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Michigan restaurant group frustrated by continued indoor dining shutdown

Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association believes key metrics state health officials wanted have been met
The hospitality sector hinges on whether or not the state health department lifts the current...
The hospitality sector hinges on whether or not the state health department lifts the current order barring bars and restaurants from offering dine-in services.(WJRT)
Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 2:18 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - The Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association is frustrated by indoor dining remaining closed statewide for an additional two weeks.

A Michigan Department of Health and Human Services epidemic order required all restaurants to close indoor dining facilities on Nov. 18 as COVID-19 statistics increased sharply around the state. The order was scheduled to end on Friday after two extensions in December.

However, state health officials are continuing the indoor restaurant dining ban for two more weeks until at least Feb. 1. Restaurants can remain open for delivery, carryout or outdoor dining service.

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Robert Gordon said concerns continue over spreading COVID-19 in restaurants, because diners are required to remove their face coverings indoors to eat and drink. He cited national and global studies pointing to restaurants as a significant source for coronavirus spread.

Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, said the current 75-day indoor dining shutdown has “decimated” the state’s restaurant industry and affected thousands of workers.

“There are more than 100,000 unemployed hospitality workers and thousands of small operators on the edge of bankruptcy all waiting for hope and direction, and once again it did not come,” Winslow said in a statement. “This is unacceptable and we should all demand more accountability.”

Michigan restaurants have endured two months-long shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic -- one during the spring and early summer and the other since Nov. 18.

“Michigan’s restaurants have been closed for more days than any other state since the onset of the pandemic and Michigan stands alone as the only remaining statewide closure of dining rooms without a discernible, data-driven path to reopen and fully reintegrate in the economy,” Winslow said.

Whitmer and state health officials have said they want to see declines in the numbers of newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in Michigan, the number of people hospitalized with the illness and the percentage of positive coronavirus diagnostic tests.

Winslow pointed out that the average daily number of new cases is less than half of the Nov. 18 total, hospitalizations are down about 50% and the percentage of positive tests has plunged by nearly half since November.

During a press conference on Wednesday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she hopes state health officials can allow restaurants to reopen indoor dining on Feb. 1 with continued COVID-19 prevention measures. Those would include wearing face coverings, strict capacity limits and mandatory curfews ordering them to close.

Reopening restaurants on Feb. 1 would depend on continued declines in the three key COVID-19 statistics, Whitmer said.

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