Michigan extends epidemic order, imposes restrictions on indoor gathering sizes

Posted at 3:10 PM, Oct 29, 2020

(WXYZ) — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services revised and extended its epidemic order to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Related: Michigan bars, restaurants must now collect names and numbers for COVID contact tracing
Related: Michigan reports 3,675 new cases of COVID-19, 41 deaths

Michigan continues to see a surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The new order has added provisions to target indoor gatherings.

The state says Michigan presently has 172 cases per million people and positivity of tests has increased from about 2% to 5.5% and both indicators have been increasing for over four weeks.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have doubled over the last three weeks while the state death rate has increased for five consecutive weeks.

“The only way to beat COVID is to act on what we’ve learned since March,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “Wear masks. Keep six feet of distance. Wash hands. And avoid the indoor get-togethers where we have seen COVID explode.”

MDHHS has reduced the maximum gathering size for indoor gatherings, such as weddings, parties and banquets, from 500 persons to 50 persons that occur in nonresidential settings without fixed seating.

The state says indoor settings are as much as 20 times likelier to drive outbreaks than outdoor settings.

Currently, officials say Michigan counts 34 outbreaks related to social events such as trips by families/friends, bridal showers and weddings (3-10 cases); funerals (9-22 cases); and outings at social clubs and bowling parties (6-19 cases).

An additional 19 outbreaks of up to 52 cases are linked to church services, which are exempt from enforcement under the order.

For bars, restaurants, and social events outside private homes, indoor party sizes at a single table are now restricted to six people.

Because individuals remove their masks while eating and drinking in indoor settings, seated tables with people from different households create high risks of spread, the state says. Like many other businesses in Michigan, bars and restaurants will also be required to take names and contact information to support effective contact tracing if necessary.

Currently, there are 12 outbreaks in Michigan associated with bars or restaurants with currently active clusters up to 12 cases.

“The orders that MDHHS has issued are centered on keeping the public safe and following best practices to reduce the spread of this deadly virus,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “The alarming surge we are now seeing is exactly why we were so worried about the fall season. We must remain vigilant, so we prevent long-term health consequences and unnecessary deaths, and protect our hospital capacity and the health of our frontline health workers.”

Because cases are now at a high level statewide, the order treats all regions of the state the same.

The Traverse City region previously had fewer restrictions due to lower COVID-19 rates and has now been moved into Phase 4 of the MI Safe Start system, joining the rest of the state.

Additionally, MDHHS published strong recommendations for indoor social gatherings, including at Thanksgiving. Because no one measure confers complete protection in a gathering, the guidance recommends that individuals take multiple steps together:
• Get together outside whenever possible. You have up to 20 times higher risk of getting sick inside.
• If you do get together inside, include no more than two households and 10 people.
• Limit time inside together—greater duration is greater risk.
• Wear a mask – take it off when you eat or drink, then put it back on.
• Keep six feet apart as much as you can.
• When possible, keep voices down; high volume can increase COVID transmission by 30 times
• Wash hands regularly and try to not to share utensils.

Violators will be fined up to $1,000 and could be charged with a misdemeanor.

“We continue to work closely with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to support these important public health orders,” said Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel. “The orders protect the health of people in communities in every corner of our state.” Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The late

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

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