Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has signed an order making it illegal for more than 10 people to gather indoors and allowing bars to service customers only outdoors, citing a major spike in coronavirus cases.
The Democratic governor announced the new restrictions in a statement on Wednesday, pointing to concerns that Michigan faces a “second wave” of the lethal virus, as the outbreak reverses a previous downward trend and new cases continue to climb.
“After seeing a resurgence in cases connected to social gatherings across the state, we must further limit gatherings for the health of our community and economy,” Whitmer said in her announcement.
By taking these strong actions, we will be better positioned to get our children back into classrooms and avoid a potentially devastating second wave.
I’ve said this from the start — these are difficult decisions, but I will do what is necessary to protect the brave men and women on the front lines, avoid overwhelming our healthcare system, and save lives.
— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) July 30, 2020
The order reduces the number of individuals allowed at any indoor gathering back down to 10, after the state had carried out a partial reopening in June which saw the rules for such meet-ups loosened to 50 people. Though outdoor gatherings have now been limited to 100 people, two of Michigan’s eight regions – numbers 6 and 8, located at the state’s northern extremity – retain more relaxed restrictions allowing for 250 attendees outdoors.
Bars across the entire state, including in the northern regions, have been ordered to shutter all indoor operations, now permitted to serve customers outdoors only.
The order does, however, allow Detroit’s casinos to re-open on August 5, though their occupancy will be limited to 15 percent capacity, while the gambling houses will be required to carry out daily “temperature screenings” of customers and employees, who must wear face coverings at all times, except when eating or drinking.
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Whitmer said the executive order was prompted by “super-spreading events at large social gatherings,” which she said were driving the spike in cases, noting that an outbreak at just one Lansing bar led to a whopping 187 new infections.
Michigan has seen some of the country’s tightest Covid-19 containment measures, with Governor Whitmer prohibiting most forms of human contact, including a sweeping ban on “travel between residences” of any kind. The restrictions have come under intense criticism, particularly from conservatives who insist the rules are unconstitutional, prompting a wave of large anti-lockdown demonstrations between March and May. One of the bigger events drew some 3,000 protesters to the Michigan State Capitol, where activists jammed up the streets of Lansing in their vehicles while demanding a re-opening.
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As Michigan backtracks on previous plans to reopen amid a surge in cases, other states are also mulling similar moves, with Hawaii Governor David Ige indicating on Wednesday that he would like to reimpose limits on bars and public gatherings, much like Whitmer.
“We all must redouble our efforts to take personal responsibility and fight against the spread of Covid-19,” the governor told reporters, though he qualified that the virus was sufficiently “within containment” for the state to re-open its schools for the upcoming semester.
Michigan has tallied nearly 89,000 coronavirus infections statewide, with more than 6,400 fatalities, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University. The state previously found itself in the US’ top five hotspots, though it has since sunk below the number-10 slot following a rapid resurgence across the American South. The US as a whole has confirmed more than 4.4 million cases of the disease, as well as over 150,000 deaths.
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