks No. 12 among all states in COVID-19 cases

The new restrictions are less sweeping than those set in place when the state entered lockdown in the early weeks of the pandemic. Indoor gatherings are a particular target of the new restrictions, according to Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon. “Indoor gatherings are the greatest source of spread, and sharply limiting them is our focus,” he said. “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.”

Whitmer highlighted the risk to Michigan residents in her remarks on Nov. 15. Looking ahead to the upcoming Thanksgiving celebrations, she warned people to celebrate the holiday with only people in their households.

President Trump and his advisers have pushed back against Michigan’s coronavirus restrictions, urging residents to “rise up” against the statewide order. In response, Whitmer noted that she will not be “bullied into not following reputable scientists and medical professionals.”

In the U.S., on average, 1,000 people are dying per day from the coronavirus. The country has reported more than 11 million cases and more than 246,000 deaths since the pandemic began, according to data from Johns Hopkins. Michigan could be on its way to topping 1,000 coronavirus-related deaths per week without action. The state’s new restrictions aim to lower that number significantly. 

The recent rise in cases was anticipated by experts and is due to a variety of factors. Colder winter weather is driving people indoors, where the virus spreads more rapidly. Months of social distancing and quarantine, compounded by the impending holidays, also has many people easing up on precautionary measures. To help lower the case numbers, however, people can maintain social distancing, thoroughly wash their hands, and wear a mask, along with keeping holiday celebrations small and safe. 

Sources: Click On Detroit, Washington Post, CBS News, BBC, Johns Hopkins, Politico

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