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Indoor dining resumes Feb. 1 in Michigan, but with restrictions

diner wearing masked being served a sandwich from a waitress wearing a mask
Adobe Stock

Beginning February 1, indoor dining can resume in Michigan, but can only reopen at 25% capacity with up to 100 people, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced in a press conference Friday. Concessions at casinos, movie theaters and stadiums, as well as personal services requiring mask removal will be able to resume as well.

In addition to capacity restrictions, restaurants and bars must close by 10 p.m. Restaurants must also collect contact information from diners for contact tracing purposes.

“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 Whitmer.

Indoor dining in Michigan has been shut down since November 18th. Industry groups welcomed the reopening news, and want restaurant workers to be given a higher priority for the vaccine.

“The hospitality industry and its sizable workforce has suffered far worse than its peers from this pandemic, losing nearly 3,000 restaurants and employing 200,000 fewer workers than a year prior," said Justin Winslow, president and CEO of the Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association, in a statement. "It also stands to gain the most from a proficient and expedited vaccination schedule, which is why we contend that there is no more important step the governor can take to get Michigan’s economy back on track than restoring public confidence in Michiganders ability to safely dine and travel."

The new order would also allow indoor residential and non-residential gathers of up to 10 people and two households. It will last three weeks, ending Sunday, February 21.

MDHHS monitored several key metrics over the past few weeks before issuing the new order. Because hospital capacity dedicated to COVID-19 patients has declined over the last seven weeks, case rates are currently at 225 cases per million, and positivity rate is at 6.8% and declining, the state felt comfortable issuing the new order.

february 1 guidelines for COVID-19 reopening
Credit michigan.gov

“Today’s announcement is possible because of our progress over the last two months,” said Robert Gordon, MDHHS director. “Even so, the science is clear that unmasked, indoor activities like dining and drinking are still a source of high risk around COVID-19. The safest course remains to support your favorite restaurant with carryout, delivery or outdoor dining. If individuals choose to eat out, there are two things they can do to make it much safer: go out only with members of their own household and choose a restaurant participating in the MI COVID-19 Safer Dining certification program.”

Michigan's COVID-19 Safer Dining certification program is voluntary and would certify food service establishments who have their ventilation system inspected and submit that inspection report to the state. Restaurants and bars that have been certified will be featured on a website and receive certification to post at their place of business.

The state’s chief health officer says seniors and people with serious health conditions should still avoid dining out.

Whitmer added that re-opening dining areas is possible because earlier restrictions have worked and infection rates have improved, but the state needs to stay on course.

“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," Whitmer said. "And as always, mask up and maintain six feet of social distancing. We will end this pandemic together.”

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Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
Jodi is Michigan Radio’s Director of Digital Audiences, leading and developing the station’s overall digital strategy.
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