MDHHS: Schools and indoor entertainment venues can re-open

Restaurants, bars still restricted to carry out or outdoor dining

HANCOCK — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Friday updated its epidemic order to allow indoor activities where people can remain masked. In a Friday release, the MDHHS said masks have been scientifically shown to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The update includes in-person learning at high schools and indoor entertainment venues. Casinos, bowling centers and movie theaters will be allowed to reopen with total capacity capped at 100; food and drink concessions closed; and social distancing requirements in place. The new order is effective Monday, Dec. 21 and will last until Friday, Jan. 15.

In a Friday email, Hancock Superintendent Steve Patchin said that while Hancock schools released students for their two-week Christmas break on Friday, so the high school seniors will return to face-to-face instruction on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021 when Hancock Public Schools resumes after Christmas Break.

“This means at Hancock Public Schools all K-12 schools will return to face-to-face instruction on January 4,” he said. “We will still be offering our streaming and virtual options per our Return to Learn plan.”

Per recent MHSAA communication, “the start of winter sports practices and competitions may start when the updated emergency orders expire on January 15, 2021,” he added. The school administration is waiting for additional MDHHS updates after the first of the year to see if these orders will be modified.

The epidemic order continues to temporarily pause indoor dining in bars and restaurants, the MDHHS release states, but they can continue to offer outdoor dining, carry-out, and delivery. Colleges and universities will be able to have students return to campus for the winter semester, with a voluntary commitment to wait until Jan. 18 to restart in-person courses.

Gyms remain open for individual exercise with strict safety measures in place. Outdoor group fitness and outdoor non-contact sports will again be allowed, including running, downhill and cross-country skiing.

Under this new order, reopened indoor entertainment venues will not be required to collect names and contact information, a practice that was met with resistance and much pushback from patrons across the state.

“With the amount of community spread that currently exists across the state ,and the heavy burden on contact tracing teams to keep up with these cases,” the release states, “it has become too challenging to meaningfully use this data for timely follow up. As case counts fall and contact tracing becomes able to keep up with the volume again, MDHHS expects to reinstate this information-gathering requirement.”


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