LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has announced new restrictions on gathering in an effort to tamp down an ongoing, statewide spike in COVID-19 cases.

In a Sunday evening press conference, Whitmer announced the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will launch a three-week prohibition on indoor social gatherings, and a number of other activities, including non-collegiate or professional sports.

“In the spring, we listened to public health experts, stomped the curve, and saved thousands of lives together. Now, we must channel that same energy and join forces again to protect our families, frontline workers and small businesses,” Whitmer said. “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."

The order, which takes effect Wednesday, limits indoor gatherings to members of no more than two households in one place at one time; disallows indoor dining and gathering at restaurants and bars; calls for closure of casinos, movie theaters and group exercise classes; halts in-person classes at colleges and high schools; and prohibits organized sports that aren't part of rigorous COVID prevention programs operated by university and professional athletic organizations.

"These steps are what the public health experts say we must take to avoid overwhelming hospitals," Whitmer said.

The new restrictions follow two weeks of precipitous rise in both COVID-19 positive test results and the percentage of positive tests in each day's batch of samples. Between late October and last week, the seven-day average of positive test results in Michigan spiked from fewer than 2,000 to more than 6,000.

Public health officials emphasized that the new restrictions are more targeted than the statewide stay-at-home orders issued during the spring.

“The data we are seeing is alarming. COVID-19 is impacting every area of our state. Our healthcare systems are becoming overwhelmed, and our contact tracers cannot keep up,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “If we do not act now, we risk thousands more deaths, and even more people having long-term health consequences. The actions we are taking today are the best opportunity we have to get this virus under control.”

The announcement was accompanied by pleas from both Whitmer and top public health officials for Michiganders to follow the three-week restriction.

Follow Record-Eagle.com for more on this developing story.

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