High schools allowed to resume in-person learning
Tue, 12/22/2020 - 11:40am caleb
Entertainment venues like movie theaters and casinos to reopen, but restaurants and bars still not permitted to offer indoor dine-in service
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The latest “Gatherings and Face Mask Order” from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services – announced on Friday, December 18, two days before the previous version of the order was set to expire – allows high schools to resume in-person learning and it allows entertainment businesses such as movie theaters and casinos to reopen, but the new order does not lift the current ban on indoor dining service at restaurants and bars.
“The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) updated its epidemic order today to allow indoor activities where Michiganders can remain masked, as this has been scientifically shown to slow the virus. This includes in-person learning at high schools and indoor entertainment venues. Casinos, bowling centers, and movie theatres will be allowed to reopen with total capacity capped at 100 – food and drink concessions closed and social distancing requirements in place. The new order is effective Monday, December 21, and will last until Friday, January 15,” according to michigan.gov.
Grayling High School did not resume in-person learning on December 21. The Crawford AuSable School District’s holiday break is slated for December 23 through January 3, so the district opted to stick with remote learning for the two days prior to holiday break and then resume in-person learning in January, school officials said.
State officials said COVID-19 numbers in Michigan are improving and the state did not have a post-Thanksgiving surge.
“These past few weeks, Michiganders across the state stepped up and did their part to slow the spread of COVID-19, and because of our collective hard work, we are now able to begin the steps to carefully lift some of the protocols we have in place,” said Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “I am encouraged by the progress we have made since early November, and will continue to monitor the data closely during and after the holidays.”
“Michiganders should be proud. We have made incredible progress over the last month. But we could easily lose that progress and endanger our hospitals again over the next two weeks,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “At Thanksgiving, most Michiganders sacrificed and avoided family get-togethers. We need to do the same thing this holiday season. Then we can re-engage more activities sooner and more safely.”
State officials said they’re monitoring three specific criteria as they determine the current regulations: hospital capacity, case rates, and test positivity rates. According to the state, hospital capacity being used by COVID-19 patients has declined from its “peak” of 20 percent on December 1 to 17 percent on December 18. Overall cases rates have declined in the last month, according to the state, and test positivity rates are down to 10.6 percent from a “peak” of 14.3 percent on December 4.
“In light of the beginning of vaccination and the recent promising reductions in the rate of spread of COVID-19, we can now begin cautious reopening with close monitoring of impacts. In so doing, however, we must move with care, patience, and vigilance, recognizing the grave harm that this virus continues to inflict on our state and how quickly our progress in suppressing it can be undone. As we reopen, the surest way to maintain our momentum in controlling the spread of COVID-19 is to open lower risk venues first, and gradually, rather than all at once. By taking deliberate steps and closely monitoring the data, we can ensure that Michigan remains on the path to recovery,” according to the December 18 Gatherings and Face Mask Order.
The order continues the gathering limitations from previous versions. “Indoor gatherings are prohibited at residential venues, except where no more than 10 persons from no more than 2 households are gathered,” according to the order. “Indoor gatherings are prohibited at non-residential venues.”
The order limits “outdoor gatherings” to 25 people.
The December 18 order allows high schools and colleges and universities to resume in-person learning.
“Gatherings at public, nonpublic, and boarding schools for the purpose of conducting in-person instruction of pupils in prekindergarten through grade 12 are permitted, subject to local health department and school district decisions on remote learning. Gatherings are permitted for the purpose of extracurricular activities except those that involve physical contact among participants, a high degree of exhalation or physical exertion indoors, or where masks cannot be worn. Gatherings at colleges and universities, trade schools, and career schools are permitted for the purpose of holding in-person classes and other events sponsored by the educational institution,” according to the Gatherings and Face Mask Order.
The new order continues many other regulations from previous versions, including capacity limits at businesses and venues, masking requirements for people in public, and contact tracing data collection for some businesses.
The expiration date for the December 18 order is listed as January 15.