Michigan's COVID-19 restrictions lift Tuesday unless health department extends them

Will Michigan lift its latest series of COVID-19 restrictions that are expected to expire on Tuesday? Gov. Gretchen Whitmer could extend the restrictions but hasn't indicated if she will give the order.

In a press conference last week, she said it was "sadly possible" that lockdown measures like indoor dining and in-person learning could continue.

Even as experts see a leveling out of new coronavirus cases, the second half of the holiday season is looming over the state. Christmas, just like Thanksgiving has the potential to push the curve of positive tests up again - which could exasperate problems for an already beleaguered health care system.

Restaurants don't want an extension. Hospitals do want an extension. The push-pull of economic health vs. public health has become the driving tension behind many of the health department's executive orders.

Whitmer and her health department director Robert Gordon say data collection on test positivity and hospitalization rates from COVID-19 will help determine what the appropriate step will be.

Last week, the governor said the high volume of coronavirus cases means that extending parts of the new restrictions is something she is considering.

Michigan has reported almost 400,000 cases of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic - a benchmark that is likely to be met sometime this week if not later today. November was among the most deadly months since the virus arrived. The test positivity rate around the state is near the highest its ever been. The virus is also being detected throughout the state, forcing hospitals with few resources near capacity for PPE, staffing, and available beds.

Gordon has said factors that will determine include emergency department visits for coronavirus-related symptoms, if positive test results increase or decrease, the number of infected people filling up hospital beds, and the state's ability to track new cases.  

It's still unclear what sort of impact Thanksgiving will have on those rates as it's still too soon to tell how much exposure residents were subjected to during the holiday.

RELATED: Michigan hospitals publish letter urging extension on COVID-19 restrictions

Now, with Christmas only a few weeks away, health officials see a similar recipe for disaster if families choose to travel and meet. 

That's why hospitals and chief medical leaders issued a joint statement Monday morning urging the state to extend the restrictions through the holiday season. 

"...the recent Michigan Department of Health and Human Services three-week order is doing what we expected: it’s slowly stabilizing the spread of COVID-19 and leading to stabilized hospitalizations. To see meaningful change that truly alleviates stress on the healthcare system, we urge the state to extend protections through the holiday season."

But restaurants and other hospitality-sector businesses have pushed back on the order, filing a lawsuit to allow diners and bars to reopen indoor service. A judge denied the request last week. In response, the restaurant association vowed to fight to keep the health department from further extending its order.

Whitmer is holding a press conference Monday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. with Gordon and her chief medical officer Dr. Joneigh Khaldun where she will likely address the next steps.