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00000178-73c0-ddab-a97a-7bf830af0000From debate over childhood vaccinations to the changing business of hospital finance, IPR has the stories of hospitals and public health that affect northern Michigan.

New order imposes COVID-19 restrictions for three weeks

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services

Starting Wednesday, restaurants in Michigan are again limited to delivery and takeout, high school and college classes can only be online, and non-professional sports games are cancelled. That’s under an order from Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s public health director.

Whitmer says this re-tightening of restrictions is necessary due to a dramatic increase in infections and deaths. And she said the trajectory is expected to get worse as cold weather drives people indoors.

Whitmer called this “the worst moment” so far in the pandemic.

“We could soon see 1,000 deaths per week here in Michigan,” she said during an online press briefing Sunday.

“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. More people will get sick and there will be more fatalities.” 

Whitmer said the trajectory could rise to a thousand deaths a week in Michigan. The order lasts for three weeks starting Wednesday, November 18th.

Officially, the order was issued by Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon. He said dramatic action is necessary as a result of the worst surge yet in coronavirus infections.

“I ask all of you, honor these rules,” he said. “Honor sacred human life. And be heroes yourselves.” 

The order also requires movie theaters and casinos to shut down altogether. It also says anyone who can work from home has to. But Governor Whitmer acknowledges enforcement of the orders relies primarily on people voluntarily respecting them.

Whitmer’s action drew a rebuke from the Legislature’s Republican leaders. They say the Democratic governor should be working with lawmakers on a plan instead of taking unilateral actions.  GOP leaders won an earlier lawsuit challenging Whitmer’s ongoing use of executive orders to address the spread of COVID-19.

House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) released this statement:

“The Legislature led the way with a comprehensive plan to address this crisis back in the spring, which the governor ignored. The Legislature also designed the plan that reopened schools and is still used to this day, along with a new plan introduced last month that has so far been ignored. That is on top of billions of dollars in funding, critical reforms to nursing homes policies and protections for healthcare staff, unemployed workers and small business owners. The people of Michigan deserve a seat at the table when major decisions like these are made, and those decisions are made better and safer when they do.

As always, we stand ready to act in a bipartisan way when the governor decides it is worth her time. Until then, we are still reviewing the details of this order like everyone else.” 

Still, on Monday State Rep. Triston Cole (R-Mancelona) asked Northern Michigan residents to follow the new COVID-19 safety protocols.

“Now is not the time to rail against government mandates by refusing to heed the advice of medical professionals. Going that route only risks the health and safety of your loved ones," he said in a statement.

The Michigan Health and Hospitals Association backed the order with this statement from CEO Brian Peters:

“Community spread is rising rapidly across the state, meaning healthcare workers are being exposed and leaving hospitals with strained capacity. We urge Michiganders to comply with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services emergency order …

The faster we can squash this surge, the faster we can safely resume our lives and livelihoods. Hospitals are asking all of Michigan to unite against COVID-19.”

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
Taylor Wizner covers heath, tourism and other news for Interlochen Public Radio.