State orders COVID “pause”

New restrictions issued by state health officials limits gatherings, closes restaurants and schools for three weeks.

During a rare Sunday night press conference, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced a new slate of statewide restrictions meant to halt the spread of COVID-19. Michigan has seen a surge in cases of the coronavirus in recent weeks that has eclipsed the numbers seen during the first wave of the virus in the spring.

These orders are being issued by the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, which allows the governor to bypass limits placed on her executive authority by a state Supreme Court ruling in October.

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What’s happening: These new restrictions go into effect Wednesday morning and are set to last for three weeks. The orders suspend many activities:

  • In-person classes at high schools, colleges, and universities
  • Dine-in service at bars and restaurants
  • Most non-professional sports
  • Theaters, bowling alleys, casinos, and skating rinks
  • Group fitness classes

The orders require non-essential workers to work from home if possible. They also limit outdoor gatherings to 25 people and advise people to limit social gatherings to one other household.

Violations of the orders are considered misdemeanors punishable by up to six months in jail or a fine of up to $200.

a graphic outlining what is and is not allowed under new COVID rules

“We are in the worst moment of this pandemic to date,” said Whitmer. “The situation has never been more dire. We are at the precipice, and we need to take some action, because as the weather gets colder, and people spend more time indoors, this virus will spread.”

Reactions: State Republican leaders were quick to criticize the rules. “We are disappointed that Governor Whitmer chose to go it alone, again,” said State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake.

The Republican-led legislature has passed several COVID-related bills in recent weeks and has a more comprehensive plan in committee. They have also largely dismissed rules requiring residents to wear face masks or take other precautions against the virus.

You can read more on Bridge Michigan.