‘The pause has worked’: Whitmer says indoor dining can resume Feb. 1 with restrictions

By: - January 22, 2021 12:30 pm

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said at a Friday press conference that restaurants and bars across the state can reopen for indoor dining and concessions at movie theaters, casinos and stadiums can resume Feb. 1.

There are some stipulations: Restaurants and bars need to reopen at just 25% capacity with a 100-person cap. Tables still need to be six feet apart with six or less people per table. Bars and restaurants are required to close by 10 p.m. Establishments are also required to ask for patrons’ names, phone numbers and emails for contact tracing purposes.

The reopenings are part of the latest epidemic order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The order also allows businesses to resume personal services requiring mask removal. Non-residential gatherings of up to 10 people from two households are permitted, as well.

The latest order lasts until Feb. 21, at which point Whitmer and MDHHS officials will likely review COVID-19 case numbers to determine if this latest stage of reopening has caused an observable growth in disease. 

“The pause has worked,” Whitmer said. She added she and her team are confident that restaurants can resume indoor operations on Feb. 1 as long as safety precautions are in place.

DHHS has been monitoring three metrics for reopening, according to a press release. 

DHHS COVID-19 restrictions, Jan. 22, 2021

Hospital capacity used for COVID-19 patients has been in a seven-week decline and stands at 9.9%. It peaked at 19.6% on Dec. 4.  Case rates, which peaked at 740 cases per million on Nov. 14, have been in decline for 11 days. 

The state’s positivity rate is at 6.8% and declining. 

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at DHHS, said it’s still crucial to remain “vigilant,” given that Michigan now has a more easily transmitted virus variant.

“This is not the time to let our guard down and Michiganders should minimize their risk by avoiding gatherings, wearing masks properly, social distancing and making a plan to get their vaccine when it is their turn,” Khaldun said. 

Robert Gordon, the director of DHHS, added to that: “Even so, the science is clear that unmasked, indoor activities like dining and drinking are still a source of high risk around COVID-19,” he said. “The safest course remains to support your favorite restaurant with carryout, delivery or outdoor dining.”

Gordon also noted the MI COVID-19 Safer Dining Program, which allows establishments serving food to be certified if their ventilation system passes an inspection and that report is submitted to the state. 

Businesses who get certified will be added to the Michigan.gov/covidsaferdining website so customers see which are adhering to safety measures. 

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C.J. Moore
C.J. Moore

C.J. Moore covers the environment and the Capitol. She previously worked at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland as a public affairs staff science writer. She also previously covered crop sustainability and coal pollution issues for Great Lakes Echo. In addition, she served as editor in chief at The State News and covered its academics and research beat. She is a journalism graduate student at Michigan State University.