Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hopes that restaurants across Michigan can reopen for indoor dining on Feb. 1 “with strong safety measures in place” and “if numbers continue to head in the right direction.”
Lifting restrictions on restaurants and bars would come after indoor dining has been closed since November when COVID-19 cases surged in Michigan, pushing hospitals to capacity. Details on what the state will specifically require of restaurants will come in “the coming days,” Whitmer said today.
“We are working on a path to allow indoor dining at restaurants with safety measures such as mask requirements, capacity limits and a curfew starting on Feb. 1,” she said. “We need to get this right.”
Whitmer announced the move during an afternoon briefing where she said that indoor fitness and exercise classes, plus indoor non-contact sports, can resume Jan.16 with face masks.
Restrictions on indoor dining and other limits were scheduled to expire this weekend.
While Whitmer wants to lift the restrictions, she essentially extended them for another two weeks because of a recent “uptick” in positive tests that can indicate future increases in hospitalization rates in the weeks ahead.
“Obviously we’re going to keep watching these numbers,” she said. “We’ve given a path where we want people to be successful along this path and that’s why we’re calling on everyone to double down on what we need to do to keep these numbers down and to help restaurants by supporting them but also working with us so as they open they are safe and we don’t have to take steps backward. As hard as this has been, that would be additionally devastating.”
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, criticized the reopening of indoor dining being held until Feb. 1. In a statement, Shirkey called it a “tone-deaf response” and continued “overreach” that has “crippled an entire industry and peripheral supply chain businesses.”
The Michigan Licensed Beverage Association also issued a statement saying its members were prepared to reopen on Jan. 16. The group is concerned about potential restrictions developed in the coming weeks.
“We hope this is done right. If requirements are too restrictive, many businesses may choose to remain closed because it just won’t be worth it for them,” MLBA Executive Director Scott Ellis said in a statement. “Businesses aren’t designed to survive on 25 or 50 percent of their normal revenue.”
The new coronavirus variant that’s been spreading into the U.S. is also a concern, Whitmer said.
“If and when this appears in Michigan, it’s going to be a very concerning moment,” she said.
Overall, surging cases and hospitalization rates have plateaued of late and “our numbers have been heading in the right direction,” leading to the potential for easing restrictions on Feb. 1.
Still, the coronavirus remains a “very real threat,” Whitmer said, noting that more than 4,300 people died in the U.S. from COVID-19 on one day this week in a 24-hour period.
“We’re having a 9/11 event every day in this country,” she said in urging people to continue to use face masks, social distance and wash their hands often.
“These remain incredibly important tools that we have and we hope people will continue to make sure that we’re using those tools so we can open up more of the parts of our economy that have been struggling,” Whitmer said.
As of Tuesday, Michigan has recorded 525,612 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 13,501 deaths. That’s an increase of 1,994 cases and 100 deaths from the previous day.