Monday, 16 November 2020

Washington and Michigan impose strict new Thanksgiving lockdowns: Family gatherings are banned in Pacific Northwest state while schools, colleges, restaurants and bars shut for three weeks in Midwest crackdown

 Michigan and Washington have announced strict new lockdown measures over Thanksgiving as coronavirus cases continue to surge across the US.

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced sweeping new restrictions on gatherings and businesses yesterday, including a ban on indoor service at restaurants and bars, to combat a recent surge in Covid-19 cases in the state.

The restrictions, most of which will take effect Monday at 11.59pm and last for one month, come as the average daily tally for cases has doubled in the past two weeks, Inslee told a news conference.


Inslee said: '[The spike in cases] means, unfortunately, the time has come to reinstate restrictions on activities statewide to preserve the public's well-being and to save lives. 

Washington Governor Jay Inslee (pictured) announced sweeping new restrictions on gatherings and businesses yesterday, including a ban on indoor service at restaurants and bars, to combat a recent surge in Covid-19 cases in the state

Washington Governor Jay Inslee (pictured) announced sweeping new restrictions on gatherings and businesses yesterday, including a ban on indoor service at restaurants and bars, to combat a recent surge in Covid-19 cases in the state

Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer's administration has ordered high schools and colleges to stop in-person classes from Wednesday

'We are today in a more dangerous position than we were in March, when our first stay-at-home order was issued.

'Left unchecked, [Covid-19] will assuredly result in grossly overburdened hospitals.

'It will keep people from receiving routine but necessary medical treatment because of the stresses our hospitals will be under.

'We have recognized what is at stake here, which is life itself. And we're making some hard decisions in that regard.' 


Indoor gatherings will be prohibited outside one's household unless participants quarantine for 14 days prior or quarantine for seven days before the gathering and receive a negative Covid-19 test result no more than 48 hours prior.

Outdoor gatherings will be limited to five people. 

Religious services and in-store retail will be limited to 25 per cent occupancy, while fitness gyms must halt indoor services, and youth and adult sports will be restricted to activities outdoors.

Restaurants and bars will be limited to outdoors service with capacity limits and takeaway.

The restrictions will be imposed to curb coronavirus cases in the state, which have climbed to 135,137, with 2,638 deaths reported.

Meanwhile, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer's administration on Sunday ordered high schools and colleges to stop in-person classes, closed restaurants to indoor dining and suspended organized sports - including the football playoffs - in a bid to curb the state's spiking coronavirus cases.

The restrictions will begin Wednesday and last three weeks. 

They are not as sweeping as when the Democratic governor issued a stay-at-home order last spring but are extensive. 

They were announced as Michigan faces surging COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations statewide and rising deaths.

'The situation has never been more dire. We are at the precipice and we need to take some action,' Whitmer said at an evening news conference.

An order written by the state health department prohibits high schools, colleges and universities from offering in-person instruction. 

K-8 schools can continue with on-site classes due to lower transmission rates, though - as before - it is not required. 

Restaurants, now operating at 50 per cent capacity, must halt dine-in service.

Indoor residential gatherings, which were capped at 10 people, can include no more than two households. Outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of 25 people.

Entertainment facilities such as theaters, bowling alleys and indoor water parks must close again. 

Michigan Governor introduces new COVID restrictions
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Gyms and pools can stay open but not offer group classes. Professional sports and some college sports are still allowed, with enhanced testing but no spectators.

Whitmer urged the public to 'double down' with precautions such as wearing a mask and keeping distance to avoid a second stay-at-home order.


Michigan's seven-day average of daily new cases has more than doubled from 3,113 to 6,684 over two weeks. 
Robert Gordon, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services, said the order 'focuses on indoor gatherings and the settings where groups gather and where the virus can thrive.'

It is up nearly five-fold from 30 days ago. Daily deaths also have surged, from 25 to 62, according to The COVID Tracking Project. 

Whitmer’s administration has ordered high schools and colleges to stop in-person classes. Pictured, The University of Michigan

Whitmer's administration has ordered high schools and colleges to stop in-person classes. Pictured, The University of Michigan

Restaurants will be closed to indoor dining and organized sports suspended in an attempt to curb the state’s spiking case numbers

Restaurants will be closed to indoor dining and organized sports suspended in an attempt to curb the state's spiking case numbers

Washington governor warns of 'dangerous' Thanksgiving gatherings
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The number of patients currently hospitalized, about 3,000, has risen six-fold in under two months.

The governor's announcement drew mixed reaction.

Hospitals, universities, colleges, community colleges and K-12 school boards backed the move. 

The Michigan Education Association, the state's largest school employee union, said in-person learning should be paused for all grades.


'These are frightening and stressful times for everyone in public education - from employees to parents to students,' said MEA President Paula Herbart.

Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association President and CEO Justin Winslow said 'there are no easy decisions right now' but criticized closing restaurants for a second time this year - 'this time with no safety net of federal stimulus dollars to soften the blow to already ailing operators and employees.' 

He said just 4.4 per cent of identified outbreaks have been tracked to restaurants.

Whitmer, who renewed a request for President Donald Trump and Congress to enact a coronavirus relief package, said Covid-19 has spread so much that it is inherently risky to have people from multiple households dining in a restaurant.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association suspended fall tournaments that have not concluded - for football, volleyball, and swimming and diving - along with winter sports practices and competitions scheduled in coming weeks.

'We understand the need for action, and we will explore all options to complete our fall tournaments when restrictions are lifted,' executive director Mark Uyl said.

Republicans who control the Legislature previously successfully sued to stop the governor's use of an emergency-powers law to unilaterally manage the crisis. 

Her administration reinstated restrictions under a different law. GOP legislators again accused her of acting on her own Sunday. 

They have opposed her call to put the administration's mask-wearing order in law.

'The Senate Republicans will continue working with our doctors and the medical community on ways we can combat this virus and are ready to work with the governor when she decides to work as a team to fight this virus,' said Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey. 


Lawmakers are dealing with infections within their own ranks - the House canceled session on Thursday - and are on a hunting and Thanksgiving break until December. 

Whitmer said she asked Republican legislative leaders for their plan in recent days and 'there wasn't one other than doing some public service announcements. ... We've got to act swiftly. I'm going to continue to use every tool at my disposal to save lines in Michigan.'

Forty US states have reported record increases in COVID-19 cases in November, while 20 saw a record rise in deaths and 26 reported record hospitalizations, according to a Reuters tally.

The latest 7-day average, shows the United States is reporting more than 144,000 daily cases and 1,120 daily deaths, the highest for any country in the world.

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