College students returning to campuses in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti won’t be able to gather outside with more than 25 people under new restrictions tied to the coronavirus pandemic, the Washtenaw County Health Department announced Wednesday.
The county’s health officer has issued a public health emergency order to limit the size of outdoor social gatherings and events in both the city of Ann Arbor and the city of Ypsilanti, home to the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, respectively, in hopes of limiting the spread of coronavirus.
The executive order takes effect at 5 p.m. Thursday.
“Social gatherings without preventative measures can quickly lead to increased local cases of COVID,” said Jimena Loveluck, health officer for Washtenaw County, in a news release. “Additional restrictions on the size of outdoor gatherings as well as a strong recommendation to keep records of attendees will help prevent the spread of illness and allow us to respond quickly if cases are identified.”
Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 or fewer people who do not live in the same household under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order 2020-160. At any gathering or event – inside or out – people are asked to maintain at least a 6 foot distance.
In addition, masks or other face coverings are required in indoor settings and any crowded outdoor settings under a statewide executive order 2020-153. However, both U-M and EMU are requiring face coverings at all times on their campuses.
The tighter restrictions come as we have seen a rise in COVID-19 cases among people ages 30 and younger. In the last month, that population represented 51% of cases countywide, according to the health department.
Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor said he supports the new rule.
“Permanent residents, students, and everyone in between needs to know that they are the key to slowing the spread of COVID-19,” Taylor said. “If we all follow public health guidance and wear masks inside and outside, maintain distance, and practice good hand hygiene, we can keep ourselves, first responders, and our neighbors as safe as possible. It’s up to each of us to do our part.”
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Lois Allen-Richardson, mayor of Ypsilanti, agreed.
“Times are not normal, and we must continue to operate as safely as possible,” she said. “That means interacting differently and with more precautions in place throughout our community and our campuses.”