Indoor dining at restaurants to resume February 1
Fri, 01/22/2021 - 1:23pm caleb
Dine-in service to restart next month with 10 p.m. curfew and 25 percent capacity limits, state officials said
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced on Friday, January 22, that the latest epidemic order from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will allow indoor restaurant dining to resume – with 25 percent capacity limits and a curfew of 10 p.m. – starting Monday, February 1.
Whitmer said the state’s COVID-19 numbers have improved enough recently to make the change.
“Michigan’s numbers are looking promising. DHHS’s pause to save lives has worked. On November 15, when the pause was announced, Michigan had 734 cases per million. Now we’re down to 177 cases per million. That is a reduction of over 70 percent. Our action saved our hospital systems from getting overwhelmed, our action saved lives, and I want to especially thank all of the Michiganders who have stepped up and done their part these past few weeks in particular,” Governor Whitmer said. “And now, while we must remain vigilant and cautious, we can lift some of the protocols that were previously in place.”
The January 22, 2021 version of the “Gatherings and Face Mask Order” from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services says “gatherings are prohibited at food service establishments unless consumption of food or beverages is permitted only in a designated dining area where patrons are seated, groups of patrons are separated by at least six feet, no more than 6 patrons are seated together (at a table, booth, or group of fixed seats), and groups of patrons do not intermingle; patrons are not permitted to gather in common areas in which people can congregate, dance, or otherwise mingle; the number of patrons indoors (or a designated dining area of a multi-purpose venue) does not exceed 25% of normal seating capacity, or 100 persons, whichever is less; food service establishments, or the food service establishment portion of a multi-purpose venue, must close indoor dining between the hours of 10:00 PM and 4:00 AM; (and) the venue displays, in a prominent location, the MDHHS ‘Dining During COVID-19’ brochure.”
“Today the Department of Health and Human Services is issuing an epidemic order to resume indoor dining on Monday, February 1. I know this pandemic has hurt our restaurant owners, our restaurant workers, and all of their families. I want to thank those that made incredible sacrifices and did their part on behalf of protecting our communities from COVID,” Governor Whitmer said. “I have spoken with a number of restaurant owners over the course of these months and I know that it has not been easy.”
Governor Whitmer said during Friday’s update to the state that she is asking the Michigan legislature to approve $10 million for a program that would reimburse restaurants who update their ventilation systems in order to make them safer during the pandemic.
“This will help us protect those who set foot into our restaurants. We want this to work and we want people to stay safe,” Governor Whitmer said. “I urge Michiganders across the state to do what you can to support your favorite local restaurants. Buy a gift card for a friend or family member, get takeout a couple times a week if you can. Let’s all do our part.”
Governor Whitmer said people should continue to wear masks, practice physical distancing, and wash their hands frequently as restrictions are lifted.
“Just because we are lifting some protocols on February 1 doesn’t mean it’s time to let our guard down. In fact it’s more important than ever that we keep our guard up because the actions we’ve taken have worked. COVID-19, though, is still a very real threat to us all and our economy and that’s why we’ve got to keep taking it seriously. People across the state have been hurting. It has been a long tough year. Many are mourning the loss of a loved one and yet we have to stay vigilant,” Governor Whitmer said.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Executive, said Michigan’s COVID-19 numbers are improving, and the state did well in not experiencing a surge in cases after the recent holidays.
“So this is where we are with our most recent data on COVID-19. Our case rate is now at 225 cases per million; it has been declining for the past 11 days. Our test positivity rate is now at 6.8 percent and has also been declining for the past 12 days. Our hospitalizations also continue to decline. Now, just under 10 percent of inpatient beds in the state are being used for patients with COVID-19 and that has been declining for seven weeks,” Dr. Khaldun said. “So overall I am pleased with our progress. We should be proud as Michiganders.”
“We largely avoided the post-holiday surge and it’s because many people did the right thing, avoiding gatherings, wearing masks, and washing hands. Our pause has worked and we’re doing much better than most states, including those in the midwest,” Dr. Khaldun said. “Because of the great progress we have made, today MDHHS is moving forward with a new order, so starting February 1 indoor dining at restaurants will be allowed, as well as concessions at entertainment venues and additional personal services. Large stadiums will also have greater capacity limits. These are incremental steps we can take because of the successes we have seen with our order.”
Specifically, the January 22 version of the Gatherings and Face Mask Order allows concessions to be sold at “theaters, movies, bowling, stadiums, (and) casinos,” according to Friday’s update, with the large stadium capacity increasing from 250 to 500 people. The concessions change is effective February 1 and the stadium capacity increase went into effect on January 22, according to state officials.
The opening of indoor dining at restaurants takes effect on February 1 with the 10 p.m. curfew and 25 percent capacity limits, state officials said.
“Because our data is looking better, we want people to have the choice to go to a restaurant and we are doing what we can to make it safer,” Dr. Khaldun said. “So I’m pleased that we can move forward in this way.”
“However, I do want to caution people. Top scientists and doctors across the country have reiterated that being indoors with no mask on is one of the riskier activities people can do when it comes to the spread of COVID-19,” Dr. Khaldun said. “So now people have a choice. The safest thing to do – especially if you are elderly, if you have underlying medical conditions, or if you live with someone who is elderly or has underlying conditions – the safest thing to do is not eat inside a restaurant, but we still want you to order from them though. You can support them with takeout, delivery, or dining outdoors.”
Dr. Khaldun said the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is instituting a “new volunteer program” for restaurants – MI COVID-19 Safer Dining – “for restaurant owners who can certify that they meet certain criteria for implementing measures that prevent the spread of the virus by making sure there is good ventilation and proper distancing between tables.”
“So if you choose to dine in a restaurant, look for the special certification so you know that restaurant is taking additional steps to make indoor dining much safer,” Dr. Khaldun said.
“The goal of the MI COVID-19 Safer Dining program is to promote improved safety for diners. In the coming weeks, diners will be able to check back here to see which restaurants in their communities are participating in the program. We encourage diners to dine safely and abide by all CDC and MDHHS guidelines,” according to the state’s MI COVID-19 Safer Dining website at michigan.gov/COVIDsaferdining.
Governor Whitmer, Dr. Khaldun, and the new Gatherings and Face Mask Order all acknowledged the presence of a new variant of COVID-19 in the United States and in Michigan – officials are calling it B.1.1.7 and it’s considered to be more contagious than its predecessor – and they urge caution as it becomes more prevalent.
“Despite making significant strides in controlling the virus since early November, there is much uncertainty. New and unexpected challenges continue to arise: in early December 2020, a variant of COVID-19 known as B.1.1.7 was detected in the United Kingdom. This variant is roughly 50 to 70 percent more infectious than the more common strain. On January 16, 2021, this variant was detected in Michigan. It is anticipated that the variant, if it becomes widespread in the state, will significantly increase the rate of new cases. Therefore, as lower COVID-19 rates permit easing of precautions, we must continue to proceed slowly and carefully, with tight monitoring of cases and impacts, alongside efforts to increase the rate of vaccination,” according to the January 22 Gatherings and Face Mask Order.
“If this new variant becomes more common, as many scientists have said it could, it will mean more cases, more hospitalizations, and – unfortunately – more deaths, but the good news is the tests we currently have for COVID-19 do identify this new variant, and current data tells us that the vaccines that we have also work against this new variant, but we will likely see more and more cases of this and it will be harder to control the spread of it and we don’t want to go back to where we were last April or where we were in the beginning of November when our hospitals were overwhelmed and hundreds of people were dying every day,” Dr. Khaldun said.
“But there’s something you can do. You should still keep doing the basic things. Wear your mask and wear it properly over your mouth and your nose every time you will be around someone outside of your household. Make sure you are socially distancing and you should get tested if you are having symptoms, if you think you’ve been exposed, and especially if you have traveled to areas where this new variant is circulating,” Dr. Khaldun said. “And remember that just because something is open it does not mean that it is 100 percent safe or that you should do it.”
“We recognize that the strength of our numbers merits this change in policy. We also recognize that this variant is very is very concerning and we’re going to keep watching that,” Governor Whitmer said.