Michigan coronavirus cases hit 25 as restrictions tighten
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan was hit by more cases and additional fallout from the coronavirus on Friday, as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer banned all gatherings of more than 250 people and the Roman Catholic church stopped Masses in the Detroit region through the start of Holy Week.
The University of Michigan, meanwhile, canceled all graduation events planned for May.
Michigan recorded 25 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, after 13 more presumptive positive tests were announced — double from the day before. Cases were discovered in three new counties: Bay, Charlevoix and Macomb.
Whitmer’s executive order, which ends April 5, specifically covers but is not limited to rooms, halls, cafeterias, auditoriums, theaters or galleries. Industrial work, mass transit and the purchase of consumer goods are exempt from the 250-plus person prohibition.
“This is about protecting the most people we can from the spread of coronavirus,” Whitmer said, a day after announcing that all Michigan schools — covering more than 1.5 million kids — would be closed for three weeks due to the pandemic.
She later ordered hospitals, nursing homes and juvenile justice facilities to bar visitors except under “exigent circumstances.”
University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel acknowledged the “very disappointing” decision to scrap graduation and pledged to consider other ways to celebrate the class of 2020.
Officials continued recommending that people wash their hands, not touch faces, disinfect surfaces, keep a distance from others when out in public and stay home if sick.
For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the virus.
Among Michigan’s infected is a teacher at the Hillel Day School, a Jewish school in Farmington Hills. First- and second-graders and the teacher’s colleagues will remain in self-quarantine through March 23.
Dr. Russell Faust, medical director for Oakland County, said it is “very clear” that the U.S. does not have enough tests for public health labs. But he said hospitals in the county soon would be able to do their own testing as the U.S. government and commercial labs boost production.
Meanwhile, cancellations mounted and restrictions tightened statewide. The Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit said Masses will be suspended until April 6, the Monday of Holy Week. Weekend Masses in the Grand Rapids Diocese are on hold through March 29. And the Imams Council of Michigan canceled weekly prayer gatherings at mosques.
The state Corrections Department stopped visits to nearly 38,000 prisoners to limit their exposure to the virus.
Secretary of State offices, which handle driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations, will process only critical transactions that must be done in person and only by appointment.
The Michigan Department of Education said it planned to talk with schools regarding the feeding of children during the three-week statewide closure. About 727,000 students were eligible for free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch last year.
At Detroit public schools, kids can pick up breakfast and lunch but the meals need to be eaten elsewhere.
“Schools play a vital role. They educate the children, but they’re also a support system,” said Lourdes Fonseca, a local activist who delivered a grocery store gift card to a Detroit woman with four children.
The Republican leader of the state Senate, Mike Shirkey, supported the Democratic governor’s moves to close schools and limit gathering sizes.
“While this action may seem severe, we believe it is appropriate,” he said. “We have met with the governor and her team and have experienced first hand the thoughtful, measured and data-driven process being used to arrive at these decisions.”
Federal courts in eastern Michigan postponed many hearings at five courthouses and all grand jury proceedings.
In Kalamazoo, police declared a “police zone” to stop the gathering of thousands of college students at weekend house parties to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Only verified residents will be allowed in the zone.
White reported from Detroit.
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