Onslaught of coronavirus cases triggers a new lockdown across Michigan

Ingham Co. sheriff leans on residents to ‘police themselves’ on gathering restrictions

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Another round of statewide emergency orders that took effect this week are designed to enact a “three-week pause” on social gatherings and other group-oriented activities across Michigan.

Epidemic orders rolled about by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services are designed to curb a staggering number of COVID-19 cases and rapidly rising infection rates.

Among them:

Residential gatherings are limited to two households. Still, officials are strongly urging families to pick a single other household to interact with over the next three weeks.

Bars and restaurants are open for outdoor dining, carryout and delivery only.

Casinos, movie theaters, bowling centers, ice skating rinks, indoor water parks, group exercises classes and other environments that gather groups must close altogether.

Only professional and college sports may continue to play without spectators. All other organized sports must stop — including those at the intermediate and high school levels.

In-person classes must be canceled at all high schools and colleges. Elementary schools, middle schools, and child care centers, however, are able to keep doors open.

Hair salons and barbers can stay open, as can gyms and pools for individual exercise.

While manufacturing and construction jobs may also continue, the latest order also requires workplaces to operate remotely whenever possible to mitigate the virus’ spread.

According to Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office, county health departments and local law enforcement agencies are primarily responsible for local enforcement of the latest restrictions — though portions of the restrictions are already facing opposition and legal challenges this week.

The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday for an emergency preliminary injunction to the portions of the order that prohibit indoor dining.

Enforcement efforts, regardless of that litigation, are also expected to face their own challenges.

“There’s always emotions behind all of this, especially when it involves closing down businesses. That’s always a tricky situation for law enforcement,” said Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wriggelsworth. “We’ll be focusing on educating, informing and asking for compliance.”

Enforcement of the latest orders — particularly as it relates to household gatherings — will still rely heavily on personal accountability, Wriggeslworth explained. Even if a police report is filed, deputies won’t knock doors and crash local Thanksgiving parties to take attendance, he said.

“We all just need to work together and people are going to have to police themselves,” he said.

Wriggelsworth predicts that the recent spike in COVID-19 caseloads could equate to more widespread compliance. “There’s a little bit more of a sense of worry right now,” he added.

The Lansing Police Department will continue to operate on a “call-and-report” basis without proactive pandemic patrols. Similarly, officers there will also focus foremost on public education. Only those who repeatedly break state rules after a warning could face further consequences.

In related news…

Rising caseloads in Ingham County are forcing local contact tracers to specifically prioritize their outreach efforts to high-risk cases, health officials announced this week. With about 170 new cases coming in daily, the capacity to contact all cases and contacts is posing a new challenge.

“Unfortunately, COVID-19 is everywhere,” said Ingham Co. Health Officer Linda Vail. “COVID-19 is now widespread in the community. The public health strategies of identifying, investigating and tracing are effective for outbreaks and clusters, but not for widespread transmission.”

Priority cases and situations include: Those younger than 18 or older than 65; anyone tied to an acute care, skilled nursing or long-term care facility; those linked to a school and any case connected to a death. Health officials will also take the relative recency of the case into account.

Most East Lansing offices will be closed to the public for three weeks. Those closed include City Hall, the Department of Public Works, Prime Time, the 54B District Court and the DPW’s 24/7 recycling drop-off site. The Hannah Community Center and Police Department will remain open.

Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg said this week that he tested positive for COVID-19 and has mild symptoms — making him the second member of Michigan’s congressional delegation to test positive for the coronavirus following Bill Huizenga’s positive test last month.

At least 60 inmates (and counting) at Ingham County’s jail have tested positive for COVID-19, forcing jail officials to temporarily close the inmate intake and reroute all new arrests to the Lansing or East Lansing police department’s lockups or Livingston County’s jail in Howell.

A dozen deputies have also tested positive for COVID-19. Some were in quarantine this week.

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