Michigan Democratic Governor Urges High Schools And Youth Sports To Voluntarily Suspend In-Person Activities

“It is less of a policy problem that we have and more of a compliance and variant issue that we are confronting as a state.”
DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 31: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during a drive-in campaign rally with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and former President Barack Obama at Belle Isle on October 31, 2020 in Detroit, Michigan.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

On Friday, Michigan Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer called on high schools and youth sports organizers to voluntarily suspend in-person activities for two weeks and asked people to refrain from indoor dining at restaurants to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

According to The Associated Press, Gov. Whitmer “stopped short of ordering restrictions” such as another stay-at-home order, as a statewide mask mandate remains in place, along with mitigation measures such as reduced capacity at some establishments and limitations on the size of gatherings.

“We have to do this together. Lives depend on it,” Whitmer said at a news conference. “We’re going to have some tough weeks ahead. So I’m asking everyone — please, take this seriously.”

Whitmer went on to say, “it is less of a policy problem that we have and more of a compliance and variant issue that we are confronting as a state,” attributing the rising numbers to individuals letting their guard down.

“This is a team effort. It’s on all of us to do our part by masking up and getting vaccinated to protect ourselves and our families, so we can get back to normal. Let’s get it done.”

The AP reports that as of Thursday, “Michigan had the worst rate of new Covid-19 cases in the U.S. over the previous two weeks,” adding, “related hospitalizations had more than quadrupled in a month and were 90 percent of the statewide peak from a year ago.” On Friday, Michigan recorded 26 more deaths of individuals who had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

The state reportedly traced outbreaks over the last few weeks to youth sports.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said, “our public health system is overwhelmed.”

“As a parent and former student-athlete myself, I understand how important athletics are to our children’s physical and mental health,” said Khaldun. “However, parents and athletes need to understand the risk involved with youth sports if they choose to participate.”

“We’ve seen that the younger population has played a significant role in transmission during this most recent spike,” she continued. “I urge youth sports organizers to pause in-person activities for the next couple of weeks, and as always, mask up, wash your hands, social distance and get your safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as soon as you are able.”

ABC 12 News reported that Michigan averaged more than 6,200 new COVID-19 cases a day for most of this week, while coronavirus patients occupy more than 15% of hospital beds across the state.

As the AP reported, “Whitmer’s recommendation to temporarily close high schools received mixed reaction in education circles,” adding:

The Michigan Education Association, the state’s biggest teachers union, encouraged similar action for lower grades, community colleges and universities. But the Great Lakes Education Project, a group with ties to the DeVos family, said kids deserve “safely open classrooms.” Superintendents also appeared frustrated…

An industry group for restaurants, which are open at 50 percent capacity, called the governor’s recommendation “misguided.”

Republican lawmakers, who have fought restrictions, said they were encouraged that she did not tighten them. Despite the surge, House Speaker Jason Wentworth said Whitmer should remove remaining restrictions and “trust the people of this state to do the right thing for themselves and their families.”

The Michigan High School Athletic Association said it would finish the boys and girls state basketball tournaments Friday and Saturday. The organization said spring sports all are outdoors and the spring season has the fewest contact sports.

Whitmer renewed her request for the federal government to provide more vaccine doses, the AP reported. The governor did not rule out implementing future restrictions.

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