Whitmer enacts restrictions in U.P., citing uptick in COVID-19 cases

780 more cases reported statewide

Lake of the Clouds | Susan J. Demas

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday ordered Michigan’s Upper Peninsula back to Phase 4 of the MI Safe Start Plan after the region experienced a spike in COVID-19 cases through late September.

Under the latest order, people who can work remotely are required to do so, school districts are to mandate face coverings in classrooms with only a few exceptions and indoor residential group gatherings are limited to 10 people or less. These restrictions are in place in the rest of the state, with the exception of the Traverse City region.

Stores smaller than 50,000 square feet are also now required to limit the number of people inside to 25% of total occupancy limits. In stores larger than 50,000 square feet, no more than 20 people are allowed per 1,000 square feet of customer floor space. Stores are also required to set aside two hours of dedicating shopping time per week for vulnerable populations, such as the elderly or immunocompromised. 

Whitmer’s order goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Oct. 9, but a release from her office urged everyone to “make this transition as swiftly as possible.”

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“After seeing the increase in cases in the U.P. region over the past several weeks and consulting with medical experts, I have decided to take action to protect U.P. families and move the region back a phase,” Whitmer said in a Friday news release. “I know this is hard. I know it will be an adjustment. But we can’t let our guard down. COVID-19 is still a very real threat to our families, frontline workers, and small businesses. Everyone should implement these changes as swiftly as possible.”

State Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain), who represents part of the U.P., announced this week he has coronavirus. However, he says he contracted it in Lansing, although has not provided details.

COVID-19 cases in the U.P. “persisted at an elevated level through mid-September, and then began sharply increasing at that time,” according to the release. Wisconsin, which borders parts of the U.P., has seen a sharp spike in cases.

The region now has the “most concerning numbers in the state,” per the release. The region has 283 absolute cases per million and a 5.1% positivity rate.   

“The governor is taking necessary action today to protect families, frontline workers, and vulnerable populations in the U.P. region,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive. “We will continue to monitor the spread and work together to fight this virus. With the 2020-2021 flu season fast approaching, we must also stay laser-focused on protecting ourselves and our loved ones. 

Whitmer and Khaldun in the release again urged Michigan residents to follow health and safety protocols such as wearing masks, socially distancing, getting a flu vaccine and washing hands. 

“This virus doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, a Republican or a Democrat, young or old. No one is immune,” Whitmer added. “Right now the most effective weapon we have is pretty simple: it’s wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth. It’s washing your hands with soap and water. And maintaining six feet of physical distance from one another. Let’s all be smart and stay safe.” 

Whitmer extends state of emergency for COVID-19

State reports more 126K COVID-19 cases, 6,788 deaths

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) reported Friday that 126,358 total Michiganders have tested positive for COVID-19 and 6,788 have died from the virus — an additional 780 cases and seven deaths since Thursday.

DHHS also reports that an additional 13,434 Michiganders have been identified as “probable” cases for COVID-19, as well as 321 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 139,792 statewide cases and 7,109 deaths.

The virus has been detected in all of Michigan’s 83 counties. The state’s COVID-19 fatality rate has dropped again slightly to 5.4%.

The first two cases of COVID-19 were reported in the state on March 10. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency that day.

Johns Hopkins University reports that there are more than 34.4 million confirmed cases worldwide and 1 million deaths. In the United States, there are more than 7.3 million confirmed cases and 208,304 deaths have been recorded.

C.J. Moore
C.J. Moore covers the environment and the Capitol. She previously worked at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland as a public affairs staff science writer. She also previously covered crop sustainability and coal pollution issues for Great Lakes Echo. In addition, she served as editor in chief at The State News and covered its academics and research beat. She is a journalism graduate student at Michigan State University.
Allison Donahue
Allison Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.