Whitmer administration extends partial shutdown by 12 days


LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday extended a partial shutdown of businesses and schools to Dec. 20, rejecting desperate appeals to lift a ban on indoor restaurant dining while the state tries to stop a wave of new coronavirus cases.

The 12-day addition will enable the health department to assess how Thanksgiving travel affected the spread of COVID-19, Whitmer, a Democrat, said in announcing the latest health department strategy.

“We’ve made progress during this three-week pause … but there is more work we need to do to protect one another,” she said at a news conference. “Our progress is fragile, and we cannot let up yet.”

In-person instruction at high schools and colleges, dine-in eating at restaurants and organized sports will continue to be prohibited. Entertainment venues such as movie theaters and bowling alleys will remain closed. Indoor residential gatherings are limited to 10 people from two households.

State health Director Robert Gordon said he wants to see a drop in new cases, a lower rate of positive tests and a flattening or reduction in the number of hospital beds filled with COVID-19 patients.

The priority will be reopening high schools, then entertainment businesses where people can consistently wear masks such as casinos, theaters and bowling alleys if concessions are closed.

Earlier Monday, Michigan hospital officials said the restrictions are effective and should be extended through the holiday season to alleviate stress on the health care system. The chief medical officers of hospitals and health systems issued a joint statement saying the order is slowly stabilizing the spread of COVID-19.

“As a state, we must not let our guard down and reverse this progress,” they said, reporting slight declines in virus-related emergency room visits, daily admissions and total hospitalizations.

The restrictions, many of which were in place earlier in the pandemic, took effect Nov. 18.

The seven-day average of daily new cases was 6,918 on Sunday, down from 7,604 two weeks before, according to the COVID Tracking Project. The rate of tests coming back positive, 12.4%, was up from 11.3%. The average daily death count was 122 — an increase from 71.3 on Nov. 22 — and the fourth highest in the country.

More than 4,100 people were hospitalized with symptoms, including about 500 on ventilators.

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