LANSING, Mich. — A rally on the front lawn of the Michigan State Capitol is planned by parents, friends and coaches from the #LetThemPlay group on Facebook to encourage Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to put children back in school in-person and back in sports and other activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The rally will take place from 3-5 p.m. on the front lawn of the state capitol building. Speakers will include doctors, nurses, superintendents, coaches, moms, and athletes who will address the importance of school and sports/activities to the declining mental health of Michigan’s youth.
"With sports and school being put on a '3 week pause' and now what seems like an indefinite '12 more days,' the mental health of Michigan’s youth is plummeting fast. The rally is being held to encourage Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the MDHHS to get kids back to school and back in sports/activities because their mental health matters," a news release from the #LetThemPlay group said on Thursday.
School and extracurricular activities in Michigan are not permitted to be held in person as the state extends a three-week "pause" that restricts the following activities:
- High schools (in-person learning)
- Organized sports, except professional sports and certain NCAA sports (Big Ten football, for example)
- Theaters, movie theaters, stadiums, arenas
- Colleges and universities (in-person learning)
- Bowling centers, ice skating rinks, indoor water parks
- Work, when it can't be done from home
- Bingo halls, casinos, arcades
- Dine-in restaurants and bars (indoor dining)
- Group fitness classes
- Personal services (salon, spa) that involve mask removal*
Whitmer announced the three-week pause just before Thanksgiving with the aim of lowering the positive test rate to 3%, which is the benchmark the state has had since the pandemic started.
Michigan health leaders on Wednesday expressed "cautious optimism" that the restrictions on activities have yielded signs that COVID-19 case rates are declining and hospitalizations are starting to stabilize.
MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said Monday that the state will begin relaxing current restrictions when the positivity rate is declining, the daily case rate is declining and hospitalizations are flat or declining.
As of Monday, the positivity rate has plateaued for three weeks at about 14%, but testing has also declined some since Thanksgiving.
"In terms of our case rates, we have some cautious optimism here in that we are seeing our case rates declining," said Dr. Sarah Lyon-Callo, director of the bureau of epidemiology and population health with the state health department.
According to the #LetThemPlay group, however, the move to halt school sports "was not supported by ANY science, as the Michigan High School Athletic Association submitted its numbers from the fall sports season which proved that sports were not spreaders of the coronavirus. It was quite the opposite, with zero hospitalizations and zero deaths traced back to athletes," the group's news release Thursday said.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association submitted a plan to the governor's office asking the governor to allow fall sports to finish their season, which would only be 1-3 weeks of play, and to allow winter sports to start, but that was denied.
The #LetThemPlay group also asserts that studies have shown that suicides and suicidal thoughts "have greatly increased because of the isolation and hopelessness Michigan’s kids are feeling without sports and school. Parents, coaches, and other adults can’t sit back and let this continue."
There are 19,000 members statewide who belong to the #LetThemPlay organization on Facebook under “Let Michigan High School Football (all sports/activities) Play.”