MDHHS order extended 12 days
Mon, 12/07/2020 - 5:23pm caleb
Suspension of restaurant dine-in service and in-person learning at high schools to continue
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) has extended its “Gatherings and Face Mask Order” – a list of COVID-19 related regulations that forced the closure of restaurants to dine-in service, put further limits on gatherings, suspended in-person instruction at high schools and colleges, and paused the fall and winter high school sports seasons in the state, among other restrictions – for 12 days, state officials announced on Monday, December 7, during a televised update. The MDHHS order was set to expire on December 8; the restrictions are now in place through December 20.
Monday’s televised update was the third one in the span of a week; Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, along with other state officials, also spoke to the state during televised events on Tuesday, December 1, and Thursday, December 3.
During the updates, state officials expressed optimism with regard to some of Michigan’s current COVID-19 statistics, but they also expressed concern about potential spikes due to holiday gatherings.
“We are now nearly two weeks into the MDHHS three-week pause to save lives epidemic order,” Governor Whitmer said on December 1. “This epidemic order is geared toward stopping the spread by limiting indoor gatherings where COVID-19 can easily spread from person to person. This is the right thing to do to protect our families, to protect our medical workers, and to protect small businesses from the virus. These steps are what public health experts say we need to take to avoid overwhelmed hospitals and death counts like we saw in the spring.”
“Earlier this year Michigan emerged as a national leader in fighting COVID-19 in saving lives. We beat COVID-19 last time by listening to public health experts and we can beat it again,” Governor Whitmer said on December 1. “This virus has infected more than 350,000 Michiganders and sadly it has taken the lives of over 9,000 people in our state.”
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive, during the December 1 televised update, said case rates have “been declining for the past week” and test positivity rates have improved from 14 percent to 13 percent, a rate that is “still much higher than we would like it to be.”
“We are cautiously optimistic based on what we are seeing,” Dr. Khaldun said. “More people started doing the right thing towards the beginning of November – that means wearing masks, not gathering, and maintaining six feet of distance from others – and we think that is contributing to the decrease to our rate of rise in cases.”
Both Governor Whitmer and Dr. Khaldun expressed concern about possible spread of COVID-19 during Thanksgiving. They said a potential surge caused by gatherings during the holiday would likely start to show in the data later this week.
“We will continue to watch these trends, as we have throughout the pandemic, in case rates and positivity and especially looking for those increases from the Thanksgiving holiday,” Dr. Khaldun said on December 1. “That is one thing that I am very concerned about is that people may have gathered or traveled over the Thanksgiving break. Any increases in cases from the Thanksgiving holiday we would not expect to see for two to three weeks in our data.”
“We all know the next two months are going to be hard,” Governor Whitmer said on December 1. “Too many people traveled for Thanksgiving and we will see our numbers increase very likely because of it and that’ll coincide with the next big holiday, Christmas, and too many people are considering traveling and I’m reiterating, please don’t, and about four weeks after that we will see the impact of that.”
“Our case numbers, our hospitalizations, our deaths are dangerously high already, and even with our targeted temporary action to slow the spread, we expect to see numbers increase over the coming weeks and months as more people travel for the holidays,” Governor Whitmer said.
During the December 7 update, Governor Whitmer said 79 percent of the state’s hospital beds are occupied.
“We need more time to measure the numbers and ensure our trend helps our hospitals so they can stabilize right now,” Governor Whitmer said on December 7. “This may be the most difficult time in our whole struggle with COVID-19 since March, especially with the holidays approaching.”
The December 7 version of the MDHHS Gatherings and Face Mask Order is almost the same as its predecessor.
It continues limitations on gatherings, suspends in-person learning for high schools and colleges and universities, suspends most organized sports activity, continues a state-wide mask mandate for people in public places, and requires contact tracing for some businesses.
The new version adds that “gatherings at trade schools and career schools are permitted for the purpose of providing technical education services, including manufacturing, industrial technology, trades, and cosmetology, but only to the extent that these activities cannot be completed remotely” and “gatherings at public and nonpublic schools for the purpose of delivering career and technical education services to pupils in grades 9 through 12 are permitted, but only to the extent that these activities are necessary to complete requirements for a recognized postsecondary credential and only to the extent that these activities cannot be completed remotely.”
The new order adds that “cardiopulmonary resuscitation courses and swimming instruction courses” and “proctored, nationally administered admissions and certification examinations that are not available remotely, provided that examinees are spaced no less than 12 feet apart” are not subject to the “capacity limitations at gatherings.” All of the other exceptions for gatherings – such as “incidental, temporary gatherings of persons in a shared space” and “children in a child-care organization” and “gatherings of up to 25 persons for the purpose of a funeral” – are the same as in the previous Gatherings and Face Mask Order.
During the recent televised updates, Governor Whitmer and Dr. Khaldun both spoke about the imminent COVID-19 vaccines and the state’s plan for distributing them once they’re available.
“The good news is there is hope on the horizon. There truly is significant progress being made in the realm of vaccine development. We will continue to work 24/7 to ensure an effective and safe vaccine is distributed safely and in a way that follows the (Centers for Disease Control) guidance. There is light at the end of this tunnel,” Governor Whitmer said on December 1.
Dr. Khaldun said two companies have submitted COVID-19 vaccines for CDC and Food and Drug Administration approval. Both require two doses “to provide immunity” and they’re both approximately 95 percent effective, she said. Dr. Khaldun said a decision is expected in the middle of December if the vaccines will be authorized for use and for what groups of people. Dr. Khaldun said health care workers will be among the first to be vaccinated in Michigan.
“We are actively working on plans for distribution when these vaccines become available,” Dr. Khaldun said. “When Michigan first gets the vaccine it will be available in very limited quantities and we are still awaiting order from the CDC on exact numbers of doses that Michigan will receive in that first allocation. Because there will be such a limited amount in the beginning our first priority will be to keep healthcare systems operating and to protect those who are the most vulnerable.”
“We are prioritizing vaccinating frontline healthcare workers such as EMS, those working on hospital medical floors and ICUs, or in emergency departments, and as the vaccine becomes more available, hopefully by January, we hope to quickly get vaccine out to people working in congregate care facilities and residents of skilled nursing facilities, but all this is dependent on how quickly additional vaccine becomes available from the manufacturer, per CDC recommendation, and again depending on the supply of the vaccine, we will continue to expand to other types of critical healthcare workers, that includes essential workers, which includes educators, also those that are at highest risk of severe illness due to COVID-19, and eventually to the general public. We hope to be able to have vaccine to the general public by late spring,” Dr. Khaldun said.