Whitmer To Reopen Parts Of Michigan, Including Bars And Restaurants, This Friday

WWJ News
May 18, 2020 - 4:14 pm

(WWJ) State officials will partially re-open a portion of Michigan later this week — including bars and restaurants. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday signed Executive Order 2020-92, allowing for the reopening some businesses in the Upper Peninsula and other parts of northern Michigan beginning at 12:01 a.m. Friday, May 22. 

Affected by the order are 32 counties within two Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) regions: 6 and 8. This includes the entire UP as well as 17 counties in northern Lower Michigan, including the Traverse City area (full list of counties below). 

The order allows the reopening of retail businesses, office work that cannot be done remotely, and restaurants and bars with limited seating. Bars and restaurants will be allowed to operate at half capacity — with groups sitting at least 6 feet apart — and servers will be required to wear masks. 

The order does not reopen barber shops, hair and nail salons, gyms, movie theaters or casinos. 

Gov. Whitmer cautioned that the move is not meant to be an invitation for downstate Michiganders to head Up North.

"This is a big step, and it’s right before the holiday weekend. I want to encourage everyone to stay smart and stay safe. Keep your wits about you. Let’s not all go rushing out and force a closure," Whitmer said at a Monday press briefing. "This is step that we feel we can take in these particular regions because of the (COVID-19) numbers that we're seeing."

Read the complete order HERE.

As part of her six-phase 'MI Safe Start' plan, the governor has said that officials would be looking at some economic re-openings by region, based on science and data. 

  • Region 6 includes the following counties: Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Crawford, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Presque Isle and Emmet. 
  • Region 8 includes the following counties: Gogebic, Ontonagon, Houghton, Keweenaw, Iron, Baraga, Dickinson, Marquette, Menominee, Delta, Alger, Schoolcraft, Luce, Mackinac and Chippewa. 

This may not be all, however. Whitmer said she hopes to announce even more reopenings elsewhere in the state ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.

"If we keep doing what we have been and protecting ourselves and our families from this virus, we can begin thinking about re-engaging sectors in the lower parts of our state," Whitmer said. "I will continue to remain flexible, and I will continue to watch the data to work alongside experts here in Michigan and across the country, and I will continue to do everything and limited a chance of a second wave."

All businesses that will reopen in regions 6 and 8 must adopt the safety measures outlined in Executive Order 2020-91. That means they must, among other things, provide COVID-19 training to workers that covers, at a minimum, workplace infection-control practices, the proper use of PPE, steps workers must take to notify the business or operation of any symptoms of COVID-19 or a suspected or confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, and how to report unsafe working conditions. Restaurants and bars will also have to limit capacity to 50% of their normal seating, to keep groups at least six feet from one another, to require their servers to wear face coverings, and to follow rigorous disinfection protocols. 

Cities, villages, and townships may choose to take additional precautions if they wish, state officials say, such as limiting restaurants or bars to only outdoor seating.  

“We are thankful to Governor Whitmer as today marks an important first step of reintegrating restaurants into the fabric of our daily lives,” said Justin Winslow, President and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association. “Restaurants in the U.P. and northern Michigan understand that with their opportunity comes an extraordinary responsibility to operate in a manner that ensures the safety of their guests and their employees.  I believe they are up to the challenge.” 

Traverse City Mayor Jim Carruthers said he is on board with Whitmer's plan; and like her wants what's best for all Michiganders. 

“All regions of Michigan have been affected by COVID-19, and Up North, we want to support the Governor by cautiously opening up some of our economy resources. However, in doing so, we must be mindful that wearing masks and continuing to practice social distancing is a must to make this work," Carruthers said, in a statement. "Stopping the spread of this virus is still key and if we can’t, then we will have to close it down again.” 

This comes as the UP and other areas of Northern Michigan have seen, and are continuing to see, far fewer cases of COVID-19 than the metro Detroit area.

"So when you compare that to Wayne County, and Oakland County and Macomb County, they're doing pretty good in the UP," WWJ's Tim Skubick reported. "And so the governor's saying 'go for it'...but be smart, wear your masks and all that good stuff. But I bet that bridge traffic, that's going to be off the charts!" 

Residents should note that the stay-home order for all of Michigan is not set to expire until May 28, and all are asked to continue to observe social distancing guidelines. 

MDHHS Chief Deputy for Health and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun said the state had 51,915 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of last count on Monday, and 4,915 deaths. 

"We must all remember to continue doing our part to protect ourselves and our families from the spread of COVID-19. It’s crucial that all businesses do everything in their power to protect their workers, customers, and their families," Whitmer added, in a statement. "As we approach Memorial Day weekend, I encourage everyone to be smart and be safe. My team and I will continue to work around the clock to protect the people of Michigan."