Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) on May 18 announced that some restaurants, bars, and other retail businesses in much of northern Michigan will be allowed to begin reopening starting Friday, ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.
During a press conference on Monday, Whitmer said some businesses will be able to operate in a limited capacity in the upper peninsula and parts of the lower peninsula, while social gatherings of up to 10 people will also be permitted across the vast area.
Whitmer’s executive order (pdf) applies to two of the eight regions established as part of her “MI Safe Start” plan.
Today, I signed an Executive Order that loosens some restrictions in MERC Regions 6 & 8 (Upper Peninsula & Traverse City areas). Starting this Friday, these regions can reopen:
▪️Restaurants/bars with limited seating
▪️Office work that cannot be done remotely. pic.twitter.com/kja6gekUeE
— Governor Gretchen Whitmer (@GovWhitmer) May 18, 2020
As part of the governor’s gradual reopening plan, bars and restaurants must keep groups at least six feet apart and operate at 50 percent capacity, while employees will be required to wear face masks and be trained in “workplace infection-control practices,” including the use of personal protective equipment, Whitmer said.
Food and drink establishments in the region had previously been confined to pickup and delivery to curb the transmission of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.
Whitmer’s stay-at-home order—one of the strictest in the nation—still keeps bars and restaurants off limits to dine-in customers in 51 counties with 93 percent of the state’s 10 million people. Other places of public accommodation such as movie theaters, gyms, and hair salons remain closed statewide, at least through until May 28.
Employees will be able to return to their offices if work cannot be done remotely.
“This is a big step, but we must all remember to continue doing our part to protect ourselves and our families from the spread of COVID19,” Whitmer said.
“It’s crucial that all businesses do everything in their power to protect their workers, customers, and their families. And 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.”
Michigan has the fourth highest death toll in the United States with 4,915 CCP virus deaths, and 51,915 confirmed cases as of Monday afternoon, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Whitmer’s announcement comes less than a week after she warned that the continuing protests in the state against stay-at-home orders are making it more likely that the state will have to lengthen the restriction measures.
During an appearance on ABC’s “The View” on May 13, Whitmer said that the armed anti-lockdown protests at the state’s Capitol have “been really political rallies where people come with Confederate flags and Nazi symbolism and calling for violence.”
“I do think that the fact of the matter is these protests, in a perverse way, make it likelier that we’re going to have to stay in a stay-at-home posture,” Whitmer continued.
The protests are “not appropriate in a global pandemic,” the Democratic governor said, adding, “This is calls to violence. This is racist and misogynistic.”
Whitmer said that while she respects “people’s right to dissent,” the anti-lockdown protestors were putting others at risk.
“And I ask that everyone who has a platform uses it to call on people to observe the best practices promulgated by the CDC and to stop encouraging this behavior, because it only makes it that much more precarious for us to try to re-engage our economy, which is what everyone says they want us to be able to do,” Whitmer continued.
“We have legislators who are showing up to work wearing bulletproof vests,” she added. “That is disenfranchising thousands of people in our state, if their legislator doesn’t feel safe enough to go to work and to do what their job is. No one should stand in our way of doing our jobs.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.