The state health department on Wednesday updated its public health orders, while also announcing 2,694 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 32 deaths related to COVID-19.
Michigan's total pandemic confirmed case count is now 528,306, with a death toll of 13,533.
The Ottawa County Department of Public Health reported 64 more cases of the virus and two more deaths related to COVID-19 on Wednesday. The latest reported deaths were both women who died Tuesday: one was 59 and the other was 73.
With Tuesday's daily new case count revised upward from 25 to 106 on Wednesday, Ottawa County's total case count is now 19,926, with 16,877 recovered and 298 deaths.
Muskegon County added 42 new confirmed cases of the virus and one death related to COVID-19 on Wednesday, the state health department reported. The county's pandemic total confirmed case count is now 9,904, with 277 deaths.
New state epidemic order allows indoor group exercise, noncontact sports
LANSING — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services updated its epidemic order Wednesday to allow reopening of additional activities where Michiganders can remain masked and socially distanced, as this has been scientifically shown to slow the virus. This includes indoor group exercise and noncontact sports.
The new order is effective Saturday, Jan. 16, and will last until Sunday, Jan. 31.
“The efforts we have made together to protect our families, frontline workers and small business owners are working," Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday. "While there has been a slight uptick in our percent positivity rate, our cases per million have plateaued and more hospital beds are becoming available. Today, we are confident that MDHHS can lift some of the protocols that were previously in place.
"Michigan is once again standing out as a nationwide leader in fighting this virus, and we must continue working to keep it that way," she added. "One of the most important things Michiganders can do is to make a plan to get the safe and effective vaccine when it’s available to you. And, as always, mask up and maintain 6 feet of social distancing. We will end this pandemic together.”
“We continue to make progress in our fight against this virus, and expanding vaccination to health care 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:
— Hospital capacity dedicated to COVID-19 patients has been in 13-day decline, with current capacity is at 12 percent for beds with COVID-19 patients. Peaked at 19.6 peaked on Dec. 4.
— Overall case rates: increasing, currently at 266 cases per million. Peaked at 740 cases per million on Nov. 14 and declined to a low of 239 on Dec. 25
— Positivity rate: plateauing; currently at 9.1 percent after reaching a low of 8.1 percent on Dec. 28 and increasing up to 10 percent since then.
“We are reopening cautiously because caution is working to save lives," MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said. "The new order allows group exercise and noncontact 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. 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.”
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.
The epidemic order continues to temporarily pause indoor dining in bars and restaurants, but they can continue to offer outdoor dining, carry-out and delivery. The working plan is to open indoor dining with mitigation measures, capacity limits and a curfew on Feb. 1, but the ultimate decision depends on data continuing to stabilize. Additional details on the reopening pathway are expected next week.
Colleges and universities can have students return to campus for the winter semester and restart in-person courses as of Jan. 18.
As before, employees who work in jobs that cannot be performed from home can continue to go to work, while employees who can work from home should continue to do so. Individualized activities with distancing and face masks are still allowed: retail shopping; public transit; restaurant takeout; and personal-care services such as haircuts, by appointment.
Meijer pharmacies partner with state to administer COVID vaccines
GRAND RAPIDS — Midwest retailer Meijer has been chosen by the state of Michigan as an initial pharmacy partner to help administer COVID-19 vaccines.
Meijer has 120 pharmacies throughout Michigan and more than 250 pharmacies throughout its six-state footprint. The retailer is also announcing a text-based registration process for those who want to register to receive the vaccine.
With this announcement, Meijer has been selected by the state of Michigan to directly receive and administer COVID-19 vaccines under the Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership Program. Meijer will administer the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine at a limited number of stores in Wayne County to patients 65 and older beginning the week of Jan. 18. Specific store locations have not yet been determined.
As more doses become available, Meijer will expand COVID-19 vaccine administration to include more stores throughout the state.
Those who wish to register for the vaccine may text "COVID" to the number 75049 and they will receive a link to register. Individuals can also go online to https://clinic.meijer.com/ to register.
The link will include three brief questions that allow Meijer pharmacies to properly determine which vaccine phase the patient is in. As COVID-19 vaccines are received, customers will be contacted with a date for their vaccine. They will also be able to decline the date offered, while staying in the registration group for a future date or opt out of the process if they change their mind or have already received the vaccine.