CDC urges new health restrictions in Michigan amid surge

By Susan J. Demas, Michigan Advance

As Michigan leads the nation in the number of cases and the highest rates of hospitalizations for COVID-19, the head of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending new health restrictions.

“I would advocate for sort of stronger mitigation strategies … to sort of decrease the community activity, ensure mask-wearing, and we’re working closely with the state to try and work towards that,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday, Michigan has 715,478 COVID-19 cases and 16,327 deaths. There were 8,015 cases and 30 deaths since Tuesday.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday that many of the outbreaks in school-aged children are being traced back to sports, with 376 cases linked to basketball, 256 cases linked to hockey and 190 cases linked to wrestling.

That was something that Walensky took note of at her briefing, as she encouraged restrictions for youth contact sports.

“I encourage communities to make adjustments to meet their unique needs and circumstances,” Walensky said. “For example, in areas of substantial or high community transmission, CDC guidance specifically suggests refraining from youth sports that are not outside and cannot be conducted at least 6 feet apart.”

A group called Let Them Play, which filed suit to get youth sports to reopen, has a new lawsuit against DHHS over existing restrictions in youth sports. The group’s organizer, Jayme McElvany, has pushed conspiracy theories about the pandemic and the 2020 election.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and DHHS officials have repeatedly been asked by reporters in recent weeks about issuing new health restrictions to stop the surge, but they’ve declined to endorse any.

They said they are focused on ramping up vaccinations to get to the state’s goal of 70% of residents 16 and older being immunized. Almost 37% of Michigan’s population over 16 has at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and about 23% is fully vaccinated.

The Legislature is on spring break. For months, Republicans leaders have pushed for the Whitmer administration to end remaining restrictions, such as capacity limits for events and businesses, and they don’t back a mask mandate.

Michigan Advance is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Michigan Advance maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Susan Demas for questions: Follow Michigan Advance on Facebook and Twitter.