Indoor Dining In Michigan Can Resume Feb. 1, Gov. Whitmer Says

Joey Oliver

LANSING, MI — Michigan will again allow indoor dining at restaurants and bars beginning Feb. 1 with mask requirements, capacity limits and a curfew, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a news conference Wednesday.

The governor also announced a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services order that will allow indoor group exercises and noncontact sports to resume in Michigan on Saturday, saying that people can remain masked and socially distanced in those activities.

"We need to get this right," Whitmer said. "I think it's important to always reiterate the strength that we have now, the goals that we have made, the leadership position that we are in is all very tenuous. It depends on all of us continuing to take this virus seriously."

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News that the indoor dining ban would be lifted surfaced Tuesday when the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association said in a Facebook post that it expected Whitmer to make the announcement. Michigan's indoor dining ban was set to end Friday and has been in place since Nov. 18. Additional details on indoor dining are expected to be announced next week, state officials said.

Health department Director Robert Gordon said reopening restaurants comes with risk because people have to remove their masks to eat. "Now is not the time to let down our guard," he said. "Our actions on Feb. 1 will depend on what happens with the pandemic between now and then."

Justin Winslow, the CEO and President of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association said expanding the indoor dining pause to more than 75 days is without parallel in the nation in its "unwillingness or inability to provide leadership to a decimated industry and its workforce."

"There are more than 100,000 unemployed hospitality workers and thousands of small operators on the edge of bankruptcy all waiting for hope and direction, and once again it did not come," Winslow said in a statement to Patch. " This is unacceptable and we should all demand more accountability.

"Michigan’s restaurants have been closed for more days than any other state since the onset of the pandemic and Michigan stands alone as the only remaining statewide closure of dining rooms without a discernible, data-driven path to reopen and fully reintegrate in the economy. This, too, is unacceptable and we should all demand more accountability."

Meanwhile, the state reached its decision to begin allowing noncontact sports and indoor group exercises after state health officials said they identified a stabilization or decline in three metrics it deemed critical for relaxing state health protocols. Those metrics — hospital capacity, overall case rates and positivity rates — have shown some positive signs, officials said.

Michigan's hospital capacity dedicated to COVID-19 patients has been in a 13-day decline, with current capacity at 12 percent. It peaked at 19.6 percent on Dec. 4. Michigan's overall case rates have been increasing and are currently at 266 cases per million residents, according to state numbers. It peaked at 740 cases on Nov. 14 and declined to a low of 239 on Christmas Day. The state's positivity rate is plateauing: It is currently at 9.1 percent after reaching a low of 8.1 percent Dec. 28 and increasing to 10 percent after that, the state said.

Indoor residential gatherings remain limited to 10 people and two households under the new order. Colleges and universities in Michigan will let students return to campus for the winter semester and restart in-person courses on Monday.

This article originally appeared on the Detroit Patch