Update: On Tuesday, Whitmer expanded the ban to prohibit all events with 50 or more people.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order Friday morning banning all events with more than 250 people in the state amid an outbreak of COVID-19, according to a press release from the Governor’s Office. As of late Thursday night, there are 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state.
“This is about protecting the most people we can from the spread of coronavirus,” Whitmer said. “My administration will continue to do everything we can to mitigate the spread, and to ensure our children, families and businesses have the support they need during this time. We are going to get through this, but we must be flexible and take care of each other.”
The order prohibits all events and shared-space assemblages of more than 250 people. Certain vital gatherings are not covered by the prohibition, including industrial or manufacturing work, the use of mass transit or the purchase of grocery items and consumer goods.
The ban begins Friday at 5 p.m. and will end April 5 at 5 p.m. The move comes after Whitmer ordered the closure of all K-12 buildings in the state at a press conference Thursday night.
Joneigh S. Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said in a press release that the order was a necessary step to combat the spread of the virus.
“Prohibiting large assemblages is the smart thing to do to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Khaldun said. “It’s crucial that everyone in Michigan follow these orders and make smart choices that will slow the spread of the virus, including practicing good hygiene and social distancing. We will continue to work with the governor and our partners across state government to protect Michigan families and businesses.”
The University of Michigan has banned events with more than 100 people. In response to the outbreak, University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel announced on Wednesday the school will be moving all classes online until the end of the semester and recalled all students currently studying abroad, spurring confusion and last-minute travel challenges. International programs scheduled for spring and summer terms have also been canceled.
“To protect the health and safety of our communities and minimize the spread of #COVID19, @UMich is making changes to classes, travel, study abroad and large events on our Ann Arbor, @UM_Dearborn and @UMFlint campuses,” Schlissel wrote on Twitter Wednesday.
Honors Convocation was also called off, while the fate of larger events like Spring Commencement is uncertain.
To avoid spreading the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people wash their hands thoroughly and often, avoid contact with people who are ill, clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces and cover coughs and sneezes.
Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. People who believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 should call their health care providers or the nearest hospital.
Managing News Editor Leah Graham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.