Governor asks Michiganders to voluntarily suspend indoor dining, youth sports for 2 weeks.

April 9, 2021

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Governor asks Michiganders to voluntarily suspend indoor dining, youth sports for 2 weeks.

LANSING – In a change of direction from past practices, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, at a press conference, asked Michiganders to voluntarily suspend in-person activities for high schools, indoor dining, and youth sports for the next two weeks, in response to increased COVID-19 cases in the state. 

While many states across the country have dropped pandemic mandates, the State of Michigan continues to have a statewide mask mandate, limits on indoor social gatherings larger than 25 people, expanded testing requirements for youth sports, and dozens of pop-up testing sites across the state. Many of those other states have not seen the surge in increased cases as Michigan has. 

“As a parent and former student-athlete myself, I understand how important athletics are to our children’s physical and mental health. However, parents and athletes need to understand the risk involved with youth sports if they choose to participate,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. “We’ve seen that the younger population has played a significant role in transmission during this most recent spike. I urge youth sports organizers to pause in-person activities for the next couple weeks, and as always, mask up, wash your hands, social distance and get your safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you are able.”

Over the last few weeks, Michigan has tracked outbreaks associated with youth sports. To prevent additional outbreaks, Whitmer is urging youth sports on both school-sponsored and non-school sponsored teams to suspend in-person activities, like games and practices, for the next two weeks. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) requires testing for youth sports between the ages of 13-19, and provides testing assistance through the MI Safer Sports testing program, which expanded weekly testing protocols for athletes and teams. For all youth sports, participants must test on at least a weekly basis for COVID-19, and also before any  unmasked activity.

“Based on the increase in positivity rates and hospitalizations, we need the help of Michiganders,” said Tina Freese Decker, president & CEO of Spectrum Health. “We ask you to practice the safety behaviors that we know work and get vaccinated as soon as possible. This will help us slow the spread and hopefully this will be our last surge.”

In addition to urging youth sports to suspend in-person activities, Whitmer is asking high schools to utilize virtual instruction for the next two weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19. MDHHS issued guidance to schools strongly encouraging them to enroll in the department’s testing program if they are open to in-person instruction. Additionally, the state is offering 56 pop-up sites located throughout Michigan as part of the special program in an effort to increase access to testing for Michiganders returning from Spring Break. For more information on additional test sites, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirustest.

“Our recent COVID case numbers are the highest in the nation, and hospitalizations have climbed significantly in the last month.  Michigan educators, students, and families have risen to the challenge over the past year, and I am confident they will continue to do what is needed to help save lives as we keep fighting the pandemic,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice. “I support the recommendations of the governor. I urge schools to contribute the next two weeks toward the common good of our state and the health of our residents.”

Whitmer is also urging Michiganders to avoid dining indoors and avoid gathering with friends indoors for two weeks. The virus is known to spread quickly when people are gathered indoors without masks for an extended period of time.

Past practice for Whitmer and her administration, which includes the MDHHS, has been to utilize legislation forcing businesses and schools to follow the mandates. In a change of tone, she is now asking those entities to voluntarily make those choices. 

“I wonder where this approach was a year ago from the governor – making recommendations to people throughout the state and letting different areas and communities make their own rules and decisions instead of implementing broad, burdensome orders that harshly impacted lives and livelihoods,” said State Rep. Jack O’Malley (R, Lake Ann), who represents Mason, Manistee, Benzie, and Leelanau counties.

“It’s clear to me there has been a shift in her approach. Michigan has been one of the most restrictive states in the country in response to COVID-19. Many people have been put out of work and they have shared their stories of hardship with legislators. Shutdowns are not as popular now that we have seen the impacts of them on hardworking people, small businesses and families.

“So with cases now skyrocketing at a nation-high level, the governor is in a political pickle. It did not have to be this way. The Legislature offered to work with the administration, but Gov. Whitmer chose to go it alone.

“It is important to continue to ramp up vaccine efforts so people who want it can get in and get it. But we have been dealing with a mishandled pandemic strategy in this state and that is the direct result of Gov. Whitmer thinking she knew best from the onset.”

Whitmer also  announced that Michigan will hit more than five million vaccinations by the end of the day. While vaccine supply has increased dramatically since the Biden Administration took office, the state is currently experiencing a serious spike in COVID-19 cases that is putting pressure on Michigan hospital systems. To slow the spread of the virus and protect more Michiganders, the governor renewed her call for the federal government to surge additional vaccines to Michigan.

To date, Michigan has administered more than five million vaccines, moving the state closer to its goal of equitably vaccinating at least 70% of Michiganders ages 16 and older as soon as possible. Last week, Whitmer raised Michigan’s COVID-19 vaccination goal from 50,000 to 100,000 shots per day. After announcing the state had surpassed four million vaccines administered on March 29, another one million vaccine doses were administered in less than two weeks to reach the five million vaccine milestone.

“Administering more than five million doses of the safe and effective COVID vaccine in under four months is a big deal, but we’ve still got a lot more work to do,” said Whitemer. “Right now our numbers are alarming, and we all have a role to play to get our state moving in the right direction again. That’s why I’m renewing my call on the federal government to surge additional vaccines to our state. And it’s why I’m urging high schools and youth sports to voluntarily suspend in-person activities for the next two weeks. This is a team effort. It’s on all of us to do our part by masking up and getting vaccinated to protect ourselves and our families, so we can get back to normal. Let’s get it done.”

For the latest information on Michigan’s response to COVID-19, please visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus. You may also call the COVID-19 Hotline at 888-535-6136, or email [email protected].

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