New virus restrictions
In-person high school, college classes halted, restaurants indoor dining, organized sporting events stopped
MARQUETTE — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a new emergency order targeting indoor social gatherings on Sunday.
Under the order, which takes effect Wednesday for a duration of three weeks, Michigan restaurants, bars and casinos will be closed to indoor dining. High schools, colleges and universities across the state will be required to move to remote learning. In addition, employees at workplaces where work can be done remotely are asked to do so.
Because the state has seen fewer outbreaks associated with elementary and middle schools, in-person learning for children ages kindergarten through eighth grade will be permitted to continue. Childcare facilities will also be allowed to remain open under the order.
Sports and entertainment venues will be closed, including movie theaters, stadiums, arenas, ice skating rinks and indoor water parks. Organized sports except for professional sports and group fitness class will also be impacted by the emergency order.
The order also limits indoor residential gatherings to two households at any one time.
“The order is aimed at limiting residential and non-residential gatherings where COVID-19 spreads rapidly. Bars and restaurants will be open for outdoor dining, carry-out and delivery only,” an MDHHS press release states. “Gyms will remain open for individual exercise with strict safety measures in place.”
Noted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to the Associated Press: “If we don’t act now, thousands more will die, and our hospitals will continue to be overwhelmed. We can get through this together by listening to health experts once again and taking action right now to slow the spread of this deadly virus.”
Unlike the blanket stay-at-home directives in the spring, the order allows work that cannot be performed from home, such as manufacturing, construction and health occupations, to continue.
Also, activities with distancing and face masks, such as retail shopping, public transit, restaurant takeout, personal care services such as hair cutting, will be allowed to continue.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS said the current COVID-19 data is alarming, citing a positive COVID-19 case rate of 791 cases per million in the Upper Peninsula alone. She said state health officials are currently investigating 980 outbreaks across Michigan.
“COVID-19 is impacting every area of our state,” Khaldun said. “Our healthcare systems are becoming overwhelmed, and our contact tracers cannot keep up. If we do not act now, we risk thousands more deaths and even more people having long-term health consequences. The actions we are taking today are the best opportunity we have to get this virus under control.”
Attorney General department communications director Kelly Rossman-McKinney released a statement on behalf of Attorney General Dana Nessel saying in part that the AG “recognizes and strongly supports the need for these important measures in an effort to stem the dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases in Michigan.”
“This virus is quickly spreading throughout our state and we must do everything we can to stop it and flatten the curve,” Rossman-McKinney said. “As with past orders, county public health departments and local law enforcement are primarily responsible for enforcement in their own communities and we hope they do so. We stand ready to assist them in their efforts.”
≤ County Board of Health to hold special meeting
The Marquette County Board of Health will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday to provide a COVID-19 update.
The meeting will be held electronically and will also include an opportunity for public comment, a Marquette County Health Department release states.
Public comment will be handled in a manner consistent with how it has been handled for in-person meetings, officials state, with all time limits set by the chair enforced, and any hands raised after the meeting chair ends submission of public comments will not be able to speak during the meeting.
Participants can visit https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81754037466 on the web, or can call into the meeting by dialing 1-301-715-8592 and entering the meeting ID 81754037466 and the # sign when prompted.
≤ A minimum of $3 million in grants available to small businesses
The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity will begin accepting grant applications at noon Wednesday from Michigan-based commercial firms and nonprofits with 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees to expand capacity by adding weatherized temporary outdoor facilities.
Eligible businesses include restaurants and bars; banquet centers; retail stores; gyms and fitness centers; local governments, including cities, townships, villages and counties that provide common space for businesses; and commercial property owners who provide common space for tenants.
Projects that would qualify for grant funding include: canopies, igloos and tents to cover outdoor seating; portable heaters, outdoor furniture and tableware; outdoor cooking equipment, fencing, dividers such as planters, hangings, or Plexiglas panels; sanitizing supplies and equipment, security devices; electronic menu access; upgrades necessary to increase capacity for carryout and delivery service; and delivery charges and labor for installation.
“All funds must be used in support of weatherization of outdoor capacity expansions,” the release states. “Construction of permanent structures is not an allowable use.”
Business owners should consider what weatherization could be done at the business to expand capacity or consider what has been done since Aug. 1 to add capacity for the winter, according to a Small Business Association of Michigan press release.
The grants will be awarded to eligible businesses on a first-come-first-served basis, officials say, with special consideration to awarding at least 10 grants in each of Michigan’s 10 prosperity regions.
The funding is provided through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which was signed into law on March 27.
Additional information, including a link to the grant applications once they are being accepted, can be found at www.sbam.org/ weatherization-grants.
Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.