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Whitmer defends Michigan’s COVID-19 restaurant closures

The governor offered few clues on whether health officials will extend the epidemic order beyond Jan. 15
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer(source: State of Michigan)
Published: Jan. 8, 2021 at 3:09 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer defended the strategy from state health officials requiring Michigan restaurants to close indoor dining rooms.

During a press conference Friday, Whitmer said data and several scientific studies show restaurants contribute to spreading COVID-19.

“The fact of the matter is the studies show that is where we’ve seen the highest risk,” she said.

A Michigan Department of Health and Human Services epidemic order requires all restaurants to close for dine-in service until Jan. 15. Dine-in restaurants, which still can offer carryout or delivery service, are one of few businesses that remain closed in Michigan.

The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association has said repeatedly that state data shows a very small percentage of Michigan’s coronavirus outbreaks are directly linked to bars and restaurants. Whitmer said that likely is due to a lack of contract tracing rather than evidence that few outbreaks are occurring.

“Our tracing abilities are underwhelming on that front, and so I think that’s part of the data issue that we haven’t seen translate,” she said.

Whitmer offered few clues Friday on whether state health officials will extend the order closing dine-in service beyond next week. She said state health officials are watching COVID-19 data closely for signs of a post-holiday surge and evidence of a more virulent coronavirus variant making its way to Michigan.

“I’m as eager as anyone to get our restaurants open for in-person dining, but we have to make sure it’s safe to do so,” Whitmer said. “There are some encouraging signs, but we have to be smart and continue to watch the data.”

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