11-19-2020 Michigan COVID-19 cases continue to rise; State tightens restrictions

By Jon Bisnett

The office of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer shared the stage Sunday with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) as new tighter restrictions were announced as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, imposed on schools, restaurants and other businesses. The new rules fall under the control of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and are unaffected by the Michigan Supreme Court ruling in regard to Governor Whitmer’s prior Executive Orders. The additional restrictions go into effect from Wednesday, Nov. 18 through Dec. 8. The 3-week pause includes the Thanksgiving holiday, which health officials recommend be limited to a small group of a single family. Berrien County Health Department Health Officer Nicki Britten conducted a joint interview with Spectrum Lakeland CEO Loren Hamel via WXMI 17 earlier in the week. Hamel stressed the human toll of COVID-19, saying that at the time the system has adequate masks and PPE supplies, but the concern is personnel, as COVID-19 numbers rising will affect the availability of healthcare workers to serve those afflicted. Britten expressed the local Health Department’s inability to keep pace with the recent spike in terms of contact tracing.

Schools MDHHS has directed all Michigan high schools, colleges and universities to cease in-person learning during this time. Tri-Cities schools are given the authority to make their own decisions regarding lower grades and have already communicated with their students and guardians. Nuances vary within the individual districts. Food programs will carry on.

Restaurants Local restaurants must once again find ways to adapt and adjust their staffing in reaction to the latest COVID-19 outbreak by providing takeout, outdoor and curbside service. All dine-in service is closed during the 3-week period imposed by the State of Michigan directives. Residents should call ahead to their favorite local spot to check hours and availability of menu. The Michigan Restaurant Association has filed an eleventh-hour lawsuit against the state. Casinos The latest directive calls for the closing of non-tribal casinos. Michigan currently has 27 licensed casinos, 24 of which are tribal and as such, sovereign states. Most tribal casinos are planning to remain open. Among the tribal casinos issuing statements saying they’re staying open are: Firekeepers, Soaring Eagle, Four Winds and Gun Lake. Once again, nuances vary. Visit the casino websites for specific “safe open” rules. Details of restrictions The following list spells out the major points from the Sunday order: High school classes must now remote; college classes must now remote; work must be done remotely, unless the job absolutely has to be done in person; indoor dining is no longer allowed at bars and restaurants; organized sports are not permitted, with the exception of professional sports and a select number of NCAA sports; group fitness classes are not allowed; theaters and movie theaters must close; stadiums and arenas must close; bowling alleys, arcades, skating rinks and indoor water parks must close; casinos & bingo halls will be closed. National Health and governmental officials across the country have issued regional and local steps to mitigate the pandemic. In just the last 24 hours, Louisiana Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s office announced parades will be prohibited for the first time in 42 years at New Orleans’ Mardi Gras celebration in 2021 to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Citizens are encouraged to continue mitigation actions by wearing a mask when indoors and outdoors when you are unable to keep a six-foot distance from others; practicing social distancing by keeping six feet or more between you and others; washing or sanitizing your hands frequently; staying home if you are ill or have COVID-19, or other respiratory illness symptoms. Those who are at highest risk of the virus should avoid gatherings in their entirety.

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