Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Robert Gordon, director of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, announced the extension of current COVID-19 restrictions on Monday afternoon. The 12-day extension is a result of a large uptick in cases following the Thanksgiving holiday. U.S. air travel hit its highest level with more than 9.4 million people passing through TSA checkpoints nationwide over the holiday weekend. 

Whitmer said at the request of hospitals statewide, the state would continue to enforce restrictions to monitor case positivity and hospitalization rates. Whitmer reported that 79% of all hospital beds were occupied across the state and said this situation is different than last spring, where health care workers from less-affected areas across the nation came to assist. 

“Hospitals across Michigan are all filling up,” Whitmer said. “Hospitals across the country are all filling up and capabilities everywhere are limited.”

According to the State of Michigan Emergency Operations Center, the order will maintain existing measures through Dec. 20 and does not include a blanket stay-home action. Employees considered essential workers, including those in manufacturing, construction and health occupations, may continue to work. Outdoor gatherings, outdoor dining and parks remain open. Retail shopping, public transit, restaurant takeout, personal-care services and individualized exercise at a gym will be permitted. 

MDHHS encourages people to avoid indoor gatherings, with no more than two households gathering indoors at a time. Masks should be worn inside when around non-household members. 

Whitmer emphasized that the numbers the state is currently experiencing far exceed previously forecasted worst-case scenarios. 

“We were worried and we were warned that we could see 100 deaths a day by Christmas,” Whitmer said. “That was what we were worried about.”

The department will use three key metrics, including percentage of hospital beds occupied with COVID patients, the number of cases and positivity rate to monitor when to reopen.

Gordon emphasized the importance of following the restrictions to help reverse the current situation. 

“We each have a personal responsibility to wear a mask consistently and minimize indoor gatherings, so we can protect our frontline heroes and loved ones,” Gordon said. “If we don’t, the disease will continue to spread and people will continue to get sick and die.”

Daily Staff Reporter Sarah Payne can be reached at paynesm@umich.edu

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