Some HS Sports, Indoor Gym Classes Open; Hoops on Hold, Eateries Still Waiting
There’s a hold on high school hoops and restaurants remain restricted to outdoor and take out service through the end of the month but the new MDHHS Epidemic Order will allow some movement toward normalcy if not the wholesale changes many hoped for.
“We are reopening cautiously because caution is working to save lives. The new order allows group exercise and non-contact sports, always with masks and social distancing, because in the winter it’s not as easy to get out and exercise and physical activity is important for physical and mental health,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “We are glad that we made it through the holidays without a big increase in numbers, but there are also worrying signs in the new numbers. We need to remain focused and continue to see declines in hospitalizations and to bring case rates and percent positivity down by doing what we know works.”
The new order is effective Saturday, Jan. 16 and will last until Sunday, Jan. 31.Governor Whitmer hinted toward a return to indoor dining and other activities by February 1 and stated there would be more information in the coming days.
Girls gymnastics, girls and boys bowling, and girls and boys swimming & diving, as “non-contact” sports, may also begin competition before the end of this month – swimming & diving Jan. 22 and gymnastics and bowling Jan. 25. Masks will be required of all participants except when they are actively participating in gymnastics and swimming & diving. Spectators will be capped at 100 persons in school gyms or 250 in stadiums and arenas, per MDHHS orders.
Basketball, competitive cheer, ice hockey and wrestling are considered “contact” sports and may begin non-contact practices Jan. 16, with their first competitions scheduled for Feb. 1. Because of the later start to competition schedules in those sports, the MHSAA will adjust its tournament dates for those four to conclude on later dates than what is currently scheduled – those dates will be announced later this week.
“We are glad to have three more sports join skiing in returning to full activity, but we understand the disappointment and frustration on the part of our athletes and coaches whose sports are not yet able to restart completely,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “We will continue to adjust schedules to provide all of our winter teams as substantial an experience this season as possible, as part of our greater plan this school year to play all three seasons to conclusion.\
“We have shown with our remaining Fall sports this month that our schools can participate safely, and we’re confident teams will continue to take all the appropriate precautions as we jump back into indoor Winter activities.”
“We continue to make progress in our fight against this virus, and expanding vaccination to healthcare workers, long-term care residents and staff, some essential frontline workers and those age 65 and older is bringing us closer to ending the pandemic,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “It is important that everyone continues to do their part by avoiding gatherings, wearing masks properly and social distancing. This remains just as important, even as the safe and effective vaccine is being administered, to protect those who are not yet able to be vaccinated.”
Previously, MDHHS had identified stabilization or declines in three metrics as critical for relaxing protocols. Although Michigan saw improvements across all three following the “pause” implemented in mid-November, some numbers have plateaued or begun to increase in recent days:
Indoor residential gatherings remain limited to 10 people and two households. MDHHS continues to urge families to avoid indoor gatherings or to pick a single other household to interact with consistent with guidance already released by the department. Families are encouraged to stay home as much as possible to maintain momentum and to protect loved ones. Families are also encouraged to Mask Up, Mask Right, using guidance for what masks to wear and how to wear them.