Today, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services updated its epidemic order to allow re-opening of additional activities. For schools, that includes allowing all non-contact sports to resume without the need to use rapid testing. Additionally, most extracurriculars are also allowed to resume as long as the activity can be done while wearing a mask and without physical contact. Indoor group exercise is also allowed with masks and without physical contact. The new order is effective Saturday, Jan. 16 and will last until Sunday, Jan. 31.
Outside the K-12 realm, colleges and universities can have students return to campus for the winter semester and restart in-person courses as of Jan. 18. And even though today's order did not include the rumored reopening of restaurants and bars for indoor dining, the press release accompanying the new order said "The plan is to open indoor dining with capacity limits and a curfew on Feb. 1, but timing will depend on data continuing to stabilize. Additional details on the reopening pathway are expected next week."
If there is a central theme in today's order, it's this: wear your mask at all times and no touching. Most school-based activities are back on the table as long as you can do them while wearing a mask and not touching other students. So if the official FAQ, the order itself, and this article don't answer your specific question, you can probably get a good idea by asking yourself if whatever you're curious about can be done while masked up and without physical contact. So, for example, while your school dance team can probably practice, school dances are probably out unless your students have a level of self-control heretofore unknown.
That said, let's break down a few of the details that Principals will want to be clear on…
- Non-contact sports include sports that can be played with a mask on and without players touching one another. So, our current understanding is that bowling, gymnastics, skiing, and swimming and diving should all be good to go (pending a decision by MHSAA on how they are going to handle those sports).
- No rapid testing is required for non-contact sports to resume.
- Contact sports are still prohibited except for the remaining handful of football playoff games, which are still being played under the MHSAA/MDHHS rapid testing pilot program rules. Winter contact sports include basketball, wrestling, ice hockey, and (MASSP believes as of this writing) competitive cheer. The list of prohibited sports given in the official FAQ does not include competitive cheer, but since that sport typically involves physical contact between athletes, we believe it will not be allowed.
- Spectators are allowed to attend school sporting events subject to the rules already in place for lower risk entertainment facilities and lower and moderate risk recreational facilities outlined in section 3(a) of the order, including the following capacity limits:
- For venues with fixed seating, occupancy must not exceed 20% of the limits established by the State Fire Marshal or a local fire marshal;
- For venues with non-fixed seating, occupancy is limited to 20 persons per 1,000 square feet, including within any distinct space within the venue;
- For all venues, no more than 100 persons may be gathered within any distinct space within the venue, except at stadiums and arenas hosting sporting events as provided in section 6, in which case up to 250 persons may be gathered.
- Indoor group exercise programs can resume provided participants wear masks and do not have physical contact. That means that schools can resume things like weight lifting clubs. All sports may also engage in conditioning practices, though Principals should keep in mind that there is no indication from MDHHS that there is any plan to reinstate contact sports in the near future.
- Per the FAQ, "All extracurricular activities are permitted, except those that involve physical contact among participants or where masks cannot be worn. Activities involving singing and use of musical instruments are permitted so long as masks can be worn at all times; activities requiring removal of masks or use of a slitted mask are not permitted."
- Per MASSP's ongoing conversations with MDHHS and others, this prohibition ONLY applies to extracurricular activities, not band classes during the school day. We have been expressly told that the current practice of conducting in-person band classes with the use of slitted masks, bell covers, and other protective equipment is allowed. See this guidance from MDHHS dated October 2020 for more information.
For full details, Principals should check out the resources linked below, especially the official FAQ, for details.