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State health department imposing new rules in response to surge in COVID-19 cases

State health department officials are imposing new limits on indoor gatherings to curb surging rates of COVID-19.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is dropping the number of people permitted at indoor gatherings from 500 to 50. This would apply to events like weddings. 

MDHHS is also imposing new limits for bars and restaurants. The health department says there should be no more than six people at a table. Restaurants and bars will also have to get names and telephone numbers from their customers, to assist contact tracers in case there is an outbreak.

Businesses that violate these new restrictions could face civil or criminal penalties.

“If people do what they need to do....we believe we can get the number of cases down,” says Robert Gordon, the director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Gordon says the “science is clear.”

Michigan’s positive coronavirus test rate has more than doubled (from 2.0% to 5.5%) in recent weeks.

The COVID-19 cases are spiking significantly in the Upper Peninsula, as well as the Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids regions. Cases are also rising in Detroit, Jackson, Lansing and other parts of the state. 

State health officials say hospitalizationsfor COVID-19 have doubled over the last three weeks, while the state death rate has increased for five consecutive weeks.

“5% to 10% of the inpatient beds in the state are being used to treat COVID-19 patients,” says Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive. “As hospitalizations go up, we expect our deaths to go up shortly thereafter and that’s exactly what we are seeing.”

As of Thursday, Michigan has recorded 171,220 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic hit the state in March. 7,298 Michiganders have died of coronavirus. 

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Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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