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Michigan expands order allowing bars, indoor dining to resume with conditions on Feb. 1

Concessions and personal services now also allowed under new COVID-19 state health department order.

LANSING, Mich. — Following last week’s announcement about the plan to reopen indoor dining amid COVID-19, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) released its next epidemic order Friday, which continues the department’s fact-based approach to reopening activities, and goes into effect on Monday, Feb. 1. 

The order will allow for indoor dining at restaurants with certain requirements; concessions at casinos, movie theaters and stadiums; personal services requiring mask removal; and non-residential gatherings of up to 10 people from two households. 

The new order will last three weeks, until Sunday, Feb. 21.  

MICHIGAN INDOOR DINING RULES

  • Restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen at 25% capacity with up to 100 people. 
  • Tables must be six feet apart with no more than six people per table. Outdoor tents with four sides are permitted under these same rules. 
  • Bars and restaurants must close by 10 p.m. 
  • Additionally, contact information must be collected from diners for contact tracing purposes.

The voluntary MI COVID-19 Safer Dining program allows food service establishments to become certified by having their ventilation system inspected and submitting their inspection report to the state indicating they are optimizing airflow. 

Once certified, businesses will be featured on the Michigan.gov/covidsaferdining website and receive a copy of their certification to post at their establishment to alert diners of their participation. 

Funding is proposed for food service establishments to participate as part of the $10 million included in the recent supplemental budget request for restaurant supports administered by the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration. 

Two webinars will be hosted on Monday, Jan. 25 to provide additional information about the Safer Dining certification program – one at noon for HVAC contractors interested in conducting inspections and one at 3 p.m. for food service establishments interested in becoming certified. More information will be available at Michigan.gov/covidsaferdining.  

MICHIGAN COVID-19 CASE DATA

MDHHS had been closely monitoring three metrics for stabilization or declines over the past several weeks. 

Michigan continues to see improvements in these metrics which has allowed for additional relaxing of protocols and reopening of activities.

  • Hospital capacity dedicated to COVID-19 patients has been in seven-week decline, with current capacity at 9.9% for beds with COVID-19 patients. Peaked at 19.6% on Tuesday, Dec. 4. 
  • Overall case rates:  Currently at 225 cases per million. Peaked at 740 cases per million on Saturday, Nov. 14, plateaued after a decline to 239 on Friday, Dec. 25 and has been in decline for 11 days. 
  • Positivity rate: currently at 6.8% and declining.  

WHAT IS STILL PAUSED?

The epidemic order continues to temporarily pause indoor contact sports and other venues and activities where participants have close physical contact and are not consistently masked, like water parks. 

However, as of Jan. 22, stadiums can allow up to 500 people at venues that seat over 10,000 people and stadiums that seat less than 10,000 are allowed to be at 20% capacity, up to 250 people. This will allow for additional attendance at high school football finals being hosted the weekend of Jan 22. 

As before, employees who work in jobs that cannot be performed from home can continue to go to work, while employees who can work from home should continue to do so. 

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus. To learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine, visit Michigan.gov/COVIDVaccine.

GOV. WHITMER COMMENTS

“The pause has worked. The efforts we have made together to protect our families, frontline workers and hospitals have dramatically reduced cases and we have saved lives. Now, we are confident that starting February 1, restaurants can resume indoor dining with safety measures in place,” said Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. 

“Michigan continues to be a national leader in fighting this virus, and we must continue working to keep it that way. One of the most important things Michiganders can do is to make a plan to get the safe and effective vaccine when it’s available to you. And as always, mask up and maintain six feet of social distancing. We will end this pandemic together.” 

“We are pleased to see the improvements in case rates, hospitalizations and percent positivity that have allowed us to reopen more activities,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. 

“However, we must remain vigilant, especially since we now have a new more easily transmitted variant of this virus present in our state. 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.”   

RESTAURANTS REACT

After nearly two months of carry-out only, Jodi Vandenbroek, the General Manager of Sidelines Italian Grille in Lambertville is excited to see customers' familiar faces once again.

"I miss having people in here and the noise and the level of excitement from our customers," Vandenbroek said. 

At full capacity, the grille can seat only 100 people so with the new conditions, only 25 people can be seated at once. 

The restaurant's regional manager was hoping for at least 50% capacity so his bottom line would take less of a hit.

"What's even more unfortunate is all the wait staff that we want to call back," said Tom Morris, the regional manager of Sideslines Restaurant Group. "We're going to have to either put a halt on some people or they're just not going to get as many shifts because we don't need as many servers, cooks, hostesses, dish washers and all that." 

Morris added that the 10 p.m. curfew isn't a problem for them because their grille closes around that time anyway.

Staff can only remain positive that people will continue to follow the rules so the restrictions will ease in the coming months.

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