Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer rolls back Upper Peninsula into Phase 4, citing COVID-19 case surge

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks in Lansing about COVID-19 in Michigan. 

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has rolled back the Upper Peninsula to Phase 4 after a recent surge in COVID-19 cases there. 

The governor's office sent out a news release Friday afternoon saying Gov. Whitmer had signed an executive order that moves the region from Phase 5 back to Phase 4. The executive order goes into effect Friday, Oct. 9. 

The rollback will require people who can perform work remotely to do so, require schools to enforce mask requirements with limited exceptions and place limits on social gatherings and stores that match those in place in most of the state, among other changes. You can see a list below. 

"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. I know this is hard. I know it will be an adjustment. But we can’t let our guard down,” said Gov. Whitmer in the news release. “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. This virus doesn't care if you're rich or poor, a Republican or a Democrat, young or old. No one is immune. 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.” 

Although the Upper Peninsula had very low numbers from March through most of June, the region’s numbers began rising in late June, persisted at an elevated level through mid-September, and then began sharply increasing at that time, giving it right now the most concerning numbers in the state. 

The most recent case rate, adjusting for lag, has the region with 283 absolute cases per million and 5.1% positivity.   

For example, looking back 7 days to take into account data lag, Houghton County is reporting 612.9 absolute cases per million; Menominee County is reporting 455.0 absolute cases per million; Delta County is reporting 675.0 absolute cases per million; and Mackinac County is reporting 79.2 absolute cases per million. The statewide case rate is 75.9 absolute cases per million, according to the governor's order.

Region 6, which is the Traverse City region, has not seen a comparable surge and still remains in Phase 5. It is the only region in the state to be in Phase 5. 

The governor’s order will implement the following changes in the Upper Peninsula: 

  • People who can perform their work remotely will be required to do so;  
  • Social gatherings and organized events will be subject to the new Phase 4 limits in Executive Order 2020-183: indoor residential - 10 people or less; indoor non-residential may allow more, depending on the size of the facility and subject to formulas in the order.  
  • Stores of less than 50,000 square feet must limit number of people in store, including employees, to 25% of total occupancy limits. Stores of 50,000 square feet or more must limit customers to no more than 20 people per 1,000 square feet of customer floor space, and allow 2 hours of week dedicating shopping time for vulnerable populations.  
  • Schools must require face coverings at certain times