Michigan tightens gathering limits as COVID-19 worsens

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's administration is tightening restrictions on indoor gatherings and shifting the Traverse City region backward in Michigan's reopening plan in efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) on Thursday made changes to its epidemic order as Michigan continues to see a surge in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Right now, the overall case rate is 172 cases per million people per day with a percent positive rate of 5.5%. Health experts have said anything above 3% indicates community spread is happening. 

The state health department said Thursday coronavirus hospitalizations have doubled in three weeks and the death rate has risen for five straight weeks. 

Effective immediately, indoor venues without fixed seating must limit gatherings such as weddings and parties to no more than 50 people - down from a maximum of 500. 

Currently Michigan counts 34 outbreaks related to social events such as trips by families/friends, bridal showers and weddings, funerals and outings at social clubs and bowling parties. An additional 19 outbreaks of up to 52 cases are linked to church services, which are exempt from enforcement under the order. 

All dine-in establishments must keep customers' names and phone numbers for contact-tracing purposes, starting Monday.

All bars, restaurants and social events must limit indoor party sizes at a single table to six people. 

The rules MDHHS has issued set forth fines for vilations of the epidemic orders. Violations are punishable by a civil fine up to $1,000 and may also be treated as a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than six months or a fine of not more than $200, or both. In addition, failure to comply with orders may violate a business or professional’s licensure requirements or present a workplace safety violation.  

If you're seeking to report violations, consult the COVID complaints page to find the appropriate department. 

The Traverse City region has also been moved from Phase 5 back to Phase 4 under Gov. Whitmer's reopening phase. 

Michigan officials are also strongly recommending safety measures be taken for Thanksgiving gatherings. 

  • Get together outside whenever possible. You have up to 20 times higher risk of getting sick inside.  
  • If you do get together inside, include no more than two households and 10 people.
  • Limit time inside together—greater duration is greater risk. 
  • Wear a mask – take it off when you eat or drink, then put it back on.
  • Keep six feet apart as much as you can.
  • When possible, keep voices down; high volume can increase COVID transmission by 30 times
  • Wash hands regularly and try to not to share utensils.

The Associated Press contributed to this report