Lansing, MI–Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Nov. 18 the re-opening of high schools and indoor entertainment venues that had been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools and businesses like movie theaters, casinos and bowling alleys will be allowed to re-open starting Dec. 21.

Businesses will be required to limit occupancy to 20% of limits set by a fire marshal with total capacity limited to no more than 100 individuals in any one space.

The businesses will not be allowed to sell food or drinks on the premises.

Colleges and universities will be allowed to resume in-person classes, but Whitmer said she asked them to delay the start of in person classes until Jan. 19 and dorm move-ins until Jan. 16, and most have agreed.

Other businesses, like water parks and indoor restaurant dining rooms, will remain closed.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued an order re-opening schools and some businesses that been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic on Dec. 18.

“These past few weeks, Michiganders across the state stepped up and did their part to slow the spread of COVID-19, and because of our collective hard work, we are now able to begin the steps to carefully lift some of the protocols we have in place,” said Whitmer. “I am encouraged by the progress we have made since early November, and will continue to monitor the data closely during and after the holidays.”

The new order expires Jan. 15, but Whitmer said restrictions may be lifted sooner if significant progress is made with the state’s COVID-19 numbers.

Michigan had previously pointed to three metrics they will look at when making decisions about restrictions, including hospital capacity, overall case rates and test positivity rates.

Hospitals have seen the percentage of their capacity dedicated to COVID-19 patients decline for 13 days. Overall case rates have declined for 27 days. And the test positivity rate has declined for 11 days.

“Michiganders should be proud: we have made incredible progress over the last month. But we could easily lose that progress and endanger our hospitals again over the next two weeks,” said Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon. “At Thanksgiving, most Michiganders sacrificed and avoided family get-togethers. We need to do the same thing this holiday season. Then we can re-engage more activities sooner and more safely.” 

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled in October that a 1945 state law from which Whitmer’s previous executive orders had drawn their power was unconstitutional.

Democrats flipped party control of the Michigan Supreme Court in the Nov. 3 election, taking a 4-3 majority that begins in January.

The MDHHS orders draw authority from a separate law that was not at question in that lawsuit.

Michigan had 450,776 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state as of Thursday, and 11,208 people have died from the virus.

Of the confirmed cases, 17,174 are in Genesee County, and 500 people in the county have died from the virus.

Andrew Roth is a reporter and photographer covering politics and policy in Michigan, as well technology, culture and their convergence. Andrew is a journalism student at Michigan State University and first...