Michigan halts football, classes, indoor dining as coronavirus surges

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File-This Oct. 16, 2020, file photo shows Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaking during an event with Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden at Beech Woods Recreation Center, in Southfield, Mich. Whitmer’s administration on Sunday, Nov. 15, 2020, ordered high schools and colleges to stop in-person classes, closed restaurants to indoor dining and suspended organized sports — including the football playoffs — in a bid to curb the state’s spiking coronavirus cases. The restrictions will begin Wednesday and last three weeks. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

LANSING, Mich. | Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration on Sunday ordered high schools and colleges to stop in-person classes, closed restaurants to indoor dining and suspended organized sports — including the football playoffs — in a bid to curb the state’s spiking coronavirus cases.

The restrictions will begin Wednesday and last three weeks. They are not as sweeping as when the Democratic governor issued a stay-at-home order last spring but are extensive. They were announced as Michigan faces surging COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations statewide and rising deaths.

“The situation has never been more dire. We are at the precipice and we need to take some action,” Whitmer said at an evening news conference.

An order written by the state health department prohibits high schools, colleges and universities from offering in-person instruction. K-8 schools can continue with on-site classes due to lower transmission rates, though — as before — it is not required.

Restaurants, now operating at 50% capacity, must halt dine-in service inside.

Indoor residential gatherings, which were capped at 10 people, can include no more than two households. Outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of 25 people.

Entertainment facilities such as theaters, bowling alleys and indoor water parks must close again. Gyms and pools can stay open but not offer group classes. Professional sports and some college sports are still allowed, with enhanced testing but no spectators.

Whitmer urged the public to “double down” with precautions such as wearing a mask and keeping distance to avoid a second stay-at-home order.

Robert Gordon, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said the order “focuses on indoor gatherings and the settings where groups gather and where the virus can thrive.”

Michigan’s seven-day average of daily new cases has more than doubled from 3,113 to 6,684 over two weeks. It is up nearly five-fold from 30 days ago. Daily deaths also have surged, from 25 to 62, according to The COVID Tracking Project. The number of patients currently hospitalized, about 3,000, has risen six-fold in under two months.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association suspended fall tournaments that have not concluded — for football, volleyball, and swimming and diving — along with winter sports practices and competitions scheduled in coming weeks.

“We understand the need for action, and we will explore all options to complete our fall tournaments when restrictions are lifted,” executive director Mark Uyl said.