Sunday, Oct. 11: Latest developments on coronavirus in Michigan

Over 104,000 Michiganders have recovered from the novel coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, state health officials say.

The state releases new data on recoveries every Saturday. Last weekend, the recoveries were at 99,521.

Michigan reported 1,522 new coronavirus cases Oct. 10, bringing the statewide total to 134,656, according to Saturday’s update from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Health officials also reported 15 new deaths of people with the virus, bringing the state’s running death toll to 6,891. The state’s case fatality rate is 5.3%.

Meanwhile, Michigan’s top Senate Republican lawmaker says he is in favor of rolling back many of the measures put in place by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration to limit COVID-19 spread and believes “an element of herd immunity” needs to happen in the state.

Here are the latest developments on the COVID-19 pandemic for Monday, Oct. 5.

Michigan needs ‘an element of herd immunity’ to recover from coronavirus, Senate leader says

Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, said he feels Michigan residents understand that COVID-19 is real, contagious and requires precautions.

But he also believes the state doesn’t need to continue with the “oppressive mandates” issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, he told MLive following a rally protesting strict COVID-19 restrictions.

“Nobody should be misled here or of the opinion that you can keep it from spreading – it’s going to spread, so we just do the best we can,” he continued.

“I’m also a big believer that there’s an element of herd immunity that needs to take place.”

But MDHHS spokesperson Lynn Sutfin told MLive last month the department favors reaching higher immunity levels through widespread vaccination as opposed to letting COVID-19 run through the population and is urging Michigan residents to minimize transmission until a vaccine is universally available.

“Since we do not know whether immunity is long-lasting, nor do we know the long-term effects of COVID-19, Michigan does not support allowing 80% of Michiganders being infected with this novel virus,” Sutfin said at the time.

Michigan’s health department is switching gears after a game-changing Supreme Court decision

A new state department is taking the reins when it comes to the rules people in Michigan have to follow during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Until this past week, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) had taken a back seat when it came to issuing orders aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19.

Instead, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration relied heavily on two state statutes that gave the governor broad power to issue executive orders under the looming threat of the emergency that is a global pandemic. The 1976 Emergency Management Act and/or the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act were the basis for a wide swath of orders issued by Whitmer, including requiring masks in public spaces, limits on crowd sizes, and requiring various establishments like movie theaters and gyms to stay closed for months.

“She had the broadest authority, and had authorities that we did not have,” said Robert Gordon, director of MDHHS.

But that broad authority took a blow on Oct. 2, when the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that Whitmer’s executive orders were either issued after they should have been or based on a law that it deemed unconstitutional.

“I thought it was terrible,” Gordon said. “It eliminates rules that have saved thousands of lives.”

Now Whitmer’s administration is working overtime to look for avenues to reinstate rules, and many of those will likely come through MDHHS, putting the department and director Gordon at center stage of the pandemic in Michigan.

Bars open and restrictions for crowd sizes among new COVID-19 requirements in MDHHS orders

Michigan’s bars can open without a food sales requirement. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued new emergency orders on Oct. 9 intended to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

The department also issued an updated order requiring face coverings in public spaces and childcare facilities, placing capacity limits on stores, bars and other public venues, restricting gathering sizes, and providing rules for workplaces.

Previously, bars with 70% or more of sales from liquor could not be open inside, but could do outdoor service. That was under an executive order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The rest of the order largely follows what Whitmer had instated before the orders were thrown into legal limbo by the Michigan Supreme Court.

Western Michigan University coronavirus case total nearly at 600

Sindecuse Health Center at Western Michigan University reported 87 new coronavirus cases Friday, Oct. 10, pushing the total number of coronavirus cases since students returned in August to 598.

Across four residence halls, there are currently 23 cases, university spokesperson Paula Davis told MLive on Friday. The university has not provided a breakdown of the amount of cases in each dorm, and it remains unclear exactly how many students living on-campus have been infected.

Rockford high school switches to online learning as positive coronavirus cases climb

Rockford Public Schools, one of the largest school districts in West Michigan, is closing its high school facilities for the next two weeks because of rising coronavirus cases in students.

Rockford High School and the Rockford Freshman Center will switch to online-only learning for 14 days after at least 17 students have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

In the past few weeks, 416 students in grades 9-12 have been placed in self-quarantine after coming into close contact with positive cases, Rockford Superintendent Michael Shibler wrote in an Oct. 10 post to the district website.

Shibler said health officials from the Kent County Health Department called him Saturday urging the superintendent to close the high school and freshman center buildings for 14 days as a result of increasing coronavirus cases.

About 1,000 of Rockford’s 7,740 students are taking virtual classes.

Michigan mink farm tests positive for virus that causes COVID-19 in humans

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) confirmed that mink at a Michigan farm have contracted SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.

According to a release from the Michigan State Police, while it wasn’t the first case of the virus being identified in mink in the United States, it is the first instance of the virus being confirmed among Michigan’s farmed mink population.

Although investigations into how the mink contracted the virus are ongoing, there is no evidence that animals, including mink, play a significant role in spreading the virus to humans, the release said.

COVID-19 PREVENTION TIPS

In addition to washing hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone may be carrying the virus.

Health officials say you should be staying at least 6 feet away from others and working from home, if possible.

Use disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray cleaners on frequently-touched surfaces in your home (door handles, faucets, countertops) and carry hand sanitizer with you when you go into places like stores.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also issued executive orders requiring people to wear face coverings over their mouth and nose while in public indoor and crowded outdoor spaces. See an explanation of what that means here.

Additional information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

For more data on COVID-19 in Michigan, visit https://www.mlive.com/coronavirus/data/.

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