State allows high schools, colleges, entertainment venues to reopen

State reports 4,180 new COVID-19 cases, 66 deaths

By: - December 18, 2020 4:29 pm

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives a COVID-19 update, Aug. 25, 2020 | Whitmer office photo

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday announced that the state is revising its COVID-19 pandemic order to allow for in-person high school and college and university classes, a reopen of certain indoor entertainment venues and non-contact outdoor sports and fitness classes. But bars and restaurants remain closed for dine-in service. 

The gradual reopening comes after Michigan’s fall COVID-19 spike has tapered off a bit since before Thanksgiving, although daily case rates remain higher than during the spring peak.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) had placed COVID-19 regulations on schools and certain businesses but that order was scheduled to expire on Dec. 20. DHHS has issued a revised version of the order, which will be in effect until Jan. 15. 

High school classes can return in school buildings starting Monday, but most are on holiday break until January. Indoor venues where people must remain masked and socially distanced such as movie theaters, stadiums, bowling alleys, and casinos can reopen without food or drink concessions and attendance will be capped at 100 people. Colleges and universities can resume in-person classes in January. However, restaurants and bars will remain closed for in-person dining service through at least Jan. 15. 

DHHS COVID-19 graphic, Dec. 18, 2020

“We can’t let our guard down for a second,” Whitmer said during the press briefing.

Whitmer also mentioned Benny Napoleon’s death. The Wayne County sheriff died on Thursday of COVID-19 at 65. Napoleon had reportedly been considered as a running mate for Whitmer in 2018. During a Oct. 17 Joe Biden campaign rally on Detroit’s lower east side, Napoleon told Michigan Advance that coronavirus had hit his “family hard,” including several of his siblings who had it and an uncle and five cousins who died from it.

Benny Napoleon

During the press briefing, Whitmer also called out the President Donald Trump administration on its handling of COVID-19 vaccine distribution. As the Advance reported Thursday, Michigan is likely looking at a 30% reduction in Pfizer vaccine doses next week along with some other states. Pfizer said it’s not a problem on its end, although the Trump administration took issue with the claim.

“People like Benny are losing this battle every single day and I still can not get a straight answer out of the Trump administration about why Michigan, like many other states, is receiving a fracture of the vaccines that we were slated to receive,” Whitmer said. “There are millions of Pfizer vaccines, many right here in Portage, Mich., that are waiting to be shipped but the feds are slow-logging the process of getting the addresses to Pfizer for some reason for some reason I can not get an answer to.” 

Brian Peters, CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, said thelack of communication and clarity” on the reduced allocation from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services was “disappointing and frustrating.

“Hospitals have gone to great lengths to ensure that frontline caregivers are available to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, which pulls vital staff away from treating patients when Michigan is in the middle of a second COVID-19 surge. Any delay in receipt of vaccine prolongs the vaccination process and puts healthcare workers at increased risk for contracting this deadly disease. Hospitals need consistent and accurate communication and allocation estimates to ensure quality of care is not interrupted. We are hopeful this issue will be addressed quickly so that hospitals across the country can focus on caring for our communities.”

Later in the afternoon, DHHS reported that a total of 454,956 Michiganders have tested positive for COVID-19 and 11,274 have died from the virus — an additional 4,180 cases and 66 deaths since Thursday.

DHHS also reports that an additional 36,919 Michiganders have been identified as “probable” cases for COVID-19, as well as 594 probable deaths. The department began tracking probable cases on April 5.

Combining the state’s confirmed positive cases with probable cases brings the total up to 491,875 statewide cases and 11,868 deaths.

The virus has been detected in all of Michigan’s 83 counties. The state’s COVID-19 fatality rate remains at 2.5%.

The first two cases of COVID-19 were reported in the state on March 10. Whitmer declared a state of emergency that day. DHHS has launched a COVID19 Vaccine Dashboard to help Michiganders track information about the vaccine across the state. 

Johns Hopkins University reports that there are more than 75.3 million confirmed cases worldwide and 1.6 million deaths. The United States makes up a significant portion of those, as more than 17.3 million confirmed cases and 312,219 deaths have been recorded nationally.

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.