Citing a recent surge of COVID-19 in the Upper Peninsula, Governor Gretchen Whitmer is moving the region back one stage in the state’s reopening plan.
The order will take effect Friday, October 9.
But it is unclear how long it may stand, as the Michigan Supreme Court issued a ruling Friday striking down Gov. Whitmer's emergency powers used during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whitmer says there are increasing numbers of Yoopers who have the coronavirus. As of Oct. 2, the region's case rate is 283 absolute cases per million and the positive test rate is 5.1%.
“After seeing the increase in cases in the UP region over the past several weeks and consulting with medical experts, I have decided to take action to protect UP families and move the region back a phase. I know this is hard. I know it will be an adjustment. But we can’t let our guard down,” Governor Whitmer said in a press release.
"COVID-19 is still a very real threat to our families, frontline workers, and small businesses. Everyone should implement these changes as swiftly as possible," she added.
The UP largely avoided coronavirus outbreaks until early this summer. In mid-June cases in UP counties began increasing, with more outbreaks in August. By mid-September, Whitmer reports a "surge."
The Governor is returning the region to Phase 4 of the MI Safe Start Plan, which means working from home when possible, enforcement of mask-wearing in schools and indoor gatherings with less than 10 people.
The UP's Region 8 had been in Phase 5 along with the rest of the northern Lower Peninsula since early June. Now, the Traverse City region, Region 6, is the only part of the state in the Stage 5, which allows for reopening of movie theaters and gyms and larger indoor gatherings of up to 50 people.
Superintendent of Copper Country Intermediate School District George Stockero joined university leaders, local health department officials, medical professionals and economic leaders in a meeting with Gov. Whitmer, where they explained the situation in the region.
He says people in the community need to take more precautions to stop the spread of the virus to schools.
“We want kids to be face-to-face as much as possible," Stockero says. "Practicing the social distancing, face masks, hand washing, things like that, which we are trying to teach we think will help. But we need our community to do that also.”
Stockero says he’s had to quarantine several classes at his 13 schools. He's also been dealing with staffing challenges since there's been a shortage of available subsitutes, with many unwilling to risk COVID-19 exposure at the schools.