Just days before the Michigan High School Girls Swimming & Diving State Championships were scheduled to be held on November 21, a wave of new lockdowns hitting the state has led to the suspension of high school sports.
While professional and “some college” sports are allowed to continue, without spectators, all youth sports will be suspended for 3 weeks, starting Wednesday, by order of Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The new restrictions come amid a dramatic spike in new coronavirus cases and Covid-19 hospitalizations in Michigan, and in most states around the country.
“We understand the need for action, and we will explore all options to complete our Fall tournaments when restrictions are lifted,” Executive Director of the MHSAA Mark Uyl said. We will assess everything over the next three weeks relative to Fall and Winter sports and come up with a plan that keeps us connected to our goal, for months, of having three seasons that are played to their conclusions.”
The suspension includes both practices and competitions for the next three weeks, and will impact USA Swimming and Masters clubs as well. While teams must cease organized activities, pools may remain open for individual exercise.
For College and professional sports to be allowed to continue, they must meet “extraordinary standards for risk mitigation.”
“In the spring, we listened to public health experts, stomped the curve, and saved thousands of lives together,” Whitmer said upon announcing the orders. “Now, we must channel that same energy and join forces again to protect our families, frontline workers and small businesses,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “Right now, there are thousands of cases a day and hundreds of deaths a week in Michigan, and the number is growing. If we don’t act now, thousands more will die, and our hospitals will continue to be overwhelmed. We can get through this together by listening to health experts once again and taking action right now to slow the spread of this deadly virus.”
“Indoor gatherings are the greatest source of spread, and sharply limiting them is our focus,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “The order is targeted and temporary, but a terrible loss of life will be forever unless we act. By coming together today, we can save thousands of lives.”
Most of the rules from the new emergency order will last for 3 weeks. Among other restrictions:
- Indoor residential gatherings are limited to two households at one time (the state is encouraging families to choose a single other household for a ‘social bubble’)
- Indoor dining at bars and restaurants must stop.
- Casinos, movie theaters, and group exercise classes will be closed.
- Other entertainment venues, like bowling centers, ice skating rinks, and indoor water parks, must also close.
- Colleges and high schools are required to end all in-person classes and move to remote learning.
- Workers must work from home, unless it is impossible to do so (such as manufacturing, construction, etc.)
While the measures are a roll-back from the gradual opening that has taken place since the first peak of cases in mid-April, they won’t be as strict this time around. Among the activities allowed to continue:
- Retail sales
- Small outdoor gatherings, limited to 25 people or fewer
- Two-household gatherings
- Hair salons, barber shops, and other personal services
- Gyms and pools, for individual exercise
- Public transit will continue to operate
- Childcare services
- Funerals (with up to 25 people)
- Parks and outdoor recreation activities remain open
- Kindergarten through 8th grade in-person instruction
Other high school sports, including fall tournaments for girls volleyball and football, have also been suspended.
Other states, including Maine, have severely limited the activities of youth sports in recent weeks, while some, like New York and Minnesota, have instituted new restrictions that won’t directly impact most organized sports leagues, club, high school, college, or otherwise.
In the ‘first wave’ of the coronavirus pandemic in the spring, Michigan peaked at 1,722 new daily cases on April 7. While they were able to gradually reopen businesses through summer without seeing much of a spike, as colder months arrived, and more gatherings moved indoors, cases began to rise dramatically. By mid-October, the state was surpassing its April record almost daily, and the most recent 7 day period has seen an average of almost 6,700 new daily cases.
That has been accompanied by a 144% increase in deaths and 111% increase in hospitalizations over the last two weeks. While new daily deaths are still below where they were in April, averaging about 60 per day over the last week, hospitalizations have returned to higher than 80% of the early-pandemic levels, and continue to rise.