Casinos, movie theaters, high schools allowed to reopen in Michigan, indoor dining restriction extended

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Friday that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is lifting some of the COVID-19 restrictions that were set in place Nov. 15 in a "pause to save lives" and extending others.

Casinos, movie theaters, bowling alleys and in-person learning at high schools and universities are allowed to reopen and resume.

Other restrictions that were initially set on Nov. 15 have been extended, meaning indoor dining is still prohibited, night clubs are still closed and organized indoor sports are still barred. Workplaces, when work can be done from home, are also not allowed to reopen yet, and group fitness classes are still not allowed to resume. 

Those restrictions have been extended through January 15, 2021 and come after the state has seen a steady decline in case rates for at least three weeks. The state, though, is still reporting thousands of new cases per day and dozens of new deaths per day.

At this point, state health officials do not believe gatherings from the Thanksgiving holiday caused a surge in cases - and are still urging all Michiganders to avoid gathering for Christmas and other December holidays. 

Gov. Whitmer said health officials would consider lifting the restrictions sooner, depending on if the case rates continue to decline and if Michiganders continue to avoid gathering during the holidays. 

The administration will let high schools reopen Jan. 4 after the holiday break following a decline in coronavirus cases. High schools have been virtual since Nov. 18. 

Universities and colleges can let students return to campus next month, with a voluntary commitment to wait until Jan. 18 to restart face-to-face classes.

Concessions are not allowed at movie theaters or other social businesses, as the goal is for all attendees to keep their masks on. A total capacity is also capped at 100 persons for these businesses. 

Here is a full list of businesses still not open under the MDHHS's epidemic order: 

  • Workplaces, when work can be done from home
  • Restaurants and bars (indoor dining)
  • Night clubs
  • Indoor sports and contact sports, except professional sports
  • Trampoline parks, water parks
  • Indoor group fitness classs

Here is a full list of businesses and gatherings allowed under the MDHHS's epidemic order: 

  • Two-household gatherings (with high precautions)
  • Small outdoor gatherings (25 people)
  • Funerals (25 people)
  • Retail
  • Preschool through 12th grade, local district choice
  • Childcare 
  • Manufacturing, construction, other work that is impossible to do remotely
  • Public transit
  • Hair salons, barber shops, other personal services
  • Gyms, pools, roller and ice rinks (for individual exercise) 
  • Restaurants and bars (outdoor dining, takeout and delivery)
  • Professional sports
  • Parks and outdoor recreation
  • Health care
  • Theaters, movie theaters, stadiums, arenas
  • Bowling centers
  • Bingo halls, casinos, arcades
  • Outdoor group fitness classes and non-contact sports

Meanwhile, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has begun being administered across the state. 

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was approved for emergency use authorization last week. In Michigan, the University of Michigan Medicine and Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids were the first to give vaccines on Monday.

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine could receive emergency approval from the FDA as soon as Friday. Johnson & Johnson and Astra Zeneca vaccinations are expected to follow.

Michigan is expecting about 80,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the first shipment from the federal government. You can read more about that here

Michigan health officials have also laid out the prioritization plan for who will be receiving the vaccine. Frontline healthcare workers are the top priority. You can read more about that here.

The vaccine is anticipated to be available to the general population in Michigan in spring 2021. 

Key COVID-19 metrics improving in Michigan

As of December 18, the state's medical director Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said health officials are seeing improvements in three key COVID-19 metrics in the state. 

Case rates in the state have been declining in all regions for 27 days now and is at 439 cases per million people per day. The average case rate in Michigan peaked at 739 cases per million on Nov. 14.

The percent positive rate has been declining in the state for 11 days now and is at 10.6%. This rate recently peaked at 14.3% on Dec. 4. 

Dr. Khaldun has said a percent positive rate below 3% indicates community spread isn't happening. 

Also, the percent of hospital beds being used for COVID-19 patients has been declining in Michigan for the past 13 days. Right now, the current capacity is at 17.3% for beds with COVID-19 patients. This recently peaked at 20.1% on Dec. 1.