LANSING, MI – After a recent surge in COVID-19 cases in the Upper Peninsula, or MERC Region 8, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed Executive Order 2020-192 moving the region back to phase 4 of the MI Safe Start Plan. The executive order will go into effect Friday, October 9 at 12:01 am, although given the surge in cases everyone should make this transition as swiftly as possible. The move to Phase 4 will require people who can perform work remotely to do so, require schools to enforce mask requirements with limited exceptions, and place limits on social gatherings and stores that match those in place in most of the state, among other changes.
“After seeing the increase in cases in the U.P. region over the past several weeks and consulting with medical experts, I have decided to take action to protect U.P. families and move the region back a phase. I know this is hard. I know it will be an adjustment. But we can’t let our guard down,” said Governor Whitmer. “COVID-19 is still a very real threat to our families, frontline workers, and small businesses. Everyone should implement these changes as swiftly as possible. This virus doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, a Republican or a Democrat, young or old. No one is immune. Right now the most effective weapon we have is pretty simple: it’s wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth. It’s washing your hands with soap and water. And maintaining six feet of physical distance from one another. Let’s all be smart and stay safe.”
“The governor is taking necessary action today to protect families, frontline workers, and vulnerable populations in the U.P. region,” said Chief Medical Executive and MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health Dr. Joneigh Khaldun. “We will continue to monitor the spread and work together to fight this virus. With the 2020-2021 flu season fast approaching, we must also stay laser-focused on protecting ourselves and our loved ones. Get your flu vaccine, wear a mask, and maintain six feet of physical distancing. We will get through this together.”
Although the Upper Peninsula had very low numbers from March through most of June, the region’s numbers began rising in late June, persisted at an elevated level through mid-September, and then began sharply increasing at that time, giving it right now the most concerning numbers in the state. The most recent case rate, adjusting for lag, has the region with 283 absolute cases per million and 5.1% positivity.
The governor’s order will implement the following changes in the Upper Peninsula:
- People who can perform their work remotely will be required to do so;
- Social gatherings and organized events will be subject to the new Phase 4 limits in Executive Order 2020-183: indoor residential – 10 people or less; indoor non-residential may allow more, depending on the size of the facility and subject to formulas in the order.
- Stores of less than 50,000 square feet must limit number of people in store, including employees, to 25% of total occupancy limits. Stores of 50,000 square feet or more must limit customers to no more than 20 people per 1,000 square feet of customer floor space, and allow 2 hours of week dedicating shopping time for vulnerable populations.
- Schools must require face coverings at certain times, including in the classroom, among other requirements.
“I along with other community members were given the opportunity to meet with governor Whitmer and share our challenges during this pandemic,” said George Stockero, Copper County ISD Superintendent. “Now, it’s on all of us to do our part to protect each other. Let’s get our numbers down by wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and washing our hands frequently. Yoopers are tough, and we will beat this virus together.”