Whitmer Announces End To Ban On Contact Sports
February 4, 2021
Michigan’s health department lifted a months-long ban on contact sports that was ordered to help curb rising coronavirus cases, starting Monday, as long as masks are worn.
Today’s announcement of an amended order from the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services was made by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and came a week after she had expressed optimism about a restart — amid growing pressure from parents, athletes, school administrators and Republican lawmakers. If face coverings cannot be worn, athletes must be regularly tested for COVID-19 under the revised order.
Elizabeth Hertel, the newly appointed director of the Department of Health and Human Services, said that a testing protocol for athletics will be issued on Sunday.
The ban began Nov. 18, when the Whitmer administration also prohibited in-person instruction at high schools and reinstated business closures and restrictions to address a resurgence in cases and hospitalizations.
Contact sports have been barred unless all participants, teams and venues comply with an enhanced virus testing regimen, as conducted by pro and college leagues, or a pilot testing program, which enabled the recent completion of fall high school tournaments that had been suspended. Winter high school sports — basketball, hockey, wrestling and competitive cheer — along with youth leagues have effectively been restricted to non-contact activities only.
“We are pleased at our continued progress in Michigan that has allowed us to take this step forward in a phased approach,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive and chief deputy for health.
Last week, Michigan reported 11,172 new cases, the lowest weekly total in 15 weeks while the percentage of positive tests dropped to 5.0%, also the lowest weekly rate in 15 weeks.
A 250- to 500-spectator limit will remain in place, depending on the size of a stadium or arena.
The state let high schools resume face-to-face classes on Dec. 21, when entertainment businesses also were allowed to reopen with capacity limits. Restaurants resumed indoor dining earlier this week.
A group called Let Them Play Michigan, a hockey league and the parents of five high school athletes sued the state this week, following a rally last Saturday to protest the restrictions.