Michigan now has 33 coronavirus cases, many bars still jammed for St. Patrick’s Day weekend

People gather to celebrate St. Patrick's Day weekend in East Lansing despite the COVID-19 spread, March 14, 2020 | Anna Liz Nichols

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced Saturday evening that eight adults tested positive for COVID-19, a disease caused by a new coronavirus.

A statewide coronavirus hotline will be open 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 1-888-535-6136. Information can be found on the DHHS website or the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention website.

DHHS said this brings the state total of COVID-19 cases to 33. The cases include individuals from Detroit, Oakland County, Macomb County, Wayne County and Washtenaw County.

Notably, DHHS said an adult male from Macomb County with no known travel history and no known contact with someone with a confirmed case was one of those who tested positive for the disease.

According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 152,000 confirmed positive cases and 5,700 deaths linked to COVID-19 globally. There are more than 1,600 confirmed cases and 60 deaths in the United States.

According to a news release, a Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) staff member who worked at Osborn High School recently tested positive for COVID-19. Superintendent Nikolai Vitti confirmed that in a notice to parents obtained by the Advance. He said the individual has been released from the hospital and is self-quarantined.

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“Although we are not in a position to require you to do so, in an abundance of caution, it may be best for those in the Osborn High School learning community to self-quarantine for 14 days,” Vitti said.

In a tweet, Michigan State University has also announced it was notified on Friday about a confirmed case related to the MSU community, and the school anticipates there will be more cases. The university already suspended in-person classes, as have many Michigan colleges.

Michigan State University | Susan J. Demas

Previous cases also were reported in Bay, Charlevoix, Ingham, Kent, Montcalm, Monroe and St. Clair counties.

The specimens collected on Saturday will be sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for confirmation testing. However, that is the last batch of positive tests that will be sent to the CDC. 

According to a news release from the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC), new positive tests won’t be sent to the CDC for confirmation. According to the CDC, that change is a result of state and local public health laboratories in all 50 states and the District of Columbia being able to successfully verify COVID-19 diagnostic tests and because the labs offer their own testing.

This also means that new positive tests being announced in Michigan are considered confirmed and do not need to be designated as presumptive positive cases.

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Social distancing in Michigan 

The CDC’s call for social distancing, which advises people to avoid close contact with others in order to avoid catching the virus and avoid passing it on, is having a major impact in Michigan. 

As reported by the Advance, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is prohibiting all events and assemblages of more than 250 people until April 6 to limit the spread of COVID-19. In addition, all K-12 school buildings will be shut down to students beginning Monday until April 5. Childcare facilities will remain open during the statewide shutdown, whether they are attached to schools or free standing.

In-person visits at Michigan’s prisons, juvenile correctional facilities and care facilities also have been discontinued.   

On Saturday, Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-7, clarifying the restrictions she put into place the day before. Under the new order, the restrictions now extend to any visitors that are not necessary for providing medical care, supporting daily living activities or exercising power of attorney or court-appointed guardianship for an individual under the facility’s care. 

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People who are not parents, foster parents or guardians are also prohibited from entering prisons, juvenile care facilities, residential care facilities and congregate care facilities as well. These extended restrictions will remain in place until 5 p.m. April 5.

“This is a hard time for families, and we will continue to put their health and safety first when making these decisions. I also want to remind everyone to continue doing everything they can at an individual level to protect themselves and their families, like washing their hands and practicing social distancing. We will get through this together,” said Whitmer.

St. Patrick’s Day

With large crowds over St. Patrick’s Day weekend for venues in Michigan, including in East Lansing near MSU’s campus and in metro Detroit, there’s growing concern about COVID-19 spreading faster.

There have been calls from some officials, including Sterling Heights City Council Member Mike Radtke — who said he was denied a COVID-19 test despite symptoms and contact with people who had recently traveled to China — for Whitmer to shutter bars and casinos.

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Other countries where COVID-19 has spread earlier, including Italy, Spain and Norway, are effectively shut down. U.S. public health experts are concerned about the slow federal response to coronavirus here and are warning more closures are necessary.

The Oakland County Health Division said it’s working to reduce the amount of in-person contact individuals have with one another. On Saturday, the division issued an order that calls to reduce the number of people allowed in to be in a county establishment with a food service license by 50%. 

The order also reduces the number of people allowed to be in entertainment venues and physical fitness centers by 50%, as well. The order excludes health care facilities, long-term care and grocery stores.

Some businesses also are being proactive. Pizza chain Hungry Howie’s, for example, announced that delivery drivers will now leave food at a person’s door to limit contact with customers.

Grocery stores

Several grocery store chains — many of which have been mobbed by people stocking up amid the coronavirus spread — also are working to take proactive roles in reducing the amount of contact their workers have with the public. 

Like many stores, the Meridian Township Meijer has run out of toilet paper amid the COVID-19 outbreak, March 14, 2020 | Susan J. Demas

Walker-based chain Meijer will suspend service at meat counters and deli counters. In a tweet, Meijer said stores will be shifting towards preparing items purchased at the deli or meat counter and storing them in the stores’ self-refrigerated cases. The company said it will not close any of their stores in light of the global pandemic. 

All Kroger stores will be shifting their store hours. Stores will now operate from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., instead of 6 a.m. until 12 a.m. to allow employees more restocking time. 

Additionally, Walmart will no longer operate 24-hour stores. The retailer announced that it will now have stores open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.