Michigan to halt indoor dining, in-person high school, college for three weeks

(Reuters) - The U.S. state of Michigan will ban indoor dining and in-person high school and college for three weeks starting on Wednesday as coronavirus cases rise sharply, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said on Sunday.

FILE PHOTO: Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer addresses the media about the flooding along the Tittabawassee River, after several dams breached, in downtown Midland, Michigan, U.S., May 20, 2020. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook/File Photo

“We are in the worst moment of this pandemic to date,” Whitmer told a televised news conference. “The situation has never been more dire. We are at the precipice and we need to take some action.”

Whitmer, a Democrat, also said the state was temporarily banning all events in indoor entertainment venues, concert halls, movie theaters, sporting venues, casinos, bingo halls and skating rinks.

She warned that without action, the state could lose 1,000 residents a week from the pandemic, nearly three times the number of its reported COVID-19 deaths in the week ended Friday.

Whitmer said the state’s Department of Health and Human Services order also halted nearly all organized sports except professional and some college sports during the three-week period. The state health department said the order could help “save thousands of lives.”

The governor also urged Michigan residents not to hold Thanksgiving gatherings next week with extended family.

Michigan hit a daily record for reported coronavirus cases on Friday with 8,516 new cases. The state to date has reported 251,813 COVID-19 cases and 7,994 deaths.

The new state action is not a blanket stay-at-home order and does not close retail stores, hair salons, public transit, manufacturing or in-person school for younger children.

The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association estimated more than 40% of the state’s restaurants would close, at least temporarily, if dining rooms were closed, and about 250,000 state restaurant employees would likely be laid off over the holiday season.

The group said it was “profoundly disappointed” by the decision to close restaurants in Michigan a second time.

Republican state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey said in a statement that Republicans were “disappointed that Gov. Whitmer chose to go it alone, again.”

White House coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas wrote on Twitter of the new Michigan order: “The only way this stops is if people rise up. You get what you accept.”

Michigan, which was a battleground state in this month’s presidential race, became a focus of agitation by Republican President Donald Trump and his supporters over stay-at-home orders Whitmer imposed earlier this year to curb coronavirus transmissions.

Last month, 14 men, many associated with an anti-government militia group, were arrested on charges of conspiring to kidnap Whitmer, attack the state legislature and threaten law enforcement.

The governor accused Trump of fomenting political extremism, while Trump has repeatedly attacked Whitmer, saying she “has done a terrible job” and casting her as being ungrateful to his administration.

Reporting by David Shepardson and David Lawder; Editing by Sam Holmes and Peter Cooney