LANSING, Michigan – Facing the highest rate of new coronavirus infections in the country, Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer on Friday called for a two-week suspension of face-to-face high school classes, all youth sports and dinner at indoor restaurants. .
It stopped asking for restrictions, instead it asked for voluntary compliance to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Secondary schools should switch to virtual learning, school and non-school youth sports should be paused, people should choose outdoor dining or take-out food instead of indoors, and should avoid meeting with friends indoors. , she said.
“We have to do this together. Lives depend on it, ”said Whitmer during a news conference, again asking residents to get vaccinated. “We will have difficult weeks ahead of us. So, I’m asking everyone – please take this seriously. “
The Democratic governor also renewed her call for the federal government to send additional vaccines. President Joe Biden’s administration will provide extra features but not doses.
About 40 percent of state residents aged 16 and over received at least one injection of vaccine, including 69 percent of those aged 65 and over. Michigan hospital medical directors said vaccines are proving to be more than 99% effective in preventing disease, hospitalization and death. But they warned that the variants are more contagious and deadly, and bring more young people to the hospital.
The state health department issued guidelines strongly encouraging high schools that remain open for face-to-face classes to enroll in the state’s coronavirus rapid test program, which was recently mandatory for teen athletes.
On Thursday, Michigan had the worst rate of new cases Covid-19 in the U.S. in the previous two weeks. Related hospitalizations more than quadrupled in a month and accounted for 90% of the state peak a year ago, prompting some hospitals to postpone non-emergency surgery. The seven-day average of new daily deaths has been increasing for two weeks.
“As we see so many cases a day, our public health system is overburdened,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical officer. “We are unable to obtain information on many cases, nor can we identify your close contacts.”
The governor has resisted restoring previous restrictions, such as banning meals at home, face-to-face classes and youth contact sports that have been criticized by Republican lawmakers. A mask requirement remains, as do capacity limits and limits on collection sizes.
“It is less of a policy problem that we have and more of a compliance and variant problem that we are facing as a state,” she said.
But she did not rule out future restrictions, saying that nothing is out of the question.
“At this point, we think it is important for people to understand how serious this moment is,” she said.
Whitmer’s recommendation to temporarily close secondary schools has received mixed reactions in educational circles.
The Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, has encouraged similar actions for early grades, community colleges and universities. But the Great Lakes Education Project, a group linked to the DeVos family, said that children deserve “safe open classrooms”. The overseers also looked frustrated.
“Educators have focused on doing what is best for our students’ learning and social growth. We have health experts to guide us on the safest way to do this and any change or expectation that educators alone can make these decisions in an inappropriate approach, ”said Robert McCann, executive director of the K-12 Alliance of Michigan, a coalition of superintendents.
A restaurant industry group, which is open at 50% capacity, called the governor’s recommendation “wrong”.
Republican lawmakers, who fought against the restrictions, said they were encouraged that it did not restrict them. Despite the increase, Mayor Jason Wentworth said Whitmer should remove the remaining restrictions and “trust that people in this state will do the right thing for themselves and their families.”
The Michigan High School Athletic Association said it would end state men’s and women’s basketball tournaments on Friday and Saturday. The organization said that all spring sports are outdoors and that the spring season has less contact sports.
“School districts will make local decisions in the coming weeks on spring sports based on local conditions and circumstances,” wrote MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl in a memo.
Covid-19 has been linked to nearly 17,500 deaths in Michigan, including 26 on Friday. More than 577,000 people recovered last week.