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U.P., northern Michigan to be under new restrictions: Whitmer’s order limits indoor gatherings to 10; closes bars to indoor services effective Friday

MARQUETTE — The Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula will soon be under new COVID-19 restrictions as cases continue to rise in the state.

An executive order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Wednesday evening limits indoor gatherings across the state to 10 people and closes bars to indoor service, effective Friday. Whitmer amended Michigan’s Safe Start Order and also issued revised workplace safeguards regarding Detroit casinos in the order.

Under the order, bars in every region — including those in regions six and eight, which encompass the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula –must close for indoor service if they earn more than 70% of their gross receipts from sales of alcoholic beverages.

“As we see COVID-19 cases continue to rise, Michiganders cannot afford to drop our guard. We must take every step possible to save lives, protect the brave men and women on the front lines, and avoid overwhelming our health care system while we continue to combat COVID-19,” Whitmer said in a news release. “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. By taking these strong actions, we will be better positioned to get our children back into classrooms and avoid a potentially devastating second wave.”

The COVID-19 resurgence is closely associated with super-spreading events at large social gatherings, often attended by young people, according to the release.

“An outbreak at a Lansing bar has resulted in 187 infections; more than 50 cases have been linked to a single house party in Saline; and a sand-bar party at Torch Lake over the July 4 weekend led to at least 43 confirmed cases,” the release states.

Outdoor gathering limits will remain at 250 people in regions six and eight, the release states. However, the order limits outdoor gatherings in other portions of the state to 100 people.

Economic Club to postpone season

The Economic Club of Marquette County has announced it will postpone its 2020-21 season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s now vital for us all to limit travel, close social contact and to avoid the gathering of large groups,” a Wednesday press release from the club states.

“We hope you understand that choosing to postpone this year’s program was a difficult decision, especially when our board, committees, staff and speakers have spent so much time and effort into its planning and promotion,” the release states. “However, we are sure you join us in agreeing that the health and safety of our members, families and our community is of utmost importance during these unprecedented times.”

Organizers said they want to “thank everyone for their membership and sponsorship.”

“In the meantime, please stay tuned and be patient until we can send the next update,” organizers said in the release. “We will be holding off on sending out or collecting membership and sponsorship dues for now.

“It is because of the support of all of our members and sponsors, we have been able to deliver high-quality, relevant and timely programs to our members and guests, operating uninterrupted and seamlessly, every year since our very first meeting 43 years ago.”

The Economic Club of Marquette County Board of Directors has been working since 1977 to “provide a social network setting” to “create awareness and education on economic issues of importance to the community through programs of local, regional and national interest,” the release states.

Questions can be directed to 906-315-2155, organizers said.

Opioid overdoses increasing amid pandemic

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is reporting “substantial increases” in opioid overdoses since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an MDHHS press release.

Statistics gathered by MDHHS show emergency medical service responses for opioid overdoses increased by 33% from April to May. EMS responses from April through June this year were 26% higher than the same period in 2019. EMS responses increased for all regions and nearly all demographic groups, except residents aged 65 years and older, MDHHS data shows.

“Opioid overdoses kill far too many Michiganders, and it’s a double tragedy that the pandemic has exacerbated this crisis,” said Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun, chief deputy for health and chief medical executive. “If you or someone you love has an opioid use disorder, please take steps to prevent overdose deaths — like carrying naloxone and never using alone.”

Other insights on how the pandemic has impacted the opioid crisis include patient reluctance to accept transport to a hospital emergency department.

“Patients were more likely to refuse transport to EDs in April to June compared to the same period in 2019,” the release states. “The percentage of opioid overdose EMS responses that resulted in the patient declining transport to EDs nearly doubled from 7.7% (in the period of) April to June 2019 to 14.3% (in the period of) April to June 2020.”

After an initial drop in April, officials say emergency department visits for opioid overdoses increased in May and June to pre-pandemic levels, despite emergency departments seeing fewer visits overall in Michigan during the pandemic.

The total number of emergency department visits from April to June of this year declined 38% compared with April to June 2019, while the number of opioid overdose emergency department visits increased by 2%.

MDHHS officials say it is too early to determine if opioid overdose deaths have increased following the onset of the pandemic due to the length of time required to finalize death certificates.

Those concerned with preventing opioid overdose should also ensure naloxone is readily available, officials said.

Naloxone for All and NEXT Distro will mail naloxone at no cost to anyone in Michigan, the release states. Individuals can request naloxone online at www.naloxoneforall.org/michigan.

Individuals can also engage in safety practices that prevent overdose deaths and encourage others to do the same, officials say. More information is available at www.michigan.gov/documents/mdhhs/COVID19_safer_drug_use_002_684573_7.pdf.

Never Use Alone is a service anyone can call while using drugs. The caller will be connected to a person who will seek emergency services for them if they drop off the line or don’t respond to a return call. Call 800-484-3731 or visit NeverUseAlone.com to learn more.

If you or someone you know has an opioid use disorder, resources are available to support mental and physical health during the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials suggest contacting your primary care physician before you run low on necessary medications and if you need a medical provider visit www.mpca.net/page/ locateHC to find your nearest federally qualified health care provider.

MDHHS suggests if you or someone you know is in recovery:

≤ Reach out with a phone call, text or email to offer support and model good coping behaviors yourself. Share the COVID-19 hotline number — 888-535-6136 and tell them to press “8” for free emotional support counseling.

≤ Direct them to Michigan.gov/StayWell for a list of other help lines, including a peer “warm line” for individuals in distress who want to talk to someone who understands substance use disorders, the National Disaster Distress Helpline at 800-985-5990 and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

≤ Call 211. Anyone struggling or seeking resources for substance use disorder treatment services can call this free service that connects Michigan residents with health resources in their communities.

For more information about overdoses and resources for prevention and treatment, visit Michigan.gov/Opioids.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.

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