Michigan lets high schools, entertainment venues reopen


LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration on Friday lifted a prohibition on in-person instruction at Michigan high schools and said movie theaters and other entertainment venues can reopen with capacity restrictions following a decline in coronavirus cases.

Universities and colleges can let students return to campus next month with a voluntary commitment to wait until Jan. 18 to restart face-to-face classes.

Indoor restaurant dining will continue to be barred under the new state health department order that takes effect Monday, as will indoor sports and outdoor contact sports unless there is rigorous testing like there is at the pro and NCAA levels. Bowling alleys, casinos and other entertainment businesses that reopen must close drink and food concessions.

The order will last through Jan. 15. The Democratic governor and top health officials announced it at a news conference Friday afternoon.

The restrictions began Nov. 18 following a spike in COVID-19 cases statewide. All high schools and colleges have been virtual, and youth sports — including the high school football playoffs — have been on hold. K-8 schools have been able to continue with on-site classes, though — as has been the case all fall — it is not required for them or high schools.

State officials this week reported progress in the fight against the virus, saying new cases and hospitalizations continue to decline and expressing cautious optimism that Michigan has seen no spike related to Thanksgiving travel. They warned, though, that the case rate remains high.

Last week, private schools challenged the high school closure in court, saying it violates the constitutional right to practice religion.

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